Season Preview: #20 Washington & Lee

Hayden White is this team's General, he.... he...

Hayden White is this team’s General, he…. he…

Coach: David Detwiler, 13th Season

2009 Ranking: #29

2010 Ranking: #26

2011 Ranking: NR

2012 Ranking: #20

2013 Prediction: D3ATS #19, D3TG NR

Overview:

Overall, last year was definitely a step up for the Generals, as they were able to break the top 20 and I believe get as high as #17 in the country before finishing the year at #20.  I expect more of the same this upcoming season, as they bring back almost the same exact team as last year, with hopefully a bit more experience.  Personally, I think this is a sneakily talented team after seeing them over the years, however I do not believe they have the mindset of a team that can break through.  They always seem to accept the fact that they’ll lose big matches and end up winning their conference.  This obviously is good enough to make the tournament, but the Generals always draw Emory in that scenario, and we know how that ends for the most part.  To be honest, I don’t see that outlook changing at all for this year, hence my prediction that W&L will finish at #19 on the year.  We’ll take a look at their lineup and schedule later on but this program doesn’t really set itself up for a huge amount of success.  In a season where they’ll win the matches they need to and probably lose the matches they are underdogs in, putting this team right where they ended up seemed like the most logical prediction for me.

Lineup Analysis:

Taking a peek at the Generals’ lineup, we obviously know that a big part of the stories this year will come from their #1 singles player, Hayden White.  White has made NCAAs in all 4 of his years at Washington and Lee, and although he isn’t one of the best #1s, he definitely brings a lot of fight (and a lot of gamesmanship) to the court, putting himself in a place where one slip up from the opponent can get him a win.  His fall was pretty on par with what we normally see from him, so I’m really expecting a season on par with his previous ones.  Maybe he’ll get a boost from that senior motivation, but he’ll probably have 1 big win over someone he shouldn’t beat, and one head scratching loss.  I think in general, you could do a lot worse than White at #1.  Next up is Taylor Shamshiri.  Now this guy has been a huge disappointment to me so far, however its only his sophomore year so maybe he can get a nice boost going into the spring.  I don’t believe Shamshiri had any big wins at #2 last year despite being a hyped freshman, and he had a very weak ITAs not only this year but last year as well.  If he can’t show up in big matches again this year, W&L is definitely in trouble.  Moving on to the rest of the lineup, I have to speculate that sophomore Goldstein is no longer with the team.  Last year, he played a solid 3 as a freshman, but I believe conduct was an issue and he was eventually either suspended or kicked off.  How this happened is neither here nor there, but it’s a blow to this teams depth and leaves me with a lot of unknowns about the roster.  I really don’t know much about the freshmen, as they all had pretty weak falls, so its very possible that this team isn’t as good as I projected.  With this being a lot of guesswork, I can’t be confident in this prediction, but with the amount of freshmen they brought in there’s got to be 2 players that can consistently play at the bottom of the lineup.  Add that in with Christopher Hu, who was a decent #6 last year, and the Generals can definitely compete against teams in the 20s to 30s.  Again, there will be a lot of guesswork when projecting the doubles lineup as well.  What the Generals have done in recent years is similar to what Emory did with Pottish, as they put White at #3 doubles to sneak a win out there and try to grind out a 5-4 win against better teams.  Thing is, it hasn’t always worked out like that.  From what I’ve seen on White’s doubles, he’s really not suited to play at #1, and it seems pretty taxing to play with him as well.  Doubs has always been a weakness of this team and they’ll need to mix and match to get a win, otherwise they’ll be staring at a few upsets this season.

Schedule Analysis:

The Washington and Lee schedule

Like I mentioned earlier, I do not feel the Generals set themselves up for success with this schedule.  You will see throughout the season that they’ll be playing teams that they’ll be way over their head against, or teams that they should easily handle.  Almost no in between.  They’ll start off the year playing Elon, which by the way is hilarious to me.  I don’t even know why Elon has them on their schedule.  They pretty much go straight from that match to a big early season matchup against Emory.  Expect a thumping in both these matches, probably 1 match total won if anything.  They’ll then have a decent matchup against Sewanee, who I believe has a pretty solid #1 and a decent lineup, so this will be a nice early season test for the Generals’ freshmen and bottom of the lineup players.  I hope they get through this one otherwise my projection is going to be blown up.

The second part of the schedule is where things get really boring.  They’ll play a ton of schools that I believe are out of DIII considering I don’t know most of them, so I can’t really gauge as to how they’ll do.  Hiding in the weeds, however, is a big match against Mary Washington.  This is a quirk in the schedule where these two teams will essentially play a home and home against each other.  How that makes sense is really nor for me to answer.  At least this year they are 1.5 months apart… Anyways, I see a really gritty match here against UMW that the Generals will come out with because of White getting 2 points and general battles between the rest of the spots.  Let’s say a 5-4 victory.

The third part of the schedule will be the Generals chance to get some wins under their belt.  They’ll have CMU, NCW, and Kenyon all on the schedule.  In any of these matches, you have to believe that White will win 2 points.  Otherwise, we’re not going to see either CMU or Kenyon losing to a much less talented and intense team.  There is a big match against Franklin and Marshall in there as well, but I don’t think they have enough firepower to beat the Generals.  (as you can see, really boring schedule).  They will then win their conference tournament and make NCAAs for the howeverth many time in a row.

Overall, this team needs a lot more talent and a lot more pride in their program to go anywhere.  Talent, organization, and general responsibilities are huge for anyone.  With the talent they have and the schedule, they’ll need a huge win to get a better positioning for NCAAs.  I just don’t see that happening and I see them moving back to the DC area.

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