Rain diminished what would have been an extremely significant weekend, but there were still a couple huge stories.
The biggest story of the weekend was Washington and Lee, who finally got a couple big wins after playing really good tennis for the first half of the season. On Saturday, they beat Case Western in an incredible match. After taking 2 out of 3 doubles matches, Kyle Gerber got a straight set win for Case to make it 2-2. Then, Hayden White got the Generals started in singles with an impressive straight sets win to make it 3-2. The remaining matches were decided in three sets with freshman, Taylor Shamshiri, winning in a 3rd set tiebreaker and Christopher Hu winning 6-4 in the third for the Generals. On Sunday, the Generals beat Mary Washington by sweeping doubles and getting two easy wins in singles. It’s been a long couple weeks since the Eagles beat Cal Lu. It was a great weekend for the Generals, and they should be rewarded with a top 25 (if not top 20) ranking. Washington and Lee’s only remaining match against a ranked team is a road match against Carnegie Mellon. These two big wins came at home, and they haven’t been able to win on the road yet. They will need to win on the road in the NCAA tournament, so that will be a huge statement match for the Generals.
The stories for the losing teams are equally interesting. With this loss, there’s basically no way Case is going to sneak in the back door of Pool C by waiting for other teams to lose, but their win over Mary Washington kept them alive (and gave them an indirect win over Cal Lu). I think they still need wins over both Chicago and Wash U to make the tournament because this might be a one Pool C bid year for the UAA. If they can’t pick up both wins on April 14th, they will need to beat the other in the UAA tournament.
Mary Washington has now lost 4 in a row since beating Cal Lu. That sort of negative energy can be an absolute poison for a team, and they need to win one soon, or things could get out of hand. Also of note is the absence of Sam Wichlin in the lineup Sunday against Washington & Lee. Hopefully for them, he’s not injured. Next up for them are home matches against NCW, Bates, and Carnegie Mellon. If they can win two of those, they will be in good shape, but the way things are going right now, they might lose all three.
Elsewhere in D3, Bates beat MIT behind the strength of a doubles sweep. Though Berg lost, they got easy wins at 2 and 3 to seal the victory. They are still struggling finding wins at 4-6 singles, but Sunday was promising for them. Even though they only won one match in a 10-pointer, they split sets in all three matches. They have a ton of matches against ranked teams left. This was just MIT, but they may have broken the ice.
Probably the second biggest story of the weekend was Whitman keeping alive its undefeated season. They might not actually be one of the best 8 teams, but they deserve a top 8 ranking, and here’s why: First, they play with more heart than just about anyone. Against Whittier, they were up 4-1 with four matches in the third set. They needed one third set to win, and they took all four. Compare that to CMS vs. Swarthmore. CMS was up 4-2 with three matches in the third, and they couldn’t get any. The Squirrels seem to have the ability to rise to the occasion. Second, they are resilient. With the rain, they had a good excuse to duck one of their two matches; Whitman didn’t have much to gain and a top 10 ranking to lose. They put themselves at a disadvantage against Trinity by playing them both on the same day. Four of their players had already played 3-setters in the morning, and three of those same players won in the afternoon (one in another 3-setter). Compare that to Trinity (CT), who refused to play Cal Lu last year because the forecast was rain, and Kenyon, who ducked a tournament to save their ranking last year when a couple of their players were injured. I’m not saying Trinity or Kenyon made wrong choices last year, but the Squirrels at least have guts. Finally, and most importantly, they haven’t lost. You can’t move them down if they have 5 wins against ranked teams, a whole slew of indirect wins, and no losses to move them down for.
That being said, Whittier’s ranking is inflated right now because of the whole Swarthmore/CMS debacle, and Trintiy was playing their first match, and they were playing it outside. Whittier was beaten yesterday, but it was probably the closest 8-1 match I’ve ever seen. They are still a bit of a mystery, but we’ll find out more about them soon, as they play Amherst and Kalamazoo in the next couple days. If they can beat Zoo, they will have earned their ranking. After that, they jump into the SCIAC schedule. They are definite underdogs against the SCIAC top 4, and they definitely won’t be making the tournament this year, but no matter what, this season has been a huge step forward for them.
The Bantams missed the best Pool C opportunity they’ve had in the last couple years yesterday. Their #1 doubles team served for the match at 7-6 to make it 2-1, and Whitman would have had a hard time coming back from that. They have a must-win match against Kalamazoo today (if they don’t win, I don’t know what ranked team they will beat), and then another opportunity against fellow Pool C competitor Cal Lu on Tuesday. Cal Lu is playing too well to lose to the Bantams. Trinity’s other opportunity is their match against Bowdoin, and given the way the Polar Bears have been playing, I don’t think the Bantams will be making the tournament this year. But everyone knows that I’ve been wrong before.