Friday, February 5, 2010

Season Preview #25: Cal Lutheran

General Team Discussion - Cal Lu had a pretty good year in 2009 and they matched their 2008 season when they were also nationally ranked. I believe CLU peaked around #20 in the ITA Rankings last year, but I really think this is about as well as they can do. Although they have a strong team, they really can't compete with Redlands or CMS unless the big two in SCIAC are having an off-day. This is another team that is really hurt by the new NCAA selection process because it is nearly impossible for them to make the NCAA tournament unless they pull off some miracle wins during the conference tournament. The Kingsmen finished 3rd in the SCIAC last year and I would expect them to battle it out with P-P for 3rd place again. They play a decent non-conference schedule and they are challenged beginning to end. CLU has good development once they attract players, but they need to bring in a few more recruits to compete with the top 15 in the country. I would expect a finish between 25-30 in the country this year for CLU and either a 3rd or 4th place showing in the conference tournament.

Where They'll Win - CLU has one of the country's best players in Andrew Giuffrida. He made it to the finals of the West regional this fall and he's almost a lock to be an NCAA qualifier and I think he's a contender for the title when he gets there. He should hold his own against the best in the country at 1 singles and I also expect him to be half of a very respectable 1 doubles team. The Kingsmen also get a transfer from Boise State in Nick Ballou who should play in the top half of the lineup this year. After a pretty good junior career and some good D1 training, he may be able to do well at the #3 spot. After those two, CLU returns a couple more starters from last year's team.

Where They'll Lose - I mention they returned a couple starters, but the question is just how good are these players and can they compete with top 15 competition? I think CLU is a little weak in the middle of the lineup despite having experience there. I must say Cal Lu's doubles was strong for most of last season so this is somewhere where they may surprise people, because on paper their doubles teams shouldn't be all that strong. I think the issue for CLU is simply just not having enough strong players to compete with the best in the country.

Schedule Analysis - Cal Lu has two early season tests against P-P and Redlands. They had a strong early part to the season last year and fell off near the end, so I'm not sure if these matches with be appropriate gauges of their strength. They then host a bunch of team in March who travel to California for Spring Break. Some matches which I'd pay particular attention to are Mary Wash, Tyler, Salisbury and Whitman. If they can come out of those 4 matches with a 2-2 record, I think CLU should be pretty pleased with themselves. The SCIAC tournament will conclude their season and a big match is their probable 3rd-4th against Pomona-Pitzer.