10. Can Williams do it again? The Ephs one-upped their performance from last year and finished 3rd rather than 4th, getting revenge against Wash U in the process. A near win against Amherst and a 2nd place regular-season NESCAC finish are both excellent accomplishments, however I believe 2 losses are going to stick in the mind of Williams when they reflect on their 2012 season. The unexpected loss to Bowdoin in the NESCAC semifinals was tough, and of course the semifinal loss in NCAAs to Emory where they had so many chances. Overall, this team continues to grow each year as does their coach, but I guarantee Williams is not satisfied with how they finished this season given the team they had.
9. Emory hasn’t won a title since 2006 – Emory hasn’t won a title since 2012. The Eagles followed up their undefeated regular season in 2011 with another undefeated regular season, except this time they finished it off with a national title. The Eagles have won 3 of the last 4 Indoors titles, but the incredible thing about this year’s Emory team was the play of their freshmen from beginning to end. In Pottish and Goodwin they lose 2 of the best players in the history of D3, but what we learned about Emory this year is that they are going to contend for a national title for at least 3 more years. Their freshmen won them this national title, and this program continues to be a model of consistency.
8. Watch out for Case Western – An excellent year for Case Western, as they took a big step forward finishing 3rd in the UAA and finishing in the top 20 in the country. This program has come a very long way in a short amount of time, and they are now on the radar screens of the country’s top teams as a potential threat. We will see if these guys continue to climb over the next few seasons, but the next step is to pick up the quality of their recruits a little bit so they can make a push at the top 10 in the country. I’ll be very interested to see if they can match this year’s performance again next year, but all in all they should be proud of what they accomplished.
7. CMS and Hopkins performance in NCAAs – One took a huge step forward and the other stayed static. Hopkins got over their phobia of making it to the Final 8 and they nearly defeated eventual champion Emory once they got there. I imagine there will be several bright years ahead for Hopkins tennis, and now that their freshmen have experience on a big stage, they should only get better. CMS gained steam near the end of the season after a dreadful start, but as soon as they got back to the Final 8, which seems to give them fits every year, they froze and got swept by Kenyon. 2 quarterfinal losses is just not acceptable and the pain continues in Claremont despite their incredible amount of talent.
6. 5 consecutive Final 4s for Wash U – I can’t imagine anyone pictured Wash U’s season playing out as it did. They were swept in doubles in 2 matches that would have taken them out of NCAA contention and won both. They got a gift of a regional and they followed it up by winning a match no one gave them a chance to win against a supposedly untouchable team. While the Bears have now made 5 consecutive Final 4s (the next longest streak is 2), they have also lost in the semifinals 4 consecutive years. The Bears return their entire team in their quest for a 6th straight Final 4, and if we learned anything from the 2012 Wash U Bears, it’s that anything is possible in NCAAs.
5. Pomona-Pitzer the new #2 in SCIAC? They had an early season loss against Cal Lutheran, but I think P-P established themselves as the clear #2 in the SCIAC, and they even came close to beating CMS. The Hens did not start out all that well and I know they didn’t meet their own expectations for this season, but I think that they finished well and will end up either just inside or outside the top 10. They had opportunities in NCAAs against Cruz but couldn’t get the job done. If PP can put together a 3rd consecutive rock solid season in 2013 and somehow manage to topple Cruz or CMS, that would be a huge accomplishment. But with CLU and Redlands on their tail, they have to keep up the high level of play.
4. DePauw’s conference switch – I’ll get to who the most disappointing team of 2012 was, but the 2nd most disappointing team was DePauw. They started out poorly and never gained their footing because they really don’t play a good schedule. This team finished 16th in 2011 and I projected them to be top 15 this year as they were better on paper than in 2011, but I’m not exactly sure what happened. It just goes to show the depth this year when a team this good is finishing outside the top 25. They get hit with a couple key graduations, but a goal for DePauw in 2013 should be getting back to the top 20 because I believe they certainly have enough talent to compete with the nation’s best.
3. Indoors returns to Gustavus – What an incredible event at an incredible venue, that I hope stays at Gustavus in 2013. The performance by the Gusties this was was amazing, and they pushed Emory more than anyone else in the regular season. The quality of play throughout the tournament was excellent, and in some ways this tournament is just as good as NCAAs, especially with the drama of only playing on 3 courts. I’ve heard rumors that Indoors may cease to exist within a few years, but for the sake of D3 tennis and the fans, this is the absolute perfect way to kick off the season and it must continue. All the teams love to participate and it’s a really great event.
2. Hansen to Middlebury – The most disappointing team of 2012…ladies and gentlemen your Middlebury Panthers. Midd has not been the same the past 2 years since Dave Schwarz left, and even Bob Hansen couldn’t turn that around. A 4th place finish in the NESCAC and a loss in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 10 years were the stories of Midd’s season. More than anyone else in the country, the pressure is going to be on Midd to perform next season. They will finish 14 or 15 in the country, and maybe the Hansen-Midd marriage just wasn’t meant to be. The Panthers have to go back to the drawing board and they have their work cut out for them or I can see them finishing 5th in NESCAC in 2013.
1. Can anyone touch Amherst? The answer to this was no for the whole season, but about 5 days ago it became an emphatic yes. I still don’t know what went wrong, and I’m not sure anyone does, but my guess it was a combination of many things. The important thing to take from the loss if you’re Amherst is no matter how good you are, you have to come to play against quality teams. The Jeffs were more prepared than their opponents in the previous 3 seasons, but this year maybe being the heavy favorite got to them. While they still won the NESCAC and should be proud of their regular season, you are measured by what you do in the post-season, and Amherst did a reversal of their incredible performances the past 3 seasons.