MORENO: Keep your chin up LBSU, last season is over
The 49ers have the tools for success after a dismal 2009-10 season.
Published: Monday, August 30, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 15:07
Let's face it. Long Beach State's 60th anniversary was anything but sweet for the 49ers on the fields and courts, or in the pool.
Only one team made the postseason last year. One.
Whether it was not meeting expectations (men's basketball), or being a little too confident (baseball) or losing arguably your best player to a suspension (women's tennis), The Beach saw it all in 2009-10.
The good thing about last season, however, is just that. It was last season.
This year, the men's basketball team won't be the favorites. The Dirtbags will have a completely new look with eight players lost to the draft and a new coach. And, Klaudia Malenovska will be back on the tennis court halfway through next season.
With that being said, the Black and Gold's marquee teams are primed to have more success this year.
After last season's 23-32 record, the Dirtbags were in dire need of some kind of change.
Everybody within the program seemed to be over the daily grind of the season with about three weeks left to play. At that point it was more about going through the motions of a game and less about truly embracing what it means to be a Dirtbag.
That will no doubt change with a new skipper looking to make an impression as well as a gigantic recruiting class. After all, new coach Troy Buckley is the guy who recruited many of the high-profile players of the 2000s. Evan Longoria's name ring a bell?
Drew Gagnon is slated to takeover the ace role and he should fit in nicely after starting the Cape Cod League All-Star Game this summer. The big right-hander had a 3.28 ERA in 2010, but received little run support.
Time will tell how much of an effect a pitching-oriented head coach will have on the program, but the offense can't be as inconsistent as it was last year.
LBSU went into 2009-10 with all the hype. They were returning the best core of players in all the Big West Conference and their bench had nothing but upside. Then a funny thing happened.
The players started to buy into the hype.
The losses started to come when The Beach took on nationally ranked opponents like Kentucky and eventual NCAA National Champions Duke. All that was OK though, because the 49ers were going to steamroll the Big West.
Then the ‘Niners lost their first conference game, then their second and before anybody knew it LBSU was under .500 and fading in the standings. An injury to preseason first-teamer Larry Anderson and a non-existent bench — outside of Greg Plater — didn't help their cause.
LBSU managed to right the ship in the conference tournament and made it to the title game before falling to UC Santa Barbara.
This season, however, the 49ers won't have the hype as UCSB will be the most feared team in the conference.
The Beach returns its talented core, but there are still question marks with the bench. Players like Kyle Richardson and Lin Chang will have to show improvement and that may come with extended minutes. But newcomers like Nick Shepherd and Edis Dervisevic still remain unknowns.
But sports has repeatedly shown that it is far better to be the hunter than it is to be the hunted. And if last season is any indication, anything can happen in the Big West.
Shhh. Don't tell anyone but Jody Wynn nabbed herself quite a recruiting class.
The second-year head coach will have her pick of 5-foot-something guards — there are eight players listed 5-7 to 5-9 on the roster — but 6-foot-3 Janae Coffee might prove to be the most substantial difference maker this year.
The biggest problem LBSU faced last season was height. If Coffee proves to be the real deal, the 49ers could find themselves in the upper echelon of the Big West for this year, and beyond.
Youth will be the theme for this season's 49ers as there are only three upperclassmen who had substantial playing time last year. This season will see the return of senior Courtney Jacob, who missed last season with injury.
The Beach will also get its first look at Amanda Sims — the younger sister of former 49ers guard Lauren Sims — a transfer from TCU.
Wynn was also able to bolster the front line by adding 6-foot-3 forward Ella Clark from London, England to go along with Coffee.
The six-time defending Big West champion women's tennis team fell short in the conference tournament finals last season, but proved they could move on without four-time Big West Player of the Year Hannah Grady.
With a very young team, the 49ers just went undefeated in conference play and 19-6 overall. All but one of those six losses came against ranked opponents.
Oh yeah. They did all that without Malenovska, a player whose talent level is widely believed to rival that of Grady. The sophomore served a NCAA-mandated suspension last season and won't be back until midway through the 2011 season.
But the Slovakian-born Malenovska should provide a boost to an already deep team at that time.
Head coach Brian Gimmillaro's squad was the only team to make the postseason last year. They are in the best position of any team at The Beach to reach that point again.
The 49ers lost key players in Brittney Herzog and Naomi Washington, but freshman Haleigh Hampton leads a talented recruiting class that's well on its way to filling those voids.
LBSU's biggest test this season will be staying in the national top 25 poll and making it out of the NCAA tournament's first round for the first time since 2008.
LBSU, as a whole, has not fallen off that much since winning the Big West's Commissioner's Cup two years ago. The key to all of these teams having success this season will be consistency, something that nearly all the teams on campus seemed to lack a year ago.