Weekend Watch: Haters Ball
(Photo by Kevin Schoonover)
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Rivalry games can bring out the best in both teams, no matter how weird these contests are described.
Most of them are based off football. The Big Ten schools have an array of trophies that characterize those matchups – Paul Bunyan’s Ax, Floyd of Rosedale – while other conferences have catchy slogans – Red River Shootout, Civil War, Bedlam.
Perhaps the weirdest, and more humorous, rivalry slogan is the one between Georgia and Georgia Tech.
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“As the schools started their rivalry in football back in the late 1800s, ‘Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate’ has been the moniker behind all matchups between the two schools, no matter the sport,” said Georgia Tech coach Ken Lovic.
This most recent edition of this lovably loathsome endeavor takes place on Saturday when No. 7 Georgia hosts the No. 2 Yellow Jackets in Athens at 1 p.m.
Saturday’s contest will undoubtedly – hopefully? – be better for the Bulldogs than the last seven meetings. Georgia Tech has owned this rivalry since 2014, and some of the results have been unpretty.
The Ramblin’ Wreck has outscored Georgia, 113-57, during that span. The closest margin was three, 12-9, in 2018.
This is a different Dawg squad, however.
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“Georgia is playing great lacrosse right now,” Lovic said. “We need to slow down their potent offense and their young guns on attack. Their defense is aggressive and they have a solid goalie minding the net. We will need to play ‘clean’ to come out on top and limit costly mistakes, for sure.”
And those previous games? The Jackets aren't interested in them.
“As for recent success, we certainly don’t harp on it. We focus on the now,” said Lovic. “This game means a lot in terms of the SELC postseason. In the short history of the SELC tournament separated by quarterfinal weekend and a one-seed bye, we as a team have made it a goal to win our region.”
Despite the hostility built into the game’s brand, there is an underlying respect between the two programs. This is displayed in the fact that there will be an alumni game between the two teams in conjunction with the current squads.
It is a gentler, geriatric version of the main event, but it still means a lot.
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“The alumni game is the same, but clean is definitely the key behind it,” Lovic said with a laugh. “We’ve had guys in their 70s suit up for the game. It’s always been a lot of fun between the two alumni programs to relive the glory, especially to recall how much better the players thought they were than they actually were.”
Both these teams are setting up nicely for both the SELC and MCLA tournaments at this point, regardless of Saturday’s outcome. Any fan of lacrosse would love this kind of rivalry.
Unless, of course, you’re a hater.
GAMES I’M FOLLOWING
No. 1 Liberty at No. 24 South Carolina, 7 p.m. - Friday
The last two seasons in which these two teams met – 2019 and 2022 – Liberty has owned the regular season while the postseason has been all Gamecocks. In ’19, when both were in the SELC, the Flames took the regular season tilt while South Carolina won the conference and MCLA tournament matchups. They were in two different conferences in ’22, but the plot remained the same.
Obviously, the Gamecocks went on to win national championships in both of those seasons. The recent polls say Liberty is on the fast track to that achievement this year. The Gamecocks have already taken out one title hopeful (Va. Tech), and the Flames are in the crosshairs.
No. 16 St. John’s at No. 18 Minn.-Duluth, 7:45 p.m. - Friday
The UMLC West seeding race gets started in what is cruelly being referred to as a Duluth “home game,” as the Johnnies are two hours closer to St. Michael, Minn., than the Bulldogs. That’s life on the arctic circle.
Rankings would suggest that St. Thomas has the inside track for the top seed out of the west, so this clash would allow the winner to get Dayton in the conference playoff first round (the loser gets NDSU). Not sure if that’s much of a bonus, but that’s life in the UMLC.
No. 6 Montana at No. 25 Northwest Nazarene, 11 a.m. – Saturday
Is this a preview of the PNCLL title game scheduled for Lake Oswego, Ore., on April 30? The College of Idaho and others will have something to say about it, but these two are as good a bet as any at this point.
The Grizzlies’ seven-hour trek will seem like a quick trip to the grocery store compared to their usual travel outlay, so no bus-leg worries for Montana. The Nighthawks look like they’ll need the AQ at this point, but a win over Montana would get them in the at-large hunt.
No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 10 UC San Diego, 12:30 p.m. - Saturday
Henderson, Nev., is the site of this Top 10 matchup that will go a long way in seeding the tournament in late April. Utah State is 6-0 against D-II competition and will have a jump in its step after a two-week hiatus. UCSD will also be well-rested after picking up its first loss to Montana. A true toss-up here.
No. 16 Boise State at No. 5 Utah Valley, 1 p.m. – Saturday
A sneaky good game is occurring in Orem as the Wolverines get their newly-minted Top 5 credentials tested by the Broncos. The last time Boise State visited the Beehive State they lost a 10-8 game to BYU in which they fell into a 7-0 hole to start the game. If the Broncos can avoid another slow start, they should be able to run with UVU.
No. 2 St. Thomas vs. No. 5 Missouri State, 4 p.m. – Saturday
Both of these teams have been off the grid for a while, but have been able to maintain their high rankings. Now we’ll find out a lot more about each (along with their other matchup against Grand Valley State this weekend). I’m expecting a single-digit, tight game. Somewhere in the 9-8 range.
No. 22 Miami at No. 17 Florida Atlantic, 5 p.m. – Saturday
This is not technically an SELC tournament elimination game, but with the way Florida Gulf Coast is playing, it just might be. One of the three is going to be left out of the mix in late April, and the loser of this one is the likely candidate. Kind of a shame as both are dangerous teams, but great for the strength of the conference.
No. 15 Northeastern at No. 2 Georgia Tech, 12:30 p.m. – Sunday
I’m always up for a trap game, and this one is as trappy as it gets. The second-ranked Wreck will be coming off their most emotional game of the season – and possibly their toughest – while the Huskies travel to Hotlanta after a rather innocuous contest against Auburn.
Granted, Auburn is on a bit of a heater, but a sweep for Northeastern would be impossible to ignore on Selection Sunday if the Huskies don’t get the AQ. Playing at home is obviously a big advantage for the Bees.
SLIDES & RIDES
- Missouri’s Trystan Goette, a 6-foot-3 attackman out of The Lou, is currently leading Division I in points with 64 (41g, 23a) for the 8-3 Tigers. Austin Ortel of UC San Diego is leading D-II with 61 (29g, 32a).
- The selection committees get down to business this week as both divisional juntas sit down for their first meetings on Sunday. You know it’s getting real now. And on that note, make sure all your paperwork is in order for the stretch run.
- April Fool’s jokes are always incredibly lame.
- Nominations from head coaches for the PEARL Goalie of the Week and Warrior Player of the Week are due by noon on Monday to [email protected]. Get 101 Lacrosse Player of the Month nominations in, as well.