Coach: Scott Riggle, 4th Season
Location: Greencastle, IN
2009 Ranking: 12th
2010 Ranking: 18th
2011 Ranking: 16th
2012 Ranking: 28th
2013 Projected Ranking: D3C 26th, D3TG 25th
Depauw is a very good program that deserves a lot of respect. Unfortunately, they seem to be heading in the wrong direction. They continued to recruit the same level of players the Tigers always seem to have. This is a team with some solid talent, good coaching, and a good schedule. The issue is they just haven’t been able to put together key wins. They are in a tough spot for NCAA’s in a difficult conference and always fighting for the coveted Pool C spots. For these reasons, the Tigers find themselves on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday, which is too bad because they are definitely a team that could provide some intriguing matchups come tournament time. This really is where arguments can start in terms of putting together a “more deserving field” for NCAA’s, but nothing is going to change this year. This is bad news for the Tigers because they are in line to have a similar season as last. They will be competitive in every match but they just can’t take out any big teams to really make a difference on the national scale. However, they are absolutely a contender to send some guys to Spring Nationals and should not be overlooked by anyone this year. If you give these guys an opening the Tigers bring a hardworking, gritty attitude to every match and can surprise a sleepy superior team (i.e. Case Western). What also needs to be mentioned: the Tigers are one of the loudest cheering teams around and if you’re not able to block that out you can find yourself getting pretty upset. Overall, this looks to be a year of close losses and frustration for Depauw.
There are a lot of bright spots in the Tigers’ lineup and they bring back everyone except for Michael Rardon (3 S, 2/3D) and Eric Hubbard (5 S, 1/2D). Rardon, in particular was a rock for these guys last year being their strongest points at his spots. His heart and leadership might really be a blow come dual-match time. Having said that, they return #1 Sam Miles who was a tough out for many of the top players in the Central. Miles had good wins and was ranked in the top 8 in the Central last year. Also returning is number 2 singles player Ben Kopecky. He played fairly well for them at 2, beating Sean Carr of Case, Matt McElrean of Denison, and Ramesh Kharki of Luther. If he can improve upon the few losses he had from last year he may be a money spot for these guys and at least partially fill Rardon’s shoes. Chris Bertollini played very well for the Tigers as a freshman. If he improved and can use his experience he will also help fill the void. Noah Swiler had a tough year last year. It will be interesting to see if he can shake his bug because they will need his experience and leadership this year. From here I’m not sure where the freshman they got and the non-starting returners will fall. Here’s what I can say. Depauw has a large roster full of competitive players, and the freshman they recruited look to be of the same breed (maybe a little more raw talent in this recruiting class), but the question will be can these guys rise to the occasion this year? I just don’t see the leadership there for this team in singles and that will really hurt them when the match comes down to the wire.
Doubles is a relative bright spot for these guys. They bring noise, heart, and energy from the players and their fans. That’s what propels them to 2-1 leads against a lot of teams. This is where the loss of Hubbard might haunt them. He was very tough for them wherever he was playing. On the flip side, Miles and Kopecky are both solid doubles players and will likely be the 1 team. From there they have David Moss, Reid Garlock and about 5 other guys that can fit into the 2 and 3 doubles spots and all will be good options. However, they may not possess that 3-0 ability this year and that will ultimately prevent them from any upsets as well as beating a team of equal caliber. It can’t be overstated the importance of getting the lead in doubles when your singles lineup doesn’t exactly strike fear at all spots.
Depauw’s schedule is pretty good this year. They have a few matches against teams that are ahead of them in the rankings, a few with teams right around them in the rankings, and a couple tough matches that can test them. Having said that… I really don’t like the way this team matches up in a lot of their matches and that is why I just see this being a tough year for these guys.
They start with Olivet Nazarene and Southern Indiana in a couple weeks. I personally feel matches like this to start a season are such a great idea. It gives teams a chance to work out some of the kinks, test guys in match situations, and see which doubles combos will work. What better a time to do it than against a team that doesn’t hurt you if you lose? I won’t predict these but I will say that this scheduling idea is a fantastic idea.
Then… The fun starts. In one weekend they face Case Western, Wash U, and UW-Whitewater. That’s a tough set of three matches for this team. Case Western (as I mentioned in my Case preview) has been really improving and I think this year they simply out match the Tigers. I think it will be a competitive match, but ultimately the team score will be lopsided in Case’s favor. Not to sound redundant but… Wash U also out matches these guys and they will likely storm through this match with a few tough individual matches sprinkled in. To finish, these guys will be a bit broken and disheartened after the first two losses. Playing the fiery Warhawks may prove to be a difficult task. Depauw edged out Whitewater last year 5-4 and I predict the Hawks to flip the script 5-4 riding out the 2-1 doubles lead. This is definitely a match Depauw can win though so they can prove me wrong here. I just think the leadership of the Hawks won’t let it happen and the lack of it on the Tigers team will be apparent.
Next, another “fun” match against Butler Univ. Following that, a huge, massive match against University of Chicago. I’ve eluded to the strength of Chicago and their singles talent. I see that singles talent being a little too much for the Tigers to handle. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Depauw jump out to a 2-1 doubles lead but their lack of clutchness will haunt them and I see them losing another heartbreaker 5-4. After this match they finally get a “break” against Earlham where the Tigers will notch a much needed win.
Then, off to California! A week-long stint of great matches will be an interesting test. They start with Redlands. Unfortunately for Depauw, Redlands is a team that does what they do…just a little bit better. Redlands 7-2. Next up, Occidental. Oxy did take Swarthmore to 4-5 last year, but I think the Tigers will be too hungry and win this 6-3. An awesome matchup against Whittier follows. Whittier has been notably on the rise and it’s only fitting for these teams to be meeting this year and it will be a huge test for both programs. Whichever team can show the most resolve will win this match. Both teams will be hungry for a win and it will be a big win for both teams…I gotta go with Depauw here though. They’re the more established program and I think it will pull them through. The last D3 match pits them against UC Santa Cruz. As with the Wash U match Cruz walks in with much more talent and should cruise through without much resistance. The exhausted Tigers will face UC-San Diego and will have an opportunity to dig deep one last time before returning home.
The last big regular season match is against Denison. This will be a huge match for both programs as this is a big rivalry matchup. Denison will be bringing everything they got and it’s sure to be a fantastic match. Last year’s matches were dog fights and this year is sure to bring back memories. Last year Depauw beat them in the regular season and lost in conference.. I think the lack of a schedule really hurts Denison in this match and I like Depauw to win 6-3.
If all goes according to plan Depauw will find themselves in a decent position heading into conference. Unfortunately, even if they can beat Denison again in the semis they will face Kenyon. Kenyon is just too tough for these guys in singles and I don’t see them winning at any position. Therefore, no tournament…again… for the Tigers. Which is too bad, honestly. Their season of ups and downs and heartbreak is likely to end them around the same spot they finished last year. I’ll say 26th but gimme some leeway.