Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Team Preview #17: UC Santa Cruz

Erich Koenig

Coach: Bob Hansen, 30th Season
Location: Santa Cruz, California
Conference: None
2008 Ranking: 4
2009 Ranking: 1
2010 Ranking: 5
2011 Projected: 5

Every year I underrate these guys and every year they prove me wrong, so here we go again. I had them at #8 in the fall and then remembered who I was dealing with and figured I should move them up. Cruz's season last year was a mixed bag. They won the Indoors title, but didn't do much the rest of the season until NCAAs when they took down Cal Lutheran and gave CMS all they could handle in Claremont. Cruz comes into this season much like last season. They have a strong top of the lineup but they are fairly inexperienced and seemingly lack the depth of other top teams. I'm beginning to think that the outstanding recruiting being done by CMS is becoming a little too much for Cruz to handle. The Slugs have won the national title in '05, '07 and '09, and therefore one would think they may be in line for one this year. To do so, they will have to topple 2 excellent California teams just to get to the Final 8. Compared to other years, Cruz plays a more daunting D3 schedule which will hopefully prepare them for NCAAs. I expect them to do well at Indoors as always and after Emory, I think Cruz is the favorite to win it. Don't underestimate Bob Hansen and don't underestimate training 25 hours a week, because coaching and practice always makes Cruz one of the best in the country no matter what their roster looks like. Taking a look at some specifics on their team, Brian Pybas will have to remain as one of the top players in the country for the Slugs to be in the top 5 this year. Equally as important is sophomore Erich Koenig who was one of my players to watch. The hope for the Slugs is that first-time starter Parker Larsen will become a rock solid #3, giving Cruz a shot to win against anyone at the top of the lineup. Their doubles should be excellent as always and how they do in doubles will most likely determine the outcome of most of their matches. Another note is that Bryce Parmelly is no longer assistant coach and recent Slug alum Colin Mark-Griffin has taken over. This says to me that Hansen will be at the helm for many more years and is showing no signs of slowing down. I mentioned their schedule earlier and they have 12 matches against ranked D3 teams before NCAAs, which is a lot for them. The most important matches are the Indoors 1st rd against Trinity (TX) who will be hungry for an upset, home matches against Cal Lutheran and Williams and then the quad in Texas with CMS, Wash U and Trinity (TX). If you look at those 6 matches and Cruz manages to win 4 of them, I think that's impressive. If they win 2 or less, they should be a little worried. Cruz will really be tested this year and needs to focus all of their efforts on developing and training hard enough so they can give themselves a chance to win against CMS in NCAA Regionals.