WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE! There are bloggers about, waiting to kick off another DIII season, and they are waiting for my cue. While I debate what my next show to watch is going to be (I’m taking suggestions peeps), I’ve decided that I’d turn over a new leaf this year. That means ALL OF MY ARTICLES WILL BE ON TIME! We all know that’s not going to be true, but for this article, it is. And that means I am 100% on the year, and that’s what counts. Anyways, if you need an introduction again, we are The Blog, the only website that is primarily focused on Division III Tennis and all happenings within it. This blog has been going on for 11 years now (I know y’all are shook) and we are here to start what will shape up to be another incredible journey through the Division III Tennis season. Let’s quickly go to a word from Wooster.
— Wooster Men's Tennis (@wooster10s) September 5, 2017
Last year, I introduced every single writer, new and old, to you in this article. I will not be doing the same this year. You know most of the writers and if you don’t, I’ll actually be writing an “About the Bloggers” article that will have all their information anyways. That article is linked (coming soon). However, I will take you through all of our new writers, who I am excited to be bringing on with fresh ideas and knowledge about DIII Tennis.
DIIIWestTennis – Finally, some new blood out West. Unfortunately, long time West blogger Conor Holton-Burke (formerly of Whitman) has given up his duties as the West blogger. It’s been almost a 10 year run for Conor, ever since D3TennisGuy, and we tip our cap to him. He will continue to contribute once in awhile and is still a part of our group chat. Anyways, enough Conor – we were lucky enough to replace Conor with DIIIWestTennis, who has already impressed me with his enthusiasm for the Blog and contributions. His information is below, do the right thing and follow him.
NewD3Central – As you all well know, D3Midwest stepped down last year as our Central writer and we bid him farewell. We have seen many a central writer, but I will say that I am very pleased to have found ANOTHER writer waiting in the wings. NewD3Central will be joining us this year with main duties in the Central region. We all know the Central region takes their bloggers seriously, so he has his work cut out for him. Maybe that’s why we’ve been through so many in only a few years. Here is his info, feel free to tweet at him immediately.
D3ASouthWomens – Guess what? We’re back with Women’s coverage this year after an outstandingly mediocre effort last year! We’ve revamped our team and I have decided to really build this thing from the ground up. As of right now, we don’t have coverage for every Women’s region (sorry, Central and West), but we have two outstanding writers in the NE and now the ASouth that are ready to take on the fans clamoring for more Women’s coverage. ASouthWomens will bring a new perspective to the game, as she will be covering my favorite region, just on the women’s side. Watch out for her already famous snark and sarcasm, because it’s about to get real in the ASouth.
ASouth’s 10 Burning Questions of the Season
As always, I love to finish this article with our 10 Burning Questions of the Year. We’ll revisit this shindig at the end of the year, but this is a good start to the 2017-2018 Men’s Season. ITAs are just around the corner, and that means we need to gear up for some writing. This will hold you readers over until we get to the details. Let’s get down to business. By the way, I totally re-used this same paragraph from last year.
How will the defending champion Eagles replace two key senior contributors?
Emory was able to break their long title “drought” last year behind the stellar play of well, pretty much everyone. The team was outstanding, and part of that was due to the performance and leadership of Aman Manji and Josh Goodman. Both were obviously important to the Eagles, but now it’s time for new leaders. There are big hopes for the junior crew of Jonathan Jemison and Adrien Bouchet and they will certainly bring a different vibe to the team this year. In addition to the leadership, they’ll need to replace the talent as well. Replacing your #1 and #5 player is no easy task. Coach Browning brought in a recruiting class of 2, with Hayden Cassone (#51 on TRN) one of the key cogs for this year’s team. Last year’s freshmen fizzled out after a strong fall – will this year be the same?
The Kings in the North – Middlebury as favorites?
Middlebury started the year last year with the news that Noah “The Night King” Farrell would be out for the entire season for reasons undisclosed. To combat this, they added the best player in the country, Lubo Cuba, a transfer from Michigan. This year, Farrell returns to potentially provide the Panthers with a devastating 1-2 punch of the current and former #1 players in the nation. Despite a few graduations, Middlebury looks to be the potential favorite with a lineup that looks to be 8 deep and a coach considered to be one of the best ever. Oh, and if you didn’t think that was scary enough.. Middlebury brings in a stud recruiting class with players ranked #39, #97, and #99. If that produces even two starters, we’re talking about a potential BEAST of a team.
Wait… who are those teams at Indoors?
In what might be my favorite decision of 2017 (there weren’t many good decisions in 2017 to be honest), Coach Settles of CMS and Coach Roche of Redlands have decided to join the Indoors fray this year. This presents us with an absolute bombshell of a tournament with 8 seriously sweet teams. Emory/Gustavus, CMS/Trinity TX, Wash U/Redlands, and Chicago/CMU all look to be top notch matchups. The story here is CMS IS GOING TO INDOORS. Coach Settles is known to switch things up every year to give his team more experience and this certainly provides a different narrative for this year. Outside of CMS, we have Redlands making their first appearance in a few years, Emory playing against a Gustavus team graduating no one and at home in their first match, Chicago and CMU doing battle in a UAA showdown, and Wash U trying keep up their consistency. It’s going to be a TOURNAMENT.
Are things getting woolly for the Mammoths?
Last year, the Amherst Mammoths brought in one of the best recruiting classes we’ve ever seen outside of Chicago. Well, things have changed. Oscar Burney has transferred out (rumored and soon to be confirmed), and it looks like he’s gone to none other than CMS. Josh Marchalik has transferred to Georgetown, or at least that’s what the latest rumors have told us. Those are two key contributors in Amherst’s lineup last year, and the trend seems to be that more transfers might be in the near future. Amherst brought in another stellar recruiting class this year, but what’s going on in Amherst right now? The season will soon tell.
Will we continue to see the decline of some perennial powers?
In the past two years, we saw perennial top 20 teams such as Kenyon, Case Western, Pomona, UMW, and Hopkins struggle at various points in the season. Will this trend continue as DIII becomes more and more reliant on top talent? Kenyon is looking over their shoulder with Denison nipping at their heels. Hopkins has fended off a spunky Swarthmore team recently despite tumultuous seasons. Pomona will be facing the loss of their best player, Jake Yasgoor, as well as other senior leaders who meant so much to the Sagehens rise. UMW was actually ranked outside the top 35 for a time last year. These are teams that used to be locks for the NCAA Tournament every year (sans Pomona). This year will be very interesting as recruiting classes continue to get more talented and player development becomes that much more important.
How will our breakout teams from last year follow up their runs this year? Who are some breakout candidates this year?
Last year, we saw Wesleyan win the NESCAC regular season and enter the NESCAC tournament as the #1 seed. I had to admit that D3Northeast was right in that Wesleyan was truly a title contender (even though I picked them to lose to Hopkins. Sorry Coach). In the Central, Gustavus knocked off top 10 stalwart Chicago in the biggest upset of last year to make it to the Elite 8 and finish with a top 15 ranking. Both teams took a step forward and will look to follow it up this year with an even better performance. Wesleyan surely wants to see themselves in the Final 4 at the very least. Gustavus loses no one and can follow up with a big upset of the defending champions at Indoors. It could happen!
Are there any other teams that could have a similar style breakout this year? Maybe Williams can take some momentum from last year and return to power in the Northeast. CMU is always going to be a dangerous team with the talent that they have. For lower ranked teams, I’m really not sure if anyone else in the 15-30 range has the breakout formula that Gustavus had last year. But, I’ve been wrong many a time.
Who will be the next small-school player to make a run at individuals?
Two years ago, Branden Metzler put Kalamazoo tennis back into the national spotlight with his electrifying run to the NCAA singles final. Last year, Carthage’s Herman Abban and Pawel Jaworski turned even more heads with a tremendous season culminating with a semifinal appearance at NCAAs. The precedent has been set—players from just about any team can make a run come May, the question is, who is going to step up this year? While May is quite a ways away, Fall ITAs could give us an idea of who to track in the spring, as a deep run is hugely important for players from schools with weaker schedules who may not have the opportunities to earn a high ranking later on.
Which regional teams are poised to make a run into the top 20? And which regional teams are looking to set a baseline for future year performance?
Last year, Kalamazoo took the first ranked match of the year against Kenyon and provided us with an upset to start us off strong. Teams like Swarthmore and others were expected to break out but were unable to. A few years ago, a Stevens team from virtually nowhere was able to break the top 20! Some regional teams to watch this year are NYU, Sewanee, Denison, Cal Tech, and dare I say it again, Swarthmore. All these teams brought in intriguing recruiting classes that will supplement their growing programs. Look for a few of these teams to falter, as RPI did last year, but some may start setting the foundation for a run in later years. If I had to pick two from this set of teams, I’d probably pick Sewanee and Cal Tech – both coaching staffs are well respected and the teams seem to have that breakout feel to them.
The Pool C Conundrum – how will things shake out this year in Pool C? How many spots do we even have?
We finished with 6 Pool C spots last year, but as always, we debated throughout the year as many well-deserving teams inevitably missed the cut. CMU, Redlands, Pomona, Case Western, and others were sent home packing with nothing to show for their very solid seasons. This year, I believe that we are back down to 5 Pool C spots, meaning that the Pool C question will of course loom large. However, there IS GOOD NEWS! Judging from initial rumors about schedules, coaches have taken it upon themselves to schedule some UAA/NESCAC matches throughout the season! Take Wesleyan’s schedule, where they have put the Stag Hen (potential Wash U and Case) as well as a dual match against CMU @ Redlands on the docket. Those are three potentially huge NESCAC/UAA matches for us to watch. Emory will also be traveling up north to battle Middlebury on the Trinity CT courts. It looks like Williams will be playing Chicago out West, Amherst will play Wash U and Case Western, and Bowdoin will be playing Chicago also. We have a lot of UAA/NESCAC matches this year!
Will the West be more than a one team show?
CMS has dominated the headlines out West, and rightfully so. Many considered them to be favorites to win it all last year despite their doubles issues and in the end it cost them a title. Coach Settles has always been known to switch it up and will be doing so this year when Indoors comes around. Also, as you read earlier, Settles is armed with a transfer in Oscar Burney (Amherst) as well as a recruiting class worthy of the CMS name. CMS will be the key challenger to Middlebury and Emory as title contenders in the early stage in the game. That’s something that will probably never change.
But other than CMS, what will Pomona and more specifically, Redlands, do this year? Redlands surprised many last year by rising all the way to #12, but they face steep resistance at this spot with so many good teams ahead of them. It seems as if many teams are going out to play Redlands (CMU, Wesleyan, Williams) and the Dawgs are also going to Indoors in what should be a fun first round matchup against Wash U. Redlands can follow up a good year with a great one, but call me skeptical until I see the magic from the Bulldogs.
Lastly, how about our geographically isolated teams in Trinity, Tyler, and Whitman? These teams will surely win their conference, but are any of them ready to scare some top teams? Whitman took out Pomona last year in a down year for the Sagehens. With so little opportunities, the Squirrels/Tigers/Patriots will have to make the most of the few times teams visit them on their home courts. If not, they’ll have to win at the Stag Hen/Indoors, where some of these teams have been known to struggle.
What to Expect from the Blog
I know y’all are excited to begin another year of DIII Tennis, and so are we. If you remember correctly, we added a LOT of stuff last year. This Week in Highlights, The Recruiting Hub, the Van Zee Vault, and a good amount of new writers were added. All of those things, thankfully, went really damn well. Since they went so damn well, we’ll be continuing all of them this year. Be not afraid, for we are with you. We are hoping to get the rest of the Recruiting Hub done in the fall and we are more than happy to have more teams added with the help of those teams respective coaches. Anyways, stay tuned for more ideas throughout the year – DIIIWestTennis claims to have a lot of them! Look for a potential Study Abroad group that we can use to get DIII players hitting with each other in various countries to be started soon.
MORE BIG NEWS!!
As you all know, we have been doing this for over 10 years now. The Blog has been totally free from its inception and we absolutely plan on keeping it that way. No subscriptions, etc, at least for the time being. This is as enjoyable for us as it is to you guys and we’re glad to give a sport that we all love it’s fair share in the spotlight. That being said, for the first time ever, we will be adding a Donation Box to the site this year. The Donation Box can be found on the top left of the site. Donations will primarily help us with the upkeep of the site – we are now paying for our own hosting (thank you Coach Northam!) and are planning some major upgrades to the site experience in the near future. Additionally, funds will also just give us some added fuel to the fire when writing. We’ve been doing this for a long time and as I’m sure you’ve heard me say before, this is basically a side job for all of us. Again, by no means are you obligated to donate – but if you are feeling generous and have enjoyed the site, please consider!
Another option if you would rather not donate is to click on the ad on the left hand of the site that appears under the donation box. Full transparency, we get a dollar or so per click, so if you’re ever feeling bored, throw us a left click to help us out. No matter what you to decide to do, we’ll keep on going with this crazy venture and make sure our writing and effort is of the highest quality.
I think that’s a perfect way for me to end this post and officially welcome you all to the 2017-2018 season. It’s going to be another wild ride. Look out for more articles coming this week. You all know how this ends. ASouth, OUT.