We had originally planned for this article to be a preview article of the past weekend, but we realized that we don’t really know that much about most teams until we see them in action for the first time. This meant we switched this article to a recap, where we now have a good amount of data on teams and what to expect for the rest of the year. This article will only cover what went down in the Central part of the US, and not anything that happened on Spring Break Walla Walla (which was a lot). We’ll see if we can get to that, but you can also view my thoughts on the weekend as well as my colleagues thoughts on Twitter, which has been added back to the side of the site (thank god!). We’re going to try and give a quick recap match by match, and I’ll add my general thoughts to the end of the article as well.
(rankings in Blog Power Rankings, as always)
#5 Chicago vs. #33 Denison (Friday, 7PM)
AS: Most interesting storyline going into this was what the Chicago lineup was going to be, and we got some answers here as Chicago welcomed back Nick Chua to the lineup. We’ve heard that DLiu could be out an extended period of time, and we didn’t see Kerrigan in this match either (more to come on that). Surprise is that Luke Tsai is now seemingly anchored at #2 singles, so he must have worked on his game a good amount in the offseason. Leung was the only loss at #4 which was a bit disappointing, but Leung has notoriously been on and off throughout his career so not much to look into. Chicago is obviously a force to be reckoned with and is a legit threat at a title if they can get their pieces in line.
NewD3Central: ASouth hit all the important points with this one, but I will add that Denison having a Kevin Brown (last year’s 1) at 4 will give Denison one of the best fours in the country. Another thing to note is that prior to his default, Rotnov was giving Chua fits in a tightly contested battle – good news for the Big Red who are looking to move on up in the central.
#23 Kenyon vs. #28 Kalamazoo (Saturday, 8AM)
NewD3Central: It was nice to see T. Metlzer bounce back from his McAuley match last weekend to beat a big serving Paolucci – rather easily (4 and 2). The only surprising lineup decision here was seeing Yoshino all the way up at 4. Either Yoshino worked hard and became rock solid or Thielke is trying to cement senior pillars at 5 and 6 singles…if you’re pro-Lords then hopefully it’s both.
AS: Not much to see here in my opinion. I thought Kenyon would have this all the way through, even prior to the match. Kalamazoo simply is going to struggle with depth this year against anyone in the top 25, and they no longer have a guy at the top of the lineup that can win any match he could possibly be in. Kenyon took care of business here as they should have, which set them up decently well for the rest of the weekend.
#5 Chicago vs. #18 Case Western (Saturday, 3PM)
NewD3Central: Surprisingly, the closest doubles match was between the reigning (because you have to specify) ITA champs and the smallest 2 doubles team this side of the Mississippi. Kanam must have been having a day because he continued the momentum following doubles to beatdown a very good player in Kumar. Don’t be surprised if Neil Mabee makes his way up to 1 doubles at the end of the year, maybe him and Chen can give Case some more firepower at the top. Abhin Sharma could be getting the look from Coach Tee to play 6 – he played above Kumar the following day against Oberlin.
AS: A few thoughts here on both teams, but overall it was good to see Erik Kerrigan back in the lineup for the Maroons. He surprisingly slotted in at #3 behind Tsai, and that makes Chicago all the more dangerous, especially if Liu comes back in full form later in the year. NewD3Central has really touted the doubles lineup of the Maroons and they showed their strength here – a sweep of Case Western is really impressive. The formula for Chicago continues to be quite clear – they will be rocks in the middle of the lineup from #3-5. Whether they beat the top teams in the nation will depend on – Chua winning big matches, doubles not falling apart (it shouldn’t), and finding the right person to play 6. Kumar had a disappointing loss to Kanam here.
Regarding Case, I saw a lot that I’m impressed by as well. They debuted a lineup that still has Concannon at #5 singles, where he’s had a ton of success. Not many teams will be able to sweep them in doubles and that says more about Chicago than Case. Matt Chen performed admirably against Tsai at #2 and that’s a big boost for a team ailing for top of the lineup talent. Case is trending up in my book.
#28 Kalamazoo vs. #24 Sewanee (Saturday, 3PM)
RegAS: There’s really not a ton to say here. We all knew that Sewanee was the stronger team going into this matchup, and the Tigers seemed like they came to prove a point. Kzoo was definitely gassed from their morning match, but Sewanee held tight from top to bottom. As I’ve said before, the depth is where Sewanee will shine and they showed this winning 3-6 with relative ease. Andres Carro was my “man of the match” dropping only four games in singles and doubles.
NewD3Cental: This is the way the Tytus Metzler era begins / This is the way the Tytus Metzler era begins / This is the way the Tytus Metzler era begins, not with a bang but an 8-1 drubbing by Sewanee. This match reads like a classic second match of the day after a tough loss, and except for Henry’s three set win, all the losses were one-way traffic. Clearly Kalamazoo brought it all for Kenyon but unfortunately for them, the intensity and exertion left them running on fumes for the Tigers.
#23 Kenyon vs. #26 Mary Washington (Saturday, 6:30PM)
NewD3Central: While this loss is far from devastating, since UMW are an atlantic south team and not a central one, it does highlight a difficult start for Paolucci this year. This match really isn’t about Kenyon though – Kenyon will be fine by April – it’s about how Mary Washington was able to break through the crowd and notch a Kodak moment in February, in Ohio.
AS: This was the match of the weekend by far, and it ended at around 2AM on Sunday morning. A battle between two presumably top 25 teams proved to us that these two teams are probably going to be around the same skill level all year round. I’ll give my thoughts on the UMW win, which I already did a little bit on twitter and will link you here.
Mary Washington has been longing for a win like this for the past few years. Kenyon is a remarkably tough team and one that especially takes pride in defending their home courts. I didn’t think UMW had the goods to beat the Lords here but seriously, wow. A great effort by the Eagles. With a 2-1 doubles lead, UMW stole a match at the top (shoutout to Patrick Hughes) and used their depth to take a couple of straight set matches at the bottom. Freshman Cole Tecce starts off his dual match career with a match-clinching win over an experienced player in Weston Noall. This bodes well for the Eagles go forward.
#28 Kalamazoo vs. #26 Mary Washington (Sunday, 8AM)
NewD3Central: …spoke too soon, by Sunday morning sophomore sensation, Daniel Henry, reclaimed the one spot. Kalamazoo has two elite options at 2 it seems, with Metzler getting the win over UMW as did Henry at 2 over Sewanee. Kalamazoo did their best to upset the Eagles in a classic trap match but just didn’t have the goods this day. Kalamazoo must be a little disappointed from their 0-3 weekend, and they thankfully have a little over three weeks to prepare for their next big test: Denison. Kalamazoo will remember this weekend – they didn’t have many last year – and should come into their tough Texas weekend with more intensity and longevity.
AS: I’m not gonna talk about this match much. UMW just had to avoid the letdown after a long night against Kenyon the night before. They did just that with a 5-2 victory over the Hornets, who probably don’t deserve to be in the top 30 at this point. Good job by UMW to take any air out of the KZoo sails with a huge sweep. I love to see a great doubles performance after a late match – means that the team bounced back quickly and was ready to play the next day. This UMW team may or may not be a different team than previous years, as I will mention later.
#23 Kenyon vs. #24 Sewanee (Sunday, 11:30AM)
RegAS: Doubles, doubles, doubles. I said in my SAA preview, Sewanee has the singles talent to be a top 15 team IF they can figure their doubles out. Well, Kenyon took the doubles lead, the momentum and the match. I had a feeling Jack Gray was going to struggle against the more elite ones and Zalenski definitely got the best of him. After the loss Kzoo’s Henry, Olps’ bounceback win over Paolucci shows me that this freshman is ready to compete at the collegiate level. One thing to note is that Carro and Brewer switched singles spots, which was a little surprising, given that neither struggled in the previous match. When I saw Carro playing four for the Tigers in the earlier match against Kzoo, I thought to myself, “holy s#!t, they aren’t going to lose a match at that spot this season.” I’m sure Coach Shackelford saw something and made the switch for a good reason, but as the season moves forward, the positioning of Carro and Brewer will be something to keep an eye on. Sometimes you need to take a tough loss early to drive you forward the rest of the season. I think this will give the Tigers a chip on their shoulder for the rest of the season and give them that extra grit in upcoming matches against Mary Wash, Swarthmore, Whitman and Tufts.
NewD3Central: No one’s said this yet, but wow…what a weekend for Noall & Reiger in doubles: 3-0. Noall & Rieger are an unorthodox mix of conventional and unconventional doubles (makes sense if you watch them play), but their exceptional weekend not only helps their individual hopes but gives Kenyon a bonafide 1 doubles team without using a top 3 singles player. Kenyon now has a wealth of pieces to create their two and three teams – a mix-and-match project for Coaches Cheng and Thielke. Next weekend, the central gets an opportunity to see one of two streaking doubles teams in Noall & Rieger and Reifeis and McAuley add another resume making win to their portfolio. Enough, individuals talk though – it is February after all – Kenyon leaves this weekend with the central win they needed, and should get their NCAC title defense started in Indiana with Wabash and Depauw (unchecked fact: you’re four times more likely to make a backwards free throw than determine Depauw’s lineup).
AS: I’ve chatted a lot on twitter (to myself) about what happened this weekend, but I did want to put some of my thoughts here on the page. This was a great opening weekend for DIII Tennis and I’m REALLY REALLY glad that UMW traveled up to Ohio to take on a few matches they may not have been comfortable doing in the past.
Above is a twitter thread of my thoughts on the UMW scheduling – good things happen to those who change. UMW was clearly the big winner this weekend, not only because of wins, but because of the way they notched those wins. Great job, Eagles.
Some more quick thoughts on Sewanee – I was seeing a lot of bluster on twitter about Sewanee being a favorite for their match against Kenyon. That went up in flames as they went down 2-1 and ended up losing in a close one. There’s a difference between being good on paper and being good in real life. Kenyon showed why they’ve been a perennially ranked team (although a bit lower ranked these days) and toughed out a win on their home courts. If you’re Sewanee, that’s an opportunity missed and to be quite honest, they had it coming. The hype train can only leave the station if it has some fuel – maybe this weekend will kick them in the ass a bit.
I’ve already written a lot for basically a weekend in which only one of my teams played, so I’ll just finish with this. Watch Chloe Kim tonight. ASouth, OUT.