Some have compared last year’s P-P team to the previous year’s Cal Lu team, and in a lot of ways, the comparison is apt. Both teams leapfrogged two SCIAC competitors to earn an elusive Pool C bid and finished in the top 10. Unfortunately, both teams also made huge improvements only to get dominated by Cruz in the California regional. Hopefully, the similarities stop there, because if they don’t, then the Sagehens are about to get upset by Gustavus and Tommy Meyer is about to suffer a season-ending injury (knock on wood). Fortunately, that’s not going to happen. The way I see it, P-P’s big 2011 season has been a long time coming. When they finally broke through, they did so in a big way, chalking up wins over both Trinitys, Bowdoin, Williams, and, the one team that they absolutely have to beat to make the tournament, Redlands. As great as their season was, they will always be in the brutal California regional, and, even though they could beat Cruz, they still have a long way to go to topple CMS. Belletto is a great coach, and I think one of his teams will get there eventually, but they aren’t there yet. I think their job this year should be to consolidate the progress they made last year, and get another Pool C bid.
Where They’ll Win
The Hens return all of their starters except their #6 singles player, and they are deep enough that that shouldn’t have much of an effect, especially if you take into account their solid recruiting class. When I look at their results from last year, however, I’m really confused. For most of the season, they looked much stronger in singles than doubles, winning from behind against Trinity (Tx), Williams, and Redlands twice, but they also took two out of three against Emory and Cruz. Nevertheless, experience has taught me that winning a match after losing in doubles is difficult, so their singles must be tough, especially mentally. With another year of practice, their already formidable singles lineup should be even tougher. Meyer and Weichert are obviously great players, but they aren’t quite as good as some of the other duos out there, so I think the Hens will be most successful in the middle of their lineup. Singh, Allinson, and Sabel all have a ton of experience, and they have consistently gotten better over the course of their careers, and I think they are all in line to have huge 2012 seasons.
Where They’ll Lose
Despite what I said above about their strong doubles against Emory and Cruz (and I didn’t even mention their sweep against Bowdoin), I think that if they are going to get beaten by a lesser team, it’s going to be because of their tendency to have a bad doubles match every once in a while. They very nearly lost to Redlands last year, which would have been disastrous for their NCAA hopes, and it was because they were down after doubles. They will also need to win doubles if they want to beat CMS, which is something that they didn’t do last year. I don’t want to harp on this, because they also played some really strong doubles matches, but I’m a huge proponent of the importance of doubles in Division 3 tennis, and I’m the one with the keyboard.
The Hens open their season with their first trip to Indoors. Cal Lu seemed to have some issues adjusting to the indoor courts last year, and the Hens might have the same problem. One thing is for certain, their first round opponent, Kenyon, will have nothing to adjust to. As always, their schedule is loaded with ranked teams, which should help them at the end of the season. Unfortunately, they don’t play Cruz, but they do play their normal conference match against Claremont, and that’s the match I’ll be looking at for the Hens. That regular season match will be the best indicator of whether or not they have a chance to make a magical run at nationals. I don’t have much else to say about this team, so let’s put an end to this lackluster post!
While I don’t think last season was a fluke for the Hens, I think they will drop off a little bit this year. I think they’ll struggle to make the adjustment to indoor tennis and lose a couple matches at Indoors. Even though they will get a couple good wins, I think their tough schedule will wear them down, and they will eventually lose a match to a team that they’re better than (like Redlands or Cal Lu). In the end, I think they will get their Pool C bid, and finish the season somewhere in the 10-12 range.