(Photo by BYU Lacrosse)
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – As you probably already guessed, this isn’t the first time that Brigham Young has carried the burden of a No. 1 preseason ranking.
Even for the Cougars, being slotted in the top spot this year was still a bit weird.
“There was definitely some uncertainty when thinking about how the 2022 preseason poll would come out,” said BYU coach Matt Schneck. “I did not expect it, but was happy to see that there were quite a few coaches around the country who voted BYU No. 1.”
The uncertainly mainly had to do with handling last year’s campaign. Should South Carolina, the titular defending champions, still get credit for a season three years ago? Should Cal Poly, which was top-ranked in the last poll, get the nod?
They are legitimate questions. And what about the “Invitational?” It certainly was an important event for the MCLA getting back on its feet, but should it drive the preseason conversation?
Schneck gets it.
“I fully recognize that there are different opinions about last season,” he said. “But I am happy that in a small way the 2022 preseason poll provides a bit of recognition to last year's team and what they were able to accomplish in the midst of a very difficult season for the entire league.”
Now that the polls – both the MCLA New Balance Poll and the USA Lacrosse ranking had BYU on top – are out, how will Schneck and his staff handle the privilege?
“We addressed it preemptively, and once again after it was released,” Schneck said. “Preseason polls are fun. That's about it.
“We helped everyone understand – especially the freshmen – that any preseason ranking, regardless of the rank, would be a reflection of how voters/coaches viewed last year's team more so than what they may think about this year's team. At the end of the discussion, we wanted to make sure that everyone clearly understood that it was now their responsibility to perform.”
The first weekend went pretty well. BYU dispatched both Washington State and Boise State comfortably, getting some strong defensive performances and a nice boost at the faceoff dot, even with the graduation of Tyler Clancy.
A couple of injuries are troubling for the Cougars and the season is off to a surprisingly chippy start. Schneck is not thrilled with missing a game with long-time rival Simon Fraser because of the current border policies, either.
Overall, however, not too shabby.
“As with most teams around the country, we went into the weekend without any game film and had no idea of what to expect from Washington State and Boise State,” Schneck said. “This created the perfect opportunity for us to focus on ourselves and make any as-needed adjustments throughout the game.”
The opening weekend pretty much puts last season to bed for Brigham Young. All eight of the teams that made it to Round Rock are unquestionably better for having the Invitational experience, but now the entire MCLA is ready to roll.
Alas, last year will always be a reminder to savor the moment, even if the bulls-eye is squarely on BYU's back.
“The 2021 season was tough for everyone,” Schneck said. “We are grateful for the opportunity that we had to compete, however, I believe the greatest benefit that came from last year amidst the uncertainty that loomed throughout the season, were lessons of gratitude and resilience.
“Every practice, every game, every road trip was questionable if it would happen and when we made it through to the end of each of those days, there was a small victory and a reason to celebrate. That same attitude has resonated with this year's squad, and they are not taking anything for granted.”
SLIDES & RIDES
- Utah stunned No. 17 Utah State on Friday, 12-7, meaning the Utes are packing a punch and could be interesting in Division II. Utah heads to No. 11 College of Idaho this weekend. Another Utes win and things will get interesting.
- Missouri picked up its first Lone Star Alliance victory by subduing Southern Methodist. And speaking of tight LSA contests, Texas A&M and TCU got into a slugfest that ended with the Aggies taking a 6-5 overtime tilt. Could be a wild year in that league.
- Behind a goal and six dimes from Jake Pistotnik and 13 saves from Zach Blake, Cal blitzed Cal Poly, 14-3. Blake blanked the Mustangs for three quarters. The No. 5 Bears now head to Chapman to face the No. 3 Panthers followed by an intriguing Washington outfit at the Pac-12 Shootout at UCLA. Not too many respites for the Bears.
NOTES: A quarter of the BYU roster is made up of players who served 2020 and 2021 on their two-year service missions…Boston College to Texas and Georgia traveling to Colorado. The non-conference schedule is heating up…could this be the year that Georgia Tech features a high-flying offense? Nah, they put BC in the usual meatgrinder on Sunday, winning 10-6…a one-goal and a two-goal loss on the road for Oregon against solid teams. Could be a good learning trip for the Ducks...the SELC D-I preseason all-conference watchlist is out.