THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — As new head coach Miguel Ruiz takes the helm of the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen soccer team, he highlights the added depth a large incoming freshmen class brings to the program and the culture of hard work he has created heading into 2018.
Cal Lutheran finished second in the regular season in 2017 with a 9-3-2 record overall and 13-5-2 conference record. Their upset over No. 1 Redlands in overtime of the SCIAC Tournament Finals, though, earned them the conference title and their berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
However, the program graduated 12 of those players on the championship roster. In response, Ruiz introduces 18 incoming freshmen to the program.
"We're going to be young, but it's exciting to have that many freshmen that we can build a program with."
The new signees also bring depth to the new bolstered roster, "I think we're pretty balanced in every area. We're deep in every area from our goalkeepers to forwards. It's a hard problem to have, but as a coaching staff, we're going to have to make some decisions on the group and who's going to step in and play."
Some notable returners from last season, though, include junior Joey Arnold and sophomore Jake Rast.
Up top, Arnold serves as an offensive threat. He produced 10 goals and three assists in his 20 caps last season, including a five-goal performance at home against Pomona-Pitzer. Behind him, Rast proved significant for the team in the midfield. He made ten starts and was the only freshmen to receive major minutes last year.
"I know those two have already had experience and success with the conference tournament so we're definitely excited to have them lead the group and take us to the same success the program had last year."
Ruiz is not concerned with the pressure, however, of retaining the top spot.
"The team won the SCIAC tournament last year. Teams are going to be gunning for us and every game is going to be a tough game, but at the end of the day, if we have 11 players on the field that want to work harder than anyone else, we're going to be pretty hard to beat."
The Kingsmen open their season on Friday, August 31, in Birmingham, Alabama, against Birmingham Southern at 7:30 p.m. CDT in the BSC Labor Day Classic.
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Release by Christy Effendie, Assistant Sports Information Director