People like to talk about Kenyon like they’re the little team that could, but just because they didn’t have any 4- or 5-stars on their roster last year doesn’t mean that they don’t get talented recruits. Last year, they had six 3-stars on their roster, and all of them had at least one year of college experience. As we’ve learned from some of the more prestigious schools on the East Coast, sometimes one or two really good recruits don’t pan out, but when you have the kind of depth in recruiting that Kenyon has, at least one of them will always improve tremendously over the course of their career and turn into a really solid player, i.e. Polster. The Lords may have lost Polster from last year’s team, but they return the rest of their starting lineup, and they add an immensely talented recruiting class that includes two 4-stars. They did a great job last year, but this year could be even better. The question is: can they improve enough to make the leap into the Final Four? With the possible decline of Wash U, they might.
Where They’ll Win
From their results last year, it seems that the Lords don’t have any definitive strengths or weaknesses in their singles lineup, but one area where they are definitely strong is doubles. They won at least two doubles matches against Chicago, CMU, CLU, Case, Mary Washington, and Wash U. That’s pretty impressive. Their singles lineup is solid enough that if they can take two doubles matches, they will find three wins against any team outside the top 5. The problem is that their singles, overall, isn’t as strong as their doubles, which brings me too…
Where They’ll Lose
While last year’s Lords were not especially weak at any individual singles position, they were not especially strong anywhere either. That is both a blessing and a curse: everyone in the lineup knew that they had to fight for every single match, but they didn’t really have one position that they could count on for consistent wins. I think that could change this year. Kenyon brought in such a strong recruiting class that they should be exceptionally deep, so their #5 and #6 positions should be exceptionally strong. That means that their weak point will be the top of the lineup. While Burgin and Williams seems to have made strides, they might not be ready to beat, for example, Lane and Erani, which is what they’ll need to do if they want to make the Final Four.
Kenyon’s schedule is fantastic. They will play plenty of top 10 teams and a whole slew of teams in the second tier (which, as far as I’m concerned, goes from about 14-30 with the drop off coming after Bowdoin). They’re not so good that they can afford to let down against the lower tier teams, so they will have to push themselves throughout the entire season. With regard to individual matches, I see them having to work hard to defend their ranking against NCW, Cal Lu, and Bowdoin; whereas, they have the opportunity to improve their ranking at Indoors, against UCSC, and at the Stag-Hen. Against NCW, Cal Lu, and Bowdoin, they should take the lead in doubles and never look back, but I’m really looking forward to a potential match against Emory, Wash U, or Claremont. Because the Slugs are such a question mark this year, only a match against one of those three would be the proper indicator as to whether or not Kenyon is capable of making the Final Four this year.
There’s not much point in analyzing this stuff if you don’t stick your neck out every now and then. I think Kenyon is the team that usurps Wash U and take the Final Four spot. I know I said something like that for another team, but I really think Kenyon is very much improved. They are a hard-working team with great facilities, good senior leadership, and a youthful push. 3rd place finish for the Lords