Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Season Preview #7: Luther

General Team Discussion - Luther has been dominant in their conference during the past 3-4 years however they took a big step forward as a program last year in the NCAA tournament when they beat UT-Tyler in a thriller. Tyler was a top 20 program and with this win Luther found themselves in their first Sweet 16 in school history. They return 5 of 6 starters from last year's team which finished inside the top 30. They got off to a good start this year with an ITA Regional Championship in doubles which included a win over Kenyon. Luther is starting to make themselves known on the national scene and cracking the top 20 is a realistic goal on which they should set their sights. Although their location does prohibit them from playing all the top Central Region schools, they still have a respectable schedule which has plenty of opportunities. I would expect this team to repeat as conference champions and a lot depends on their NCAA draw. Things are going to be quite different since it's unlikely that Gustavus will be a top seed in their region and host. Luther is a program on the rise and they have a lot of experience on this year's team.

Where They'll Win - Luther is surprisingly solid everywhere. They get contributions from all of their team members. If I had to pick strong spots, I look at 1 doubles with Sundstrom/Rijal as regional champions. Sundstrom took out Dustin Phillips in NCAAs last year so he certainly should be solid player at the top spot. Whiteley is a former top Northern junior who also should be tough near the top of the lineup. They are fairly deep as well and definitely solid with experienced players at the 3 and 4 spots. Mateski, their NCAA hero last year should be a tough out at #5 as well.

Where They'll Lose - Seems to me like Luther has 5 players who are very solid. They may be missing that 6th guy unless a freshman comes up big for them. Therefore, 3 doubles could also be a potential problem. In a match against a team like Carleton, it could come down to who is deeper and I think Luther could potentially be at a deficit this year. Despite the fact that Luther seems solid everywhere, I think they would probably be overmatched at almost every spot against a top 15 team.

Schedule Analysis -Their first real test is March 5 against Chicago. If they are able to compete with the Maroons, they can be taken seriously as a contender on the national scene. They play DePauw the following day, so this weekend could set the tone for their season. A fairly soft spring break trip followed by a tough road trip to Texas where they have a rematch with Tyler and then Trinity (TX), who is probably the best team on their schedule. An April 17th match against Carleton could have some effect on NCAA seeding and national rankings as well. They face some stiff competition in their conference tournament but they should pull through.