The ones to beat?
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps has ranking, history on its side
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - A No. 1 ranking is not enough to make Claremont-Mudd-Scripps the favorite entering next week's NCAA Division III Men's Tennis Championships at Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium.
However, victories this season against six of the other seven teams in the quarterfinals make the Stags the team to beat when play is served up Monday afternoon. CMS has beaten No. 2 Kenyon, No. 4 Emory, No. 6 Williams, No. 8 Trinity (Texas), No.10 Washington (Missouri) and No. 11 Middlebury, but did not play No. 3 Amherst.
The two teams could meet in semifinal action Tuesday afternoon if Claremont-Mudd-Scripps beats Middlebury Monday and Amherst beats Emory.
“The 24-team draw played out with very few surprises,” CMS coach Paul Settles said. “Basically the top eight teams advanced. We were in what people call the 'Region of Death' and we had to beat the No. 5 team in the country just to bust out of the region.” The Stags defeated California Lutheran 5-1 to advance to the quarterfinals.
“We played six of the seven other teams and we beat all six,” Settles said. “The only teams in the quarters that we didn't manage to play is Amherst and we may be playing them on Day 2.”
Team depth may also make CMS the team to beat next week. “Our depth is as good as any team in the country,” Settles said. “Everyone has a strong 1 and 2, but we are really strong in positions 3 through 6. We want to get a lead after doubles. We have spent a lot of time working on our doubles play this week because if you have a lead after doubles you're in a strong position.”
Stags seniors Mac Cahill, Matt Ellis and Alex Johnson are scheduled to graduate Saturday afternoon and then catch a redeye to Michigan late Saturday or very early Sunday. “We are thrilled and privileged to be in the quarterfinals,” Settles said. “I have never attended the national championships so I'm excited to be going to Kalamazoo.”
Amherst, which won the 2011 national championship and finished second to Middlebury in 2010, is making its fifth consecutive quarterfinal appearance.
“Our guys are excited but they know what we're in for because Williams beat us in our conference tournament,” Amherst coach Chris Garner said. “We're finishing up exams so our goal is to have everyone pass their classes and then get to Kalamazoo and have some fun. Hopefully the winning and losing will take care of themselves. Any opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament is exciting.”
Amherst's quarterfinal opponent, No. 4-ranked Emory, is the defending NCAA III National Champion while No. 2 Kenyon, which is scheduled to face Washington (Missouri) in the quarters, was the national runner-up in 2012. Trinity (Texas), which is making its 20th quarterfinal appearance, will take on Williams Monday afternoon.