2015 Canes Men's Tennis Preview and Predictions

2015 Canes Men's Tennis Preview and Predictions

Kirijax
The Miami Hurricanes men’s tennis team season starts on January 18 at The Schiff. The Canes are coming back from a season where they finished at No. 55 in the rankings, missed the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season, had no All-Americans on the team for the fifth consecutive year, and there were no entries in the NCAA singles or doubles tournaments. They also lost three seniors and one transferred to Arkansas during the off season. The time for the Canes to bounce back is overdue.
It’s also a critical season for head coach Mario Rincon. Rincon has been with the team since 2004. During that time the Canes have tied for 1st place in the ACC regular season once (2006), and made the NCAA tournament five times including two Sweet Sixteens. However, the team has missed four of the last five NCAA tournaments, including the last three. There has not been an All-American from the team since Dani Vallverdu in 2009, and they have not been able to advance past the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament since 2009.
By all accounts, the players seem to get along great with coach Rincon and the team has also excelled academically while Rincon has been here. But the results on the courts have been lacking lately. On Talk Tennis, a tennis forum for college tennis fans, there was a poll for coaches on the hot seat. Unfortunately, Rincon came in first. Clearly the heat is on for the team to get back into the top teams of the country.
The news is not all bad. The 2014 freshman class was ranked No. 8 in the country and the new players showed some promise during the fall season. Piotr Lomacki in particular showed great potential and is ranked No. 56 in the year’s first singles rankings. Senior Wilfredo Gonzalez had a bit of a rough start but seemed to be raising his level as the fall season went on. Freshman Nile Clark and Christian Lango also showed some potential and show break into the singles line up for the Canes right off the bat. The coaching staff also added Billy Federhofer as a volunteer assistant coach. Federhofer played for the Florida Gators during his college career and was ranked No. 4 in the national doubles rankings. He is from Miami and has been giving tennis lessons since 2009. He should be a great addition to the staff.
The Canes have a tough schedule. The ACC is one of the toughest divisions in college tennis, with 2013 National Champion Virginia winning the division titles consistently for the last ten years or so. Here is there schedule, their opponents’ ranking and my prediction for each dual match.

Date Opponent Win or Loss (Season Record)
Jan 18 Florida Atlantic Win (1-0)
Jan 19 #70 UCF Win (2-0)
Jan 24 at Baylor vs. #46 Drake Win (3-0)
Jan 25 at Baylor #6 Baylor or #62 Tulane Loss (3-1)
Feb 07 Florida Gulf Coast Win (4-1)
Feb 07 Liberty Win (5-1)
Feb 13 Kennesaw State Win (6-1)
Feb 14 #53 Pepperdine Loss (6-2)
Feb 28 Bethune-Cookman Win (8-2)
Feb 28 Bethune-Cookman Win (9-2)
Mar 06 #54 George Washington Win (10-2)
Mar 08 #75 Georgia Tech Win (11-2)
Mar 13 at #6 North Carolina Loss 11-3
Mar 15 at #12 Duke Loss (11-4)
Mar 20 #24 Clemson Loss (11-5)
Mar 27 #14 Notre Dame Loss (11-6)
Mar 29 Boston College Win (12-6)
Apr 03 at #35 Florida State Win (13-6)
Apr 05 at #39 Louisville Loss (13-7)
Apr 10 at #20 Wake Forest Loss (13-8)
Apr 12 at #28 NC State Loss (13-9)
Apr 17 #38 Virginia Tech Win (14-9)
Apr 19 #3 Virginia Loss (14-10)

It’s going to be tough. This record would leave the Canes at about the same spot as last year; a ranking in the 50s and no NCAA tournament. The key is going to be the middle of the ACC programs that are ranked from No. 20 to No. 50. Last year, the Canes upset NC State and Wake Forest to suddenly have a chance, but then they went into a tailspin and lost seven of their last eight to lose any chance of staying up in the NCAA selection range. The matches against No. 20 Wake Forest, No. 24 Clemson, No. 28 NC State, No. 35 Florida State, No. 38 Virginia Tech, No. 39 Louisville and No. 53 Pepperdine are key. The Canes will have to win two or three or these at least to have any chance. Even that might not be enough but it’s hard to imagine as things are right now for the team to pull off that many upsets while avoiding being upset by lower ranked teams as well. The team is still young and it may be too much to ask for this season. I hope and pray they prove me wrong.
The dual match is a 7-point system. The competition starts with three doubles teams playing simultaneously. The team that wins two of the three doubles matches wins the doubles point and leads 1-0 going into the singles matches. The singles are also played simultaneously. Each singles match is worth one point. The first team to win three or four singles matches to get to four points wins the dual match.

Here are my predictions for the lineup Coach Rincon will put out for the team season and their records from the fall season.
Singles Lineup
No. 1 Piotr Lomacki (Singles 10-5, Doubles 1-4)
Lomacki was the most outstanding player for the Canes during the fall season. He had ten wins in singles, defeated No. 50 and No. 59 players in the country and gave even higher ranked players a good challenge. He also advanced to a Futures semifinals. For a while I thought Coach Rincon might put him in the No. 2 spot behind Gonzalez for the start of the season, but it’s hard to imagine Lomacki anywhere else right now.
No. 2 Wilfredo Gonzalez (Singles 4-7, Doubles 3-7)
There’s no doubt that Gonzalez had a rough fall season but it was definitely picking up at the end. He defeated the No. 56 player in the last event of the season and also won the silver medal at a tournament for players from Central American countries. The Canes need Gonzalez desperately if they are going to get to the NCAA tournament this year. This is his senior year and I’m sure he is motivated to finally make it at least one time during his career at Miami. He could do some damage at the No. 2 spot.
No. 3 Henrique Tsukamoto (Singles 7-6, Doubles 3-8)
Tsukamoto goes here in the No. 3 spot but he could easily be knocked down the lineup by a couple of others. He played pretty good in the No. 5 and No. 6 spots last year but played as high as the No. 4 only twice last season. Coach Rincon might keep him down at the Mo. 4 or No. 5 spot to have a better chance for a point while giving a freshman with good potential better experience.
No. 4 Bernard Tefel (Singles 7-8, Doubles 3-9)
The No. 4~6 spots in the lineup are so crucial, especially for a team like Miami that has a freshman No. 1 and a weak doubles lineup. The next three guys will pretty much have to bring in the points if the Canes are going to have a chance. Tefel had a better fall than I expected. He had trouble against the top players but did leave some results in the consolations rounds. The Canes could have used William Albanese in this spot this year, but with Albanese transferring to Arkansas, it’s up to Tefel to lead the way here.
No. 5 Nile Clark (Singles 9-9, Doubles 3-10)
Clark had a good fall season and I think he has earned a spot in the lineup. But he needs to deliver right away or could easily be replaced by a couple others fighting for a lineup spot.
No. 6 Christian Langmo (Singles 4-7, Doubles 2-8)
Langmo was a bit of a disappointment during the fall season. He had blue-chip status in high school before his ranking went down just below the cut off mark, but he was back on the rise when he came to Miami. I still have hope that he will work himself up to the No. 3 or 4 spot but like Clark, the pressure is on him to get some points in the dual matches or he could be replaced by one of the other four fighting for a spot. This is the guy I hope has a great spring season. For the sake of Miami’s future, they need him to bring in some wins.
Waiting in the wings:
Alexander Fehnehjelm (Singles 1-4, doubles 2-3)
I take a bit of pride that I can type the player’s name without doing a spell check now. Fahnehjelm came over from Europe with Lomacki and he was another one I had hopes for but he had a bit of a rough fall and missed some opportunities to grab his spot in the lineup. That could easily change though.
Andrew Harrington: (Singles 7-7, Doubles 6-6)
Very tempting to put Harrington in the lineup but I just couldn’t put him in over the others right now. He had a fair fall and had a very good win against a ranked player towards the end of the fall season. Harrington could turn out to be this year’s Albanese and play the No. 5 or 6 spot with consistent results.
There is also Daniel Shebshayevich (Singles 0-2, Doubles 1-0) and Kevin Bondar (Singles 2-4, Doubles 1-1) on the roster but the Canes will need to see quite a big improvement from them to include them in the lineup. Coach Rincon might put them in there when they go up against Florida Atlantic or Bethune-Cookman, but that may be it for them.

And now for the doubles. Oh boy. This is going to hurt. The doubles point is so vital when playing a dual match. Three matches are played and whichever team wins two of the three gets the one doubles point. Last year, the Canes surprisingly won 12 of 25 doubles points. However, against ACC competition, they won only two of twelve doubles points. That’s got to get better. But the Canes again struggled with doubles this fall, with no combination being able to win more than three matches. It’s hard to guess what Coach Rincon will go with but here’s my guess after looking at the fall results.
Doubles No. 1 Tefel-Harrington (2-3)
Doubles No. 2: Gonzalez-Langmo (1-3)
Doubles No. 3 Lomacki-Tsukamoto(Clark)
These three teams are a complete shot in the dark. It’s anybody’s guess how Coach Rincon will make his doubles teams but from the results this fall, this seems to be the best bet right now. Lomacki did not play much doubles and only played with Gonzalez but you’ve got to play your No. 1 player somewhere. Gonzalez seemed to play better with Langmo. This is from the results of the matches and how competitive they were in those matches. Coach Rincon might decide to go with the Lomacki-Gonzalez pair in the end, but he might have a surprise matchup, such as Lomacki with Tsukamoto or Clark.

So there it is. It will be a shocker if the Canes make the NCAA tournament this year. It usually takes two or three years and a few good classes to build up a team and with four players gone from last year and adding five freshmen, it seems that the Canes will be going through a growing phrase this year. The only question is, with the majority of college tennis fans putting Coach Rincon on the hottest of hot seats, Coach Rincon may not be able to afford a growing season this year. There are reports that the team is excited and raring to go. If they can get the season going in the right direction, win when they are supposed to win and grab a few from the middle-of-the-pack ACC teams, they just might be able to advance to their 26th NCAA tournament and first since 2011.
 

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