Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 Team Preview #29: California Lutheran

Nick Ballou

Coach: Mike Gennette, 18th Season
Location: Thousand Oaks, California
Conference: SCIAC
2008 Ranking: 27
2009 Ranking: 26
2010 Ranking: 7
2011 Projected: 8

I don't think anyone outside of their team expected CLU to do what they did last year. The admirable thing about this program is that they are back this year expecting more from themselves. From afar, it seems like the Kingsmen are weaker than last year, but with their outstanding development, they just might be better. Cal Lu would have probably won 3 of the NCAA regionals last year and would have had a good chance at winning another 2. But they aren't in the East, they are in the incredibly difficult West, and the bottom line is that they were 3rd best in the West last year. They went a combined 1-3 against the teams they need to beat, and doing that again this year will not get them where they want to be. CMS is going to awfully tough to take down, but Cal Lu certainly has the tools to do it. They have 2 All-Americans who I'd consider top 15 in the country, if not top 10, in Nick Ballou and Andrew Giuffrida. They hold up this team and will be joined at the top of the lineup this year by sophomore Ray Worley, who was one of my players to watch. Those 3 can take on the top 3 of anyone in the country, but what will determine CLU's ultimate success if their bottom of the lineup. Last year's #6 Justin Wilson takes over at 4 and freshman Marcelo Sousa should be 5. The Kingsmen are expecting a lot of these 2 in singles and doubles, and they need to perform in case their top guys slip. One thing you can count on is CLU not starting with a 16 match win streak this year because they are attending the National Indoors. This is unfamiliar territory for them on indoor courts and I don't expect a lot out of them. I think they could be satisfied with a 1st round win. For their sake, let's hope they don't peak at the wrong time like they did last year, and save something for the end of the season. They will take on 16 ranked teams before their conference tournament and this is a lot of matches for a team that's not that deep. The Kingsmen have top 5 potential, but more realistically should finish between 7 and 10. Again, there's a ton of pressure on their top guys to win every match, and this wears on you. I don't see the Kingsmen making it out of the West, because I don't know if they have the capability to beat Cruz and CMS on back to back days. Against the Stags, I see CLU having a very slim chance at 4 through 6, meaning they have to win 5 of the 6 remaining spots in the match, and that's a lot to ask. This is a top 10 team who deserves to be in the Final 8, but I think it would take an amazing effort for them to make it.