I decided it was time to put pen to paper or at least type a few words on the state of college tennis in this state. It has been awhile since I really have put my thoughts online and this is by no means a complete list of how things are going. I just wanted to get a few initial ideas out, as I saw them.
Five things I learned this weekend (after the #ITATennis Regionals)
5. The Texas and Houston women are projects.
I had higher hopes for both of these squads coming into the season, but it seems as though they are both probably works in progress. Houston did beat North Texas but was blanked by TCU and lost to BYU the previous weekend. The top of the lineup is solid for the Cougars, but their lack of depth past for the top-3 will be their Achilles heel.
Texas was absolutely crushed by Vanderbilt. It wasn’t even close, as the Horns failed to pick up a single set. They beat DePaul, 4-3, on Saturday, but DePaul then fell to Harvard, 4-2 the following day. The road only gets tougher for Texas as they host Rice next weekend before hitting the road to play Pepperdine, USC, Michigan, Northwestern, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State over the next six weeks. By my calculations, they will need to win at least two of these to even have a chance of remaining above .500 for the tournament, let alone have the ranking. This team needs to grow up fast.
4. Baylor is Baylor
Not really sure what to say here.
The women skipped the ITA this year, but posted wins over top-10 teams Georgia and Virginia. One of the biggest challenges of NOT playing the ITA is to balance your schedule with enough opportunities to get those top-10 wins, without suffering too many losses all to earn a high-enough seed to host when it comes to NCAA Tournament time. With those wins out of the way, the Bears are loaded and confident for a schedule that still includes Clemson, Michigan, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Ohio State and UCLA, all before the Big 12 season begins.
After a tough mid-week loss to Illinois, the men bounced back in what had to be the easiest regional this weekend, throttling Tulane and Drake, 4-0. I am not discounting the fact that Drake doesn’t have a couple of solid players at the top, but Baylor took care of business and didn’t leave any doubt.
3. The Rice women have fallen off
Beazant is still tough, as she showed by cruising in their only point of the weekend against Northwestern (and she was winning vs. Kentucky), but there wasn’t much support. Lines 2,3,4 and 5 combined to win a whopping nine games in that match. Nine games.
The Owls’ match vs. Texas is huge for both teams as they try to sort out who they are. If they can’t get a few wins in February, it may be a tough road to qualify for the tournament as well. They do have some opportunities with Texas Tech, Ole Miss, Baylor and Oklahoma State remaining on the non-conference schedule.
2. The Aggies have some question marks
On the men’s side, the shock of losing to TCU in the first round has to be unsettling for Texas A&M. Sure they have a couple of freshmen in the lineup, but they are going to have to rely on the top-3 to win the big matches this year. It’s a long season and there’s plenty of talent there, but they will need to stay healthy and get an amazing year from their upperclassmen to have the kind of season they expected in the preseason.
An even bigger shock has to be the women’s loss to TCU. Despite having no seniors, the Aggie women are loaded with players. Like their male counterparts, they have some growing to do. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they have to get right back at it with a match against North Carolina in Houston this weekend, with the SEC schedule starting up the following weekend. Their only remaining non-conference match will be in early April in Waco.
1. TCU has arrived
Wow, what a weekend for the Frogs! The men and women both upset Texas A&M in College Station and qualified for the final 16. The women are going for the first time in school history, while the men are returning for the first time since 2001, when they were semifinalists.
Despite losing the doubles point to the Aggies, the men, led by Cameron Norrie, took four singles matches. Being able to move everyone down a spot in the lineup has been a real boost for TCU.
I don’t have a whole lot of insight to the women’s victories this weekend, but adding Dubavets and Pereira into the middle of the lineup has given them the depth required to compete in the big matches. The win over the Aggies definitely announces this team is ready to compete for the Big 12 title.