Two years ago, Cal Lu jumped into the top five sweeping the doubles and winning 1 and 2 singles with one of the best 1-2 punches in the country. After an amazing month, the rest of the country caught on, and their doubles cooled off. Still, they managed to jump from 30 to 12 in one year, which is pretty impressive. Last year, they gave a lot of that back when started off their season with a horrible tournament at Indoors, which not only saw them lose all three matches (two of them in heartbreaking fashion) but also ended Nick Ballou’s season. The rest of the year, they played a lot of 6-3 matches. They had one of the best #1′s in the country in Giuffrida, a great #1 doubles team, and got an amazing season from Justin Wilson, but they just couldn’t win without Ballou. This year, they essentially trade Giuffrida for Ballou, which means they are capable of winning three matches against basically any team. The problem for them was that they couldn’t buy a win at 5 or 6 singles last year, and if they want to improve their ranking this year, some of their new players will have to step in and win in those positions.
Where They’ll Win
This is no mystery at all. They won 1, 2, and 3 singles against Middlebury, P-P, Redlands (sort of), and Claremont. They also got some good victories out of their #1 doubles team last year. They return their 2 and 3 singles players, Wilson and Worley, and they can essentially slot Ballou in for Giuffrida. I’m just going to cut this section a little short because I’m not telling anyone anything new by saying Cal Lu is strong at 1, 2, 3 singles and 1 doubles. Yeah…
Where They’ll Lose
Well, they lost 4, 5, and 6 singles against all those teams I just mentioned. Sousa was actually a capable #4 singles player, and Kowalczyk made up half of a decent #2 doubles team with Wilson, but their 5 and 6 singles players were horrible. I’m not trying to be mean; they were just awful. It must have been weird for the team going into big matches basically knowing that they were going to lose 5 and 6 every time. Fortunately for the Kingsmen, they got two freshman this year, both of whom should be definitively better. I expect the bottom of Cal Lu’s singles lineup to be weaker than the top of their lineup this year, but they will be much improved. If they can find some wins at 4, 5, and 6, they will start beating some top 15 teams.
Cal Lu will run the gauntlet again this year, with 15 matches against ranked teams (that’s not a misprint). It could be even more if Whittier can get themselves in the rankings. I’m not even going to try to go at it on a match-by-match basis, but I will say that, with so many opportunities, the Kingsmen will definitely capitalize. Of the teams that they play who are ranked above them, I would say Pomona, Kenyon, both Trinity’s, Redlands, Bowdoin, Cruz, and maybe Williams are within striking distance. If they can win three of those matches, they will be in prime position for a Pool C bid. I think there’s only room for one SCIAC team in Pool C, however, so will it be P-P, Redlands, and Cal Lu
The only area that I think Cal Lu really needs to work on to be successful this year is the area between their ears. They can’t afford any Ballou blowups, and they need Worley to be solid (and not third sets with the team score tied 4-4). Having more depth should take the pressure off Worley, and I think the Kingsmen will beat Redlands and move back into the 13-17 range, but I don’t think their season will be as good as Pomona’s (even though they could beat the Sagehens head-to-head). Accordingly, I see them just missing out on Pool C.