Back in the day, the Northeast ITA was referred to as the “Skidmore ITA.” I was always reluctant to use the term, since it diminishes the other teams in the region, but I have to say, there might be something to it. Year after year, Skidmore flexes their muscles. Four of the past six singles champions have been Skid kids, as have three of the past six doubles champions. This time around felt a bit different though. Instead of having a clear cut top player in the region like Kai Yuen Leung or Oliver Loutsenko, 2017’s draw did not have an overwhelming favorite. That said, I had a short list of guys I thought had the best shot of taking the title, and I would be lying if I said eventual champion JT Wynne was on that list. The sophomore played #4 for the Thoroughbreds last year, and had a solid year, but certainly not one that led me to believe he could win this tournament. In hindsight, I can see how the energetic Wynne got through the draw, as his relentless style and fiery demeanor was well suited for the format. And I’m sure playing at home didn’t hurt either!
Wynne’s doubles victory alongside Steven Koulouris is less shocking, given that Wynne had a great year at #1 last year and Koulouris is no slouch either, but still. Damn. I don’t really know what to say about Wynne’s performance other than “great job!”
Beyond JT’s w(y)in(nne), not too much stood out to me in the tournament. A lot of teams that I would’ve bunched together as being pretty similar showed that there is going to be a decently wide gap between the top team in the region (who will probably be ranked around 11-12ish and whoever is ranked ~20 in the region.) Instead of just yammering on here in a random blurb, let’s organize this yammering a bit more. Let’s go team by team, and I’ll give my thoughts on everyone’s weekend, giving them a letter grade as well, since I know how much everyone loves that stuff.
Once again, big ups to JT Wynne for the ITA double, and major props to Steven Koulouris on earning All-American honors as well. Koulouris has been in Kai-Yuen Leung’s shadow for quite some time, but has always held it down pretty well, and I’m glad the senior is starting off his final year with such a solid result. Overall, Skid showed that they’re still the team to beat in the Liberty League. Jack McClaren had a nice little run to the third round, as did Lucas Pickering. Until proven otherwise, Skidmore remains top dog.
I was between a B+ and A- for the Engineers, but went lower just because they didn’t win a title and Skidmore won two. But RPI has got to be very happy with their tournament. I’m sure they would’ve liked to have defended their doubles title, but this year’s freshmen crop all made an impact, despite having much less hype surrounding them than last year’s class. Brian Niguidula and Clay Thompson both made the quarterfinals along with sophomore Sebastian Castillo Sanchez, and Andrew Imrie (also a freshman) made the third round before pushing Dubrovsky 3&6. On the doubles court, Castillo-Sanchez and Imrie should be very happy with a run to the final, even if they came up short against Skidmore. It wasn’t all positive for RPI this weekend, though, with the senior duo of McKinley Grimes and Tristan Wise taking a puzzling 8-2 first round loss to an unheralded Vassar team. Zack Ebenfeld, who won the tournament with SCS last year, lost to Skidmore’s #3 team in the first round alongside Niguidula, another not great result for a team that is traditionally strong in doubles. While I’m being negative, I guess I’ll also point out that Wise and Ebenfeld had very unimpressive singles results. Still, lots to like about RPI right now.
I’m not quite as high on Hobart as I was before the weekend, but this is still a very solid team. Alan Dubrovsky continues to develop well, reaching the semifinals, and Jonah Salita pushed eventual champion Wynne to 7-5 in the third. The two let a lead slip away in the doubles semifinals which I’m sure hurts given they had a legit shot to win it all, but a semifinal appearance is nothing to scoff at. Jonathan Atwater, who ended last year playing #1, had a surprising 5&1 loss to RPI freshman Niguidula in the second round which was obviously not great, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. What leaves me a bit uneasy about the weekend for Hobart is the realization that they only have one freshman, and he lost 8-3 in the first round of doubles (he didn’t play singles). What I love about this squad is how they’ve brought in talent and continued to improve year by year. I don’t think they’ll regress much this year, but I saw little this weekend to make me think they will take more than a baby step forward at best, which isn’t terrible, but probably won’t be enough to surpass Skidmore.
Stevens Tech: B
Freshmen Keegan Morris and Gabriel Sifuentes both gave decent matches to finalists Wynne and Koulouris in the second round, perhaps showing the Ducks will have some decent depth this year. Danny Polk, who has seen the Ducks hit some great highs and slowly decline, will be heavily relied upon both for points high in the lineup and for some leadership, as will Will Persson, who probably is above his weight class at #2 but deserves lots of credit for improving a ton in college. It’s hard to judge Stevens fairly, because while I feel they will get a lot out of the talent they have, the truth is they have a lot less talent than in the past. The Ducks didn’t distinguish themselves this weekend, which is both good and bad, I guess.
NYU usually does pretty poorly at ITAs for whatever reason. Sure, they’ve had players make runs, but it’s usually just one guy max per year that makes any noise. This year, the most noise they made was that Umberto Setter came in as the top seed. Unfortunately for the Violets, Setter was the only guy to make it past the second round, and even the Swiss lefty was knocked out in the quarterfinals by JT Wynne in three sets. Top freshman recruit Jae Min was nowhere to be found, and Aussie junior Ben Teoh was also missing (abroad?). Vishal Walia, who had some decent results earlier this fall didn’t play either, so I don’t want to be too harsh on a partial team. That said, the fact that NYU consistently has guys missing the biggest tournament of the fall isn’t a great sign. If it was another team I might give it more of a pass, but the Violets don’t have a reputation for being the most committed group out there (there are exceptions, obviously). Anyway, with this team being the second highest ranked in the tournament, I would’ve expected a lot more. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see a totally different team come spring time, but for this tournament, I give NYU a hearty “meh”.
Nice win for Tim Gavornik over Rochester’s Masaru Fujimaki in the opening round, but that’s really the only result of note for the Lions, who were without Mitchel Sanders. Thomas Wright and Matt Puig made the quarterfinals of doubles with wins over Hobart’s #3 team and St. Lawrence, which is nice, I guess. I’m pretty unimpressed with the weekend TCNJ had, as they did little to show they’re one of the best teams in the region. That said, if Sanders can hold it down at #1 I think this team will be sneaky solid down lower in the lineup. There are a lot of guys that could be good fives and sixes, so while mid-lineup is going to likely be a weakness, depth could be where the Lions make a name for themselves. TCNJ also traditionally plays good doubles, and they’ll need to be better than the sum of their parts to succeed this year. Not a ton to love about their ITA performance, but I wouldn’t completely write off this group yet.
Vassar gets a B because my grades are all relative, and my expectations weren’t very high for the Brewers. Freshman David Gandham went Gandham-style on his way to a third round appearance, topping NYU freshman Josh Piatos 11-9 in a super breaker before falling to Niguidula from RPI. Fellow freshman Adam Krueger pushed #3 seed Alan Dubrovsky (Hobart) to a super breaker in the first round, which is not a bad result, and Allen Sokolov, who played #2 last spring, fell to Will Persson of Stevens in a tight two sets. With a couple starters abroad and Nick Litsky graduated, this is about all you can ask from the Brew Crew for now. The performances of their youngsters gives me some confidence that Vassar will be able to at least maintain their spot in the rankings despite losing some key starters.
Not a banner weekend for the Yellowjackets. They won a grand total of ZERO singles matches, which really shouldn’t happen for a team ranked in the top 20. The only positive of the weekend’s results was Masaru Fujimaki and freshman Peter Huang’s run to the doubles quarterfinals, beating teams from Vassar and Skidmore along the way before getting rolled by Dubrovsky/Salita (Hobart). Unfortunately Rochester has been on the decline for a few years now, which is surprising to me. Given the school’s academic reputation and the fact that they’re in the UAA, I would think they’d be able to be, at the very least, competitive with NYU (which they used to be). No reason they can’t eventually rebuild, but ITAs didn’t make me feel very good about Rochester this year.
Sorry, I don’t feel like I can grade Ithaca the same as everyone else considering they had two singles players and one doubles team. If I was going to grade them, it wouldn’t be particularly high, though. #1 Minos Stavrakas had a respectable win over Puig (TCNJ) but was then rolled by Castillo-Sanchez (RPI), who he had beaten easily last year. Sam McGrath, the other singles competitor, fell 1&5 to Niguidula (RPI), and Ithaca’s lone doubles team lost 8-4 to Tecce/Romanetz from St. Lawrence, which is a nice win for the Saint duo but definitely not a great result for the Bombers. For the last couple years Ithaca has snuck in a surprising win to get into the regional rankings. Nothing about their ITA results make me believe that’ll happen again, but it’s hard to judge off of just a few matches.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets a grade. I will mention a few solid results for the little guys here. First, very good work from Chandler Libby of RIT to make the third round. The results online say he beat Zack Ebenfeld (RPI) 6-0, 6-0, but sources (RPI’s twitter) are telling me this is not correct. I believe he actually beat Satchel Fisher (Bard) by that score in round one (makes more sense) and then took out NYU’s Yanik Parsch in round two. Regardless of who he beat, that’s probably the first time in a while an RIT player won multiple matches. On the doubles court, credit to Ramapo’s Willen Feygin and Mike Abelev for repping the GNAC and winning their first rounder against Union. Also, as I mentioned above, good stuff from St. Lawrence’s Eric Tecce and Leo Romanetz for beating new conference rival Ithaca.
I’m all out of things to say about this tournament. It can be hard to resist, but there’s really not much use in writing too much into the results of one weekend. I think my biggest takeaway from this year is that JT Wynne is going to be a huge impact player—more than I expected—for Skidmore. I could go on (and I did, but then deleted it), but that’s enough for now.
I don’t think my teams, at least in the Northeast, have a ton remaining this fall, so god only knows what I’m going to blog about. Fear not, though, as season previews will be upon us shortly (though I may be trying something different from team-by-team this year). Anyway, thank you so much for reading! Now I’m going to be shameless and ask you to consider donating to the Blog if you enjoy our work and have the means. If not, we’d appreciate a click of the advertisement on the site too. And if that doesn’t suit your fancy, just keep on reading. The Blog will continue to be free for all D3 tennis lovers. As always, comment, tweet, or email! We love to hear your thoughts!