Sponsored by IMG Academy

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Kalamazoo College Wins 70th Consecutive Conference Title and NCAA D-III Bid

The Northwestern women meet Michigan tomorrow at the conference tournament for their 10th straight Big Ten title, an impressive accomplishment. But if the the top-ranked Wildcats win as expected, they will still need 60 more to match the Kalamazoo College Hornets.

I decided to head to Stowe Stadium today, in spite of the cold front that came through last night, dropping the temperatures from the low 80s to the mid 40s. The stiff north wind was an unpleasant reminder of a very long winter here in Kalamazoo, but the sun came out in time for the afternoon's championship contest between Kalamazoo and Calvin College, located an hour north in Grand Rapids.

Kalamazoo, which had already clinched a share of the championship by finishing atop the MIAA regular season standings, had not only sole possession of the title, but also the NCAA bid on the line today. Coach Mark Riley, in his first year at Kalamazoo, knew well the tradition of the streak, having played on the team in the early 80s when George Acker was in charge. But there didn't seem to be any particular pressure evident; and even the Calvin fans, of whom there were plenty, seemed to be resigned to a second place finish.

Kalamazoo ended up winning by a 6-3 score. For those of you who don't follow Division III tennis, the format differs from Division I only in that all three doubles contests have a point at stake. After Hornets Matt Wise and Patrick Boyd won at No. 2 by an 8-5 score and Calvin's No. 1 team of Marcus Zeilstra and Steve DeMaagd had prevailed 8-6, it was down to the threes. K's Joe Unger and Cyrus Jaden had a 6-2 lead, only to see it evaporate, but they won the tiebreaker to give K a 2-1 advantage heading into the singles.

The power that dominates in Division I tennis is rare in DIII players, and the standard baseline game isn't much in evidence either. Getting to the net was the goal, and I saw more approach shots today than I saw all week at the Easter Bowl. For these players, hitting a winner from the baseline is rare, so many of them have adopted a game style that dares their opponent to pass. I saw K's No. 1 Jason Brown make good on that dare often today in his 6-2, 6-3 win over Ricky Tilton, but more often the player at the baseline was unable to put pressure on the attacker, even when the latter had hit an indifferent volley.

Brown's point gave the Hornets a 4-1 lead, with Tim Hubbard at No. 4 having collected the third point, so the Knights needed to take the remaining four matches on court to pull the upset. It wasn't out of the question--they had the lead in three of them--but couldn't finish any of them before Boyd, at No. 5, put it out of reach with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Mike Goorhouse of Calvin.

Boyd, who makes Roger Federer look demonstrative, gave a small fist pump, and Riley raised both his arms as if signalling a touchdown, but the celebration was decidedly low-key.

I guess that happens when you've done it 69 times before. For all scores, click here.

Marcia Frost is in Iowa City for the Men's Big Ten championships, which finds Ohio State battling Illinois for the title for the fifth straight year. Go to collegeandjuniortennis.com for Marcia's coverage.

And Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com will be in Ojai on Sunday, covering the Pac-10 individual championships. This is a FREE service, so log in and listen to it, streamed live to your computer. I can confidently say that USC will win at least one of the finals as the men's features Kaes Van't Hof against teammate Robert Farah. In fact all four semifinalists were Trojans on the men's side. The women's final has USC's Amanda Fink taking on UCLA's Riza Zalameda. For complete draws, see the Ojai TennisLink site.


Austin said...

I said it last week and I am saying it again, the PAC10 Championships are a joke in preparing a team for the rigors of the NCAA Tournament. A bunch of the top players were not even there. Please explain how this gets them ready for NCAA Tournament competition. It's not like that conference has made much noise in the last few years other than UCLA. No team in the conference outside of the LA teams have made the final four in the past four years. And even USC followed theirs up by bowing out in the second round and then missing the tournament all together. The conference as a whole has gone from the most dominant conference in tennis to the third or fourth in less than a decade. Anyone agree or disagree?

Also, Im really liking Texas right now. If Damico steps it up and
Varela and Milhalovic play like they did two years ago this team could be cutting down the nets. Looking at their lineup its getting stronger and stronger when comparing them to the top teams. And they will be able to handle the suffocating heat that Tulsa will have in late May.

scott said...

Baylor swept the Big 12 tournaments, the women beating Texas 4-1 and the men beating Texas 4-2. The Baylor women are a real threat for the national title. The Baylor men seem to be playing their best right now, after some ups and downs during the season. I still think the Texas men are gonna be a factor late in NCAA's. Should be an exciting tournament on both sides, looking forward to the draw on Tuesday to see who goes where.

AndrewD said...

If the Northwestern women play up to their potential they'll win the 2008 NCAA final in a canter. However, Georgia Rose has to fire and they have to win the doubles point.

Of the other contenders, Stanford has a relatively weak singles line-up, apart from Barte, but they are capable of beating all other teams for the doubles point and that is a huge bonus.

Georgia Tech looks out of contention because they haven't been able to find the right mix with their doubles this year as well as their singles positions. Look for them to fade considerably next year.

Georgia has a hideously inflated ranking and won't make it past the quarters.

Baylor also have an over-inflated ranking that masks poor results against quality teams.

UCLA, USC and Cal - no hope. USC should take some consolation that they've managed to hold on to a #10 ranking despite two of their key singles players under-performing throughout the year.

Duke and Clemson are the wildcards and if they were to be at opposite ends of the draw I wouldn't be surprised to see them playing off in the final. However, I think that would only happen if Duke was in Northwestern's half.

Austin said...

Haha, I sure had to eat my words about Texas awfully quick. That was a very strange match. Didn't play doubles. Baylor did it without their #1 player and Texas without their #6. Not to mention this time around Texas lost to guys who the guy below them had beaten when they played a few weeks ago. Not to mention Gwen Corches who hadnt played singles in a while all the sudden appears at #4 for the title match.