Kingsmen Look to Build on 2018 Finish; Ready for 2019 Slate

Kingsmen Look to Build on 2018 Finish; Ready for 2019 Slate

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.— The Cal Lutheran men's volleyball team is coming off its best finish as the Kingsmen earned the No. 12 spot in the final American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) rankings in 2018. After graduating just one senior, the Violet and Gold look to make another strong run in 2019. 

"I think our finish from 2018 gives our guys the belief that they can play at this next level," said men's volleyball head coach Kevin Judd. "When you get into the top-10 teams, it is very competitive. So in 2019, I threw together a schedule that could test that as we play eight of those top-10 teams. I put together a really tough schedule as we try to get an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament."

As Cal Lutheran enters its fourth season, they still remain a young program, but now the Kingsmen are older and have more experience. The Violet and Gold have two seniors in Brendan Ward and Dasmen Stewart. Ward looks to have his first healthy season since coming to CLU and Stewart will see his first action after transferring in.

The junior class continues to be the nucleus of the team. The class makes up a big chuck and includes Alec Bennett, Nick Christy, Justin Dietrich, Kelly Jew, Chandler Matteson, Andrew McFarlane, Mason Mercer, Grant Nelson, Andrew Reina and Patrick Rowe.

"I have a senior in Brendan, who's entering his first healthy season this year," said Judd. His athleticism is just unreal. Chandler transferred in last year, but didn't play due to an injury. He will be battling with Brendan for a spot. Then we have a super-senior in Dasmen. He was a Division I quarterback and he's a beast. It's going to be a slugfest on the right side.

"Having so much talent on the right side gives us so many different options depending on what we want to do with our lineup. We have Grant at setter trying to be more offensively minded. We have Alec who is an amazing libero. We have some tremendous lefties in Andrew and Kelly. Mason could be a backup outside, but don't throw it out the window about him being on the right side. We just are looking to do what makes us the most powerful team."

The sophomore class is looking to step up and contribute more this year. The class includes William Brendel and Marc Quezada.

The Kingsmen then welcome seven newcomers. The freshmen class is made up of Connor Hinthorn, Eli Moore, Noah Nailor, Jacob Schleien, Stone Sharp, Jon Silva, and Michael Zielinski.

"The addition of the new recruiting class will help push our returners," said Judd. "The new guys have talent, but are also going up against the returners that have talent as well. It is going to be a battle. There are a few newcomers that are chirping on everyone's heels about getting playing time."

The team is excited and ready for 2019. The Kingsmen are coming off their highest ranking in 2018, they combined for more wins last year than the previous two combined and they only want to continue to grow and get better.

"I have three goals for us," said Judd. "I want to make sure our teamwork and chemistry stays sharp. My second goal is maturity and experience. My final goal is to improve our volleyball IQ. Playing smarter and playing within ourselves. 

"When we sit down right before the season, the guys go over a bunch of goals. They set some of their own. They will look at some goals from last year. One was finishing in the top-15. I am guessing this year they will want to get into the top-10."

The Kingsmen start the season a week from today on Jan. 10. Cal Lutheran welcomes Arcadia to Gilbert Arena at 7 p.m. 

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Release by Ryan Jorgenson, Sports Information Director