Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Advanced Scouting 1.0: Tournament Opponents

Welcome to a July summer special, previewing the teams that we will play throughout the season. Let me start with a disclaimer: I don't really know anything about these teams.

Well, okay, let me list the things I do (usually) know:
- The players they have coming back.
- How those players faired last year.

And the things I don't know:
- Any new freshman joining the team.
- Any transfers joining the team.
- The amount of work current team members put in.
- The improvement of current team members.
- Coaching changes, lineup philosophies, etc.

That said, it's fun to know a little bit about the teams we'll encounter next year. So this series will start with teams that we face in tournaments this coming season. We play in two varsity tournaments, the Merrillville Invitational on September 20 and the Wabash Invitational on September 27. The teams in these tourneys change at points, but I'm not aware of any changes yet.

So lets get this started no?

Teams: Portage, Wawasee, Lowell, Triton, Merrillville, Highland, Centerville
Last Season's Winner: Triton
Our Finish Last Year: 5th
Format: 5 Individual Tournaments with Point Values Determining Team Champion

What to Expect:
Historically, the best teams at this tournament have been Centerville and Portage. In the 2 years that Portage has been involved, they've stayed in the fight to win all the way to the final match. But this past year it was Triton that was the surprise winner. Also, Lowell had a good team this past year. Highland and Merrillville have historically been middle-of-the-pack, although Merrillville has at times had an excellent #1 singles player.

As for us, we've often managed to have individual champions in this tournament. In 2011, Blake Shetler won #2S. In 2012, Nathan Brendle won #1S and Abe Thorne won #3S. In 2013, Jesse Amstutz won #2S. However the team points have always alluded us.

In the coming year, Lowell should continue to be a good team. They return their #2 singles player as well as an All-District doubles team. Despite losing their top 3 players, Triton should bring back an experienced and good team. We can expect the other teams to be about the same as normal.

But my guess is that the young Centerville team from last year may come in as the favorite. We'll see. Each of these teams has great coaches. All these teams will get better. This tournament is always one of the most exciting days of the year for me. I can't wait.

Teams: Wabash, Taylor, Eastern
Last Season's Winner: Bethany Christian
Our Finish Last Year: 1st
Format: 3 Dual Matches

What to Expect:
In the past two seasons, we have gotten shock wins at this tournament. Last season, Taylor (who eventually won the Kokomo Sectional) fell to us in the first round 3-2. I think they had been the favorites coming into the tournament. The year before, 2012, they were definitely the favorites, but their #1S player had a wedding to attend, and we were able to defeat their altered lineup and take the tournament win.

This coming year, Taylor returns their #2S, one of #1D and #2D. Wabash only returns 3 players and Eastern only returns 2. So my first thought is that Taylor will be the best of these teams, but with so little experience coming back, all of these teams will be going through transitions.

I can't wait to get the season under way, and I can tell you, one of my hopes next year is that we challenge seriously for each of these trophies. Without a conference championship to shoot for, these tournaments offer individual and team championships as benchmarks for our team.

The best thing about the tournaments though is that we get to spend the whole day together. The tournament's work as "mini-tennis camps" for us at the end of the season. We eat together, sing together, root together. Let's be ready to enjoy these in the upcoming season!

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