I’m feeling good because the Broncos just won, so I’m gonna pump out a quick rapid reaction from my favorite tennis weekend of the year. The ITA weekend was always my favorite for many reasons: it was the first significant competition for several months, and I was always jonesing; it was exciting to see how the new freshmen would respond to pressure situations; and it was a festival of tennis to meet all sorts of players and coaches from around the conference. Basically, it was just some good clean family fun. Now, I’m going to ruin that fun by pretending to objectively measure performance and young players of defeats that are probably still fresh in their minds. Let’s get to it:
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps – B+. With 4 quarterfinalists, 8 players in the round of 16, 3 doubles semifinals, and the doubles champions, the Stags dominated this tournament in a way that is very familiar by now. They should be particularly heartened by the play of their newbies Katzman, Burney, Morris, and Liu. It’s nice to see Vemuri’s semifinal run, and it seems like a new Stag upperclassman comes out of the woodwork every year to become a starting lineup stalwart. Maybe Vemuri will be that player this year. Of course, the Stags completely owned the doubles draw, but we’ll see how that translates to the regular season. All told, CMS has every reason to feel pleased with their tournament. I’m not a negative guy, so it wouldn’t even cross my mind to mention the fact that doubles champ Niko Parodi lost in the first round, and then lost 2 and 2 in the back-draw. (The Stags could be especially scary with an in-form Parodi and a healthy Wildman in the singles lineup).
Redlands – A-. I think it’s time for me to simply get used to Redlands being the second best team in the SCIAC again. They had another solid ITA performance this year, punctuated by Chase Lipscomb’s emphatic singles victory and freshman Cameron Krimbill’s first round upset over Niko Parodi. Dulle won the consolation draw with back-to-back wins over the Brothers Gearou, showing that he will once again be a very solid middle-lineup guy. The only thing dampening their optimism this weekend is their inability to get a team past the second round of doubles, but I’m sure the Dawgs will sort that out by the time the season rolls around.
Pomona-Pitzer – B-. Any time you lose your top four players to graduation, you expect to take a step back, but the Hens showed that they are perfectly capable of reloading instead of rebuilding this weekend. Freshman Jed Kronenberg was obviously the star, beating a bevy of good players including Jack Katzman en route to a finals appearance. With their revolving door in place, we know they have enough depth to fill out a singles lineup, but the big question for them going into the season will be whether or not they can compete in doubles. Maassen, Yasgoor, Kim, Simonides, and Bello were all doubles all-Americans or close to it. This year, a bunch of guys without high pressure college doubles experience will have to carry the load. It will be interesting to see whether rising seniors Mandic, Chadalavada, and Malech will be able to pick up the leadership slack.
UC Santa Cruz – B. Mystery man Magnus Ibh (quarters in singles, round of 16 in doubles) brings some optimism to the program, joining Chads Stone and LeDuff to build what should be a pretty solid roster. The question for the Slugs, as always, will be their schedule.
Caltech – C. Add Caltech to the growing list of more engineering-oriented DIII schools that seem to have a hard time getting the most out of solid recruits. The Beavers went 1-6 in main draw play. They’ll have to battle for 4th in the SCIAC this year.
Cal Lu – B. Speaking of 4th in the SCIAC, Cal Lu has the clubhouse lead for that honor in my opinion right now. They picked up a DI transfer – Yahn Gawrit from Depauw – who made the round of 16. Ransom Braaten, another transfer, beat Parodi in the backdraw. Between the two of them, Cal Lu has a nice nucleus to build around for the future. The problem with transfers, though, is that you don’t get them for four seasons.
Whittier – C+. Like the aforementioned teams, Whittier is going to have a hard time competing with this group, but the Poets actually went 3-3 in main draw doubles action this year with Van Butselaar and Koszowski picking up a nice win over a seeded doubles team from Redlands. For those reading this unfamiliar with the West region, these are real names of real people. I promise. Anyways. Expect Whittier, Caltech, and Cal Lu to duke it out for fourth in the SCIAC again this year.
Whitman – B+. Moving to my favorite team in my favorite region, there are a lot of reasons for the Blues to feel optimistic about the season moving forward. They got six players into the quarterfinals of the singles draw, and Hewlin/Carter won the doubles tournament. Not too shabby. They also did this without returning starter Chase Friedman in the draw. They got Kirsh back, and he lived up to my billing, falling a couple games short against eventual champ Spencer Watanabe in the semifinals. All good things. Still, it has to sting to lose the singles championship to the Bruins, and I’d love to see more out of this deep senior class.
George Fox – A. One of my pre-tournament talking points was whether George Fox’s underrated recruiting class could help them get back to second in the conference. Early returns are positive. Freshman Will Leach was the surprise of the tournament, going 3-0 against Whitman players, including a 3-set victory of 2-time champ Zach Hewlin, en route to the finals. Of course, Spencer Watanabe defended his championship, and the Bruins got solid performances from Alex and Peyton Namba. I’m sure they’re setting their sights on an NWC championship, but after missing the conference tournament altogether the last two seasons, they’re my early pick to finish second in the conference this year.
Lewis and Clark – C+. The hosts are probably not psyched about their performance this year. Their potent doubles combo of Gordon and Brenden Barrows came up just a couple points shy of a doubles championship, and they saw returning #1 singles player Raed Attia lose to an unheralded Whitman freshman in the second round. Nevertheless, they’ve got plenty of depth. They’re just a year and a half removed from a program-defining victory over Whitman, and now I’m sure they’ll be motivated and prove me wrong with at least a second place conference finish.
Pacific – C. Unfortunately, I think the Boxers are going to struggle a little this year after losing their top singles players each of the last three years. Oscar Wight is a great two-way player with an all-court game that could translate to two wins against any team in the conference, and Pacific has great development. Nevertheless, I fear they are going to drop to 4th place in the conference this year.
Linfield – A. Signs of life in McSinville! They got a doubles team into the semifinals with an 8-5 victory over the team I picked to win, and they’ve got the best Twitter game in the conference. Keep it up Troubadour!
UTT – A. Starting with the good here, the Pats absolutely dominated this tournament. They got three out of four singles semifinalists after Vinicio Hadlich came back from a set and a break down to beat SW’s Alexis Dimanche. Fagundes won in familiarly dominant fashion (dropping just 9 games in the whole god-damn tournament). They also got three out of four doubles semifinalists, though Fagundes slacked off a little bit in the doubles draw and dropped 11 games with partner Pablo Gomez. This was an unqualifiedly awesome tournament for UTT, so I have nothing snarky to add.
Trinity – F. I’ve written a lot of these report card-type articles on this blog, and I don’t think I’ve ever given an F to a team, but I feel like that’s the grade they would give to themselves after this weekend. After completely dominating this ITA for several years, they Tigers went 2-4 in main draw doubles play and managed just one quarterfinalist between singles and doubles. When I heard that news on Saturday, my initial reaction was flat out disbelief. I know the Tigers were pretty excited about their recruiting class coming in, and they still have the depth to win their conference, but this was no bueno.
Southwestern – C+. I go with a C+ here because I know Coach Porter holds his squad to a high standard. Alexis Dimanche obviously lead the way for them with a quarterfinal appearance, but sophomore Tyler Norman beat 5th-seeded Jordan Pitts in the first round, and freshman Alec “The Hound” Baskerville came within a couple points of a quarterfinal appearance himself. All told, they have at least six solid singles players to fill out a lineup, and they have to think Trinity might be ripe for an upset. Another year of good recruiting/development, and the Pirates could really be in business.