Saturday, June 28, 2008

Across the State in 4.5

There don't seem to be any super-dominant teams this year in 4.5. Kingwood may be the favorite, coming off their runner-up finish last year and losing only Odion Dibua from that strong team. There are five or six other teams that can realistically feel they have a good chance at getting that coveted trip to Nationals. Here's a thumbnail sketch of some of the heavyweights.

Kingwood Crush

Add former tour player Juan Lopez and doubles stud Stephen Valentine to a team that was already loaded and you've got a recipe for Jimmy Kilshaw's bunch to finally get over the hump and get that trip to Nationals. The big question mark, at this point, is the health of the presumed singles players. Juan Lopez has been out for a while, and at age 53 it will be interesting to see how he will hold up under the scorching Dallas sun. Omon Dibua is noticably hobbled with knee trouble. Despite Hai Vu's recent singles wins, you have to wonder about their singles. Gary Armstrong will be formidable, but the doubles will be weakened if he is moved to singles. Phi Huynh doesn't appear to have the form that he had years ago, and even then he was not a guaranteed win against the heavyweights at Sectionals.

Austin Wild

Mike Davis has again assembled a powerhouse and his team gets great competition playing in what I feel is the state's toughest 4.5 league. Jeremiah McMillan's disqualification really hurts this team, but there is an abundance of talent to fall back on. Former Met member Kevin Lemke and Doug Langford were the singles stars on the Austin team that made it to Nationals many years back (2001?) and some of the other players were on the Austin Wild team that finished fourth at Nationals just two years ago. Lemke and Fred Schlotterback played singles in their huge match last week. Are they capable of carrying the load in Dallas? They will need some singles depth and may have to rely on David Harrison, Tony Lum or Daniel Rockey to fill in at Sectionals.

Bay Area

On paper this team doesn't really seem to have the strength of some of the others, but the season is still ongoing and you never know if a Benzon-led team will add some strength late in the season. How good is Billy Heim? Are Antoine Ford or Jody Deluca strong enough in singles to win in Dallas against the other top players? There's no evidence in the recent records to indicate that they can, but they're both talented players capable of playing top notch tennis. Tor Krosby is a possible answer there as well and David Guy has had his moments. Bobo and Whitsett will give this team a great chance at taking a doubles line every time they play, so if Heim is as good as some people think, the team will give anyone trouble.

Dallas Branch

It's no coincidence that we see the same captains bringing elite teams to Sectionals every year. They recruit and reload when they lose some talent. Rusty managed to get himself back down to 4.5 and he and Wesley James give them a very solid 1-2 punch. Donnie Pollard is a capable third singles player. The doubles players are all quality veterans who've withstood the rigors and pressure of Sectionals many times.

San Antonio Miller

They squeaked out the championship by just four sets, but as usual this team can play with anyone. Co-captain Alann Torres is a master at assembling a talented squad and this team is no exception. Orlando Galvan is a 5.0 dropdown who won all of his matches at 5.0 Sectionals in 2003. Alejandro Sanchez has been a force on the 4.5 tournament scene this season. There are quality players throughout the roster, and maybe even a hidden gem or two.

Corpus Christi Grand Slam

Every year the unheralded Corpus team brings many of the same players to Sectionals and sometimes finds itself playing on Sunday. This year, they've added Division one recruit Andrew Maingot to the mix. If he retains eligibility, it will give them perhaps the best singles player in Dallas. Lamine Bangoura won all three of his singles matches in Dallas last year, and would give them a solid #2 if he gets his two matches played. The doubles crew appears to be the same as usual.

Harlingen HEB

Every few years the Valley brings a team North that makes some noise. At least twice in the past decade or so they've made it to Nationals, and both of those teams were anchored by Ramiro Cuevas. Cuevas is back at it after a break since their 2004 Nationals run, and he's not the only talented player on the roster. Alfonso Rodriguez has been destroying everything in his sight on the tournament scene, Leo Solis was a Coke finalist, Steve Cuevas was a singles player on the 2004 team that went to Nationals, and Guillermo Martin Del Campo has some solid singles wins and a major zone doubles win to his credit this year. The valley team is always thin in numbers with a lesser talent pool to draw from. We'll see if depth is a problem for this team that has the capability to play with anyone.

Locally, besides Kingwood there are a couple of teams that might have a puncher's chance for a knockout if they can get to Dallas. Both Copperfield and The Mob Squad have some singles guys that are capable of winning all of their pool matches at Sectionals, but neither seem to have the doubles strength of any of the top teams mentioned above. The Met has some doubles talent, but so far their singles (Mills excluded) has been less than spectacular. Ward Jannuzzi is claiming he's their secret singles weapon...time will tell.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hai Vu!!!!!!?

I have to admit it: When I received a call with the matchups last night, I thought "Jimmy may be reading too much into that one match." Yeah, I've looked at Hai Vu's singles record from 2005 and it's better than some people might guess. But still, he's never been thought of as a singles powerhouse, and the match with Ted was a very emotional one which may have played a part in the outcome. Or so I thought...

I figured he'd have a chance against Sarosh if he made Sarosh come up with passing shots with that backhand that he slices so well. Yeah, Sarosh is rusty, but that match last night was a total blowout and I think we need to give Hai some credit. He doesn't hit hard, he serves a slow serve to the forehand 80 percent of the time. But that slow serve DOES stay low and he IS an excellent volleyer and plays intellegently.

Still, I can't see Kingwood getting to Nationals, or even getting out of their pool at Sectionals, if they have to use Hai Vu and Phi Huynh in singles. If Lopez and Omon are unable to play singles up there, the team will have to hope Gary Armstrong can really come through for them up there in the heat.

Congrats to Kingwood. It looks as though they'll be in the pool with Copperfield, who will be tough, and the Yutts or Ssshhhwing. The Met, Westside and the Mob Squad will probably make up the other pool.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Meaningless (?) Trivia

Just looked up some career records for some prolific local players that popped into my head. I'm sure I left several people out. Here are their records playing doubles up at 4.5 Sectionals in Dallas: (in no particular order)

Tim Green: 8-5
Hai Vu: 7-5
Red Benzon: 9-9
GlennWright: 3-7
Nikki Lieu: 7-4
Gary Armstrong: 6-0
Tim Hurlbert: 7-1
Jacob Vernon: 4-6
Alex Chang: 8-6
Peter Rothe: 2-3

There are some excellent doubles players on that list. I'm struck by two things: The talent is really good up good that many/most matches are crapshoots coming down to the third set breaker. Secondly, what Armstrong and Hurlbert have accomplished is pretty damn impressive.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Crush beats 'Canes

Kingwood squeaked out a 3-2 win in a hard fought and well-played matchup with the Met last night. Neither team had its "best" lineup out there: Kingwood was unable to use Omon Dibua or Juan Lopez in singles, and much-discussed Sarosh Ahmed did not play for the Hurricanes.

David Yang gave Gary Armstrong all he could handle at the top singles spot, but ultimately fell short in the third set tiebreaker. Brian Mills had a solid win over Phi Huynh at two singles. Mills has now played 14 matches in USTA competition this year (singles and doubles, tournaments and league) and is still undefeated. The Southeast Texas player must be considered one of the top players in the Houston league this season and will have to be considered a favorite in all of his matches in city playoffs.

Ben Whitsett was unavailable last night, so Phong Regent filled in admirably as Craig Bobo's partner. Phong has recently had a second child and hasn't had as much time to devote to tennis, but the veteran helped win two close sets over Glenn Wright and Stephen Valentine. Hai Vu and unbeatable Tim Hurlbert convincingly won at 2 doubles, spoiling Chris Stanich's 4.5 debut. Line 3 doubles was the match of the night. Omon Dibua was noticably hobbled, but convinced Captain Kilshaw to put him in the lineup. He and Brandon Burris squeaked out a 6-7, 7-6, 10-5? win over Jacob Vernon and David Duplechin. Vernon played very well in a losing effort.

Kingwood has a leg up on the division championship as the Met will now have to sweep their other two matchups to win the title.

Westside won its matchup with the Jedi Knights 4-1. Copperfield has not reported its score, but will need to win 8 out of 10 lines in their last two matches (last night included) to tie Westside for the division title and requiring a comparison of sets and possibly games. Alan Teague and Tommy Ristau won a tight three setter against the Coursons. Ted Erck again lost for the Knights and is now 2-3 on the season.

In one of the few 4.0 matches reported, the JCC dudes continued their slide, losing 3-2 to the Westside Phoenix and falling to 6-2. JCC is not the youngest team around, and veteran doubles players Joe Warren and Chuck Stasny had to retire after one set last night. JCC is now tied for second place at 6-2, but has a nice edge in lines won. However, they still have one tough makeup match to play. The Hurricanes continued their waltz through the regular season, beating Rice behind the singles play of Scott Foster and Reef Merhi.

In 5.0, the Met kept its hopes alive with a win over Old School. Amit Garg dominated Tor Krosby in singles, and Chris Zolas and Mike Panesar picked up line one dubs for the Met. Lost Forest's 5.0 team won their match as well. Red Benzon and Alim Mambetov contributed a doubles win to the cause.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Big One

There's a huge match in 4.5 this week: Kingwood - Hurricanes Part II. The first match was rained out very early on, so this will be our first chance to see if anyone can take down Kingwood this year. Will Hurlbert, Armstrong and Valentine make the trek down from Kingwood for this one? I'm sure the Hurricanes Beaumont contingent will be making the trip. On paper, it appears that the winner of this division will end up with a better draw in the playoffs, though the emergence of Copperfield has made the playoff brackets more balanced and still somewhat in question.

Omon Dibua is noticably hobbled and wearing a knee brace right now, but can still be a very effective doubles player. I haven't heard any updates on Juan Lopez's health. So who will Jimmy use in singles? Phi Huynh got completely destroyed in his singles match last week. Hai Vu is coming off a big win in the Noho league, but I don't think anyone would view him as a singles option. Luckily, Kilshaw has lots of options: Gary Armstrong is still a viable choice, and both of the Burrises can play some singles. Freeman also has a bunch of choices for his singles slots. Brian Mills was impressive in the first Kingwood matchup. Sarosh Ahmed is back playing, but is he ready for a big singles matchup? Don Rios or even David Yang would seem more likely. Craig Bobo and Ben Whitsett are presumably pledged to their Noho team, but can play a key role in the Houston playoff alignment by playing in this one. A Bobo/Whitsett versus Armstrong/Hurlbert matchup would be worth the price of admission.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Side Note

With Copperfield's win, it's quite possible they could win the division and shake up the playoff structure.

Hypothetical question: Is it ethical for the Rockets to intentionally drop some games at the end of the season to get a more favorable matchup in the playoffs? (or to get a better draft choice if they're in the lottery)

I toyed with the idea of having my team lose last night to give us more options in the postseason. What if Lopez and Omon are injured and Kingwood isn't the behemoth we thought they were? What if the Hurricanes win that division and I think we match up better with them? From that standpoint, a loss last night might have been prudent. Is losing on purpose EVER ethical? I think we all agree that tanking for ratings purposes is wrong....but what about for playoff matchup purposes?


Add Copperfield to the list of teams that can make some noise in the 4.5 city playoffs. The playoff divisions may not be as imbalanced as I had originally thought. Copperfield blanked the mighty Westside Black Sheep last night, and put out a lineup that could raise the eyebrows of playoff teams' captains. New member Alex Bergmann arrived on the scene at Copperfield a week or so ago, and had captains whipping out their pens to sign up the unrated foreign import. League captains have to wonder how good this guy is. John Kudrick played number two singles yesterday and waxed Murray Fonseca. Kudrick must be back in good health, and I guarantee that nobody wants to see him on the other side of the net in the playoffs. Add Bryan Robins back into the mix...Michael Letan has made great improvements over the last several years and is now a very tough out as well. His doubles record this year is impressive. David McMullan has been better in doubles than singles...Copperfield could be tough!

Other 4.5 news is scarce at this time. The Mob Squad beat Lost Forest 4-1. John Wilkerson and Greg Bowen won for Lost Forest while Thang Pham dominated Daniel Kallus on the singles court. The Hurricanes 4.5 team had no trouble with Westside's other team, sweeping the match 5-0. Only Hal Hale managed a set as he extended Don Rios to three.

In 4.0, the big matchup was between JCC Dudes and Chancellor's. No official score has been reported, but rumor has it that Chancellor's swept. Impressive. In other news on the Chancellor's front, I've heard a rumor that the protest against them will be denied. Several people have assured me that Lewis, who runs the Chancellor's team, is a standup guy and would never do what has been alleged. In the absence of any proof, it's difficult to sanction anyone. I agree with many posters who say that something needs to be done to keep league tennis on the level.

In other 4.0 news, Copperfield has quietly dominated its competition this year, winning 36 of the 40 lines it has played. Nobody is paying them any attention, but it definitely looks like the 4.0 playoffs will have some depth and few breathers, unlike in some past years. Also, the Hurricanes 4.0 team defaulted a line but still managed a 4-1 win over the second place Smokers.

In 5.0, Lost Forest kept rolling on. Robert Bickmore took down Tor Krosby and the number one doubles tandem of Taylor and Bello took down Ballesteros and Sombito.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

City Playoff Info

Note: The City Playoff schedule has been updated and released:

In a nutshell: In 4.0 RR#1: Winners from D1 and D2, runners-up from D3, D4
RR#2: Winners from D3 and D4, runners-up from D1, D2

In 4.5 RR#1: Winners from D2 and D3, runner up from D1
RR#2: Winner from D1, runners-up from D2, D3

So how does it LOOK like it's gonna' shake out?

4.0 RR#1: Copperfield Copperheads, Chancellor's, SAP, Smokers
4.0 RR#2: Sienna Topspinners, Hurricanes, JCC Dudes, Bear Creek

4.5 RR#1: Westside, Mob Squad, Hurricanes
4.5 RR#2: Kingwood, Copperfield, Yutts

Wow: The 4.5 brackets are lopsided, in my opinion. I'd be curious to know how these things were decided upon. Kingwood will have a waltz to Sectionals, assuming they win their division. It certainly makes those three Kingwood-Hurricane regular season battles INTERESTING! In a way, the brackets are unfair, in that Kingwood probably has it a little too easy. But in a way, it's fair that the three teams perceived to be battling for that second slot are all in a round robin and will get to prove they belong in Dallas. Sorry for the frankness of my comments: I'm not trying to slight the Yutts or Copperfield, but I just feel they're a notch below the other four and not really much of a threat to Kingwood (or the Hurricanes).

Thanks to Diana for getting this information out there. Those players who will need to choose between two leagues certainly should have all information at their disposal before making their decisions.

Big Match in 4.0

The 4.0 division takes center stage this week with some interesting matchups with playoff implications.

The headliner is the match between Chancellor's and JCC Dudes. Both teams have been nearly perfect on the season, losing only 3 and 4 total lines respectively. Both teams went 2-1 in city playoffs last season, just one match away from a berth to Sectionals. The two teams appear to be among the top 3 teams in the city again this year. Jonathan Hao Nguyen has been a dominant force for Chancellor's thus far. He's 6-0, losing only 17 games total in those six matches. David Trevas is 6-0 in singles for the Dudes, and Paul Summers and Jeff Johnson are also undefeated in singles. An interesting subplot is the protest of last week's Chancellor's match. I have no details on the protest, but if it affects the outcome of the overall match the division race will be wide open and this week's match will loom even larger.

In Division I there is a matchup of the second and third place teams as Bear Creek takes on Lost Forest's Hackers. Bear Creek won 3-2 in their first meeting and consequently have a one match lead in the standings. Expect the Hackers to bring their best lineup this week. A 4-1 win will put them ahead in lines won on the season.

In Division IV the Hurricanes face the 6-1 Smokers, whose only loss came in the teams' first matchup. The Smokers' roster has strengthened since then, and despite the 5-0 score in the first meeting, the match was quite competitive.

In 4.5 there is an intriguing matchup as the first place Black Sheep take on Copperfield. Last week John Kudrick hobbled out onto the court in a must-win situation and paired with Michael Letan to pull out a huge win in a big matchup against the Jedi Knights. We'll see if he worsened his injury or if he'll try to gut it out again this week. Copperfield is trying to sew up its first 4.5 playoff berth since....heck, it might be their first playoff berth ever. Westside will get a good tuneup before city playoffs.

There's nothing exciting on the 5.0 docket this week. The top two teams match up against the two bottom feeders. Lost Forest's trip to Sectionals looks like a foregone conclusion at this point.