Championship preview: Centennial Conference

The Centennial Conference tennis championship gets underway on Friday. In the first semifinal, No. 1 seed Johns Hopkins, the region’s dominant power, will face off against No. 4 Washington, a onetime national champion that is a shadow of its former self. Hopkins beat Washington 9-0 during the regular season. I’d expect a similar result on Friday.

In the second seminfinal, No. 2 Swarthmore, another former national champion, faces off against No. 3 Haverford, which is fielding its best squad in years. This match will be a nailbiter. In the regular season throwdown, Swat beat the Fords 6-3, but it could have gone the other way.  Swat took all three doubles by slim margins–one in a tiebreak, the other two 9-7. The two teams split the singles.

It’s a toss-up, but I’m picking the Fords. Their heavyweights are seniors. This is their last chance to establish any kind of legacy. I’m guessing that their experience–and hunger–will give them the edge.

Finals

If the Fords beat Swat, do they have a chance against Hopkins? The odds are long. During the regular season, Hopkins beat the Fords 8-1, though several courts were close. Here’s what it would take for the Fords to pull off a “miracle on Decoturf”:

  • Haverford will need to take two of the three doubles points. At first doubles, Buxbaum and Kinrade blew a big lead against Hopkins a few weeks ago. On Sunday, they’ll need to lock it down. The Fords’ next best chance is at 3 doubles, which they dropped 8-5 earlier this year. Win those, and they’d have two points.
  • Haverford will then need to take three singles, a very tall order. During the regular season, Buxbaum beat Maldow at first singles, an impressive victory against one of the highest-ranked players in the country. He’ll have to repeat on Sunday. At second singles, meanwhile, Haverford’s Kinrade will have to beat Wang, who beat him in two pretty tight sets in their earlier face-off. The Fords’ best chance for the fifth and deciding point is Stiegel at third singles. He can be a streaky player. His heavily topspun, Western-grip haymakers occasionally misfire. But when he’s on, he can do a lot of damage.

Certainly not a plausible scenario, but an outside possibility.

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