by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – About this time last year, things looked pretty cut and dried.
With a record of 12-1, Virginia Tech was a near unanimous No. 1 in Division I and looking like a lock for a Saturday contest in Round Rock.
Concordia wasn’t too far behind at No. 2 with a 13-1 mark. No. 4 Liberty was rolling along with seemingly nothing in their way until deep into the tournament.
No. 5 Florida was looking ominous with a 13-1 record.
Cal was sitting comfortably in the No. 10 position at 11-3.
In Division II, Kennesaw State and College of Idaho were undefeated and looking like absolute locks for the finals.
How did it play out?
What is the MCLA Division II Game of the Week for the period ending April 23? #mcla23
— MCLA (@MCLA) April 17, 2023
None of those teams made it past Tuesday at nationals, four didn’t make it past Monday and one didn’t even make the tournament at all.
The moral of the story?
Despite being eight days away from selecting the fields for our two tournaments and 17 days away from the start of the event itself, we really know nothing.
UNC-Charlotte and Cal State San Marcos, who upended College of Idaho and Kennesaw, respectively, in the tournament were ranked No. 15 and No. 19 at this point.
Utah was ranked seventh.
What is the MCLA Division I Game of the Week for the period ending April 23? #mcla23
— MCLA (@MCLA) April 17, 2023
The eventual semifinalists in Division I were ranked Nos. 3, 7, 8 and 9 at the same time last year in the weekly coaches poll.
There are going to be upsets, Cinderellas, headscratchers and thrillers in the next two weeks to set the stage for nationals, which will produce much of the same.
If you’ve got a ticket to a conference tournament, you’re still in the mix. And if you’re still fighting for that ducat, keep battling.
You never know what can happen.
What's the most interesting first-round conference tournament contest this weekend? #mcla23
— 2023 MCLA National Tourney (@MCLA_Tournament) April 20, 2023
GAMES I’M FOLLOWING
Boise State at Simon Fraser, 6 p.m. – Friday
Can the Red Leafs post a perfect regular season and grab the top seed in the PNCLL playoffs with a win over the Broncos at home? Seems like a pretty doable proposition, but funnier things have happened.
Boise brings a physical brand of lacrosse to the table, but the Burnaby boys would likely have to problem with that. This feels like it might be a preview of the conference title game.
Dayton at St. Thomas, 12 p.m. - Saturday
I’ve got a pretty good read on St. Thomas this year and what they are capable of, but I’m still not sure about the Flyers. This will let me know how viable they are for a UMLC tournament run.
Florida Atlantic at Kennesaw State, 1 p.m. – Saturday
FAU’s strength of schedule is what could make them problematic for Kennesaw on Saturday in Jacksonville in the SELC semifinals. Sure, the record isn’t is as pretty, but Atlantic is a grizzled team with tons of offensive talent and a solid goalie. KSU is the rightful favorite, but I think this one goes down to the wire, if not overtime.
UC Davis at Chico State, 1 p.m. – Saturday
Probably a niche game for most MCLA followers as WCLL-II isn’t quite a power conference, but this winner gets the top seed in the WCLL playoffs and becomes the solid favorite to punch a ticket to Round Rock.
Chapman at Concordia, 1 p.m. – Saturday
Here’s a doozy. It’s a great Orange County rivalry game to determine the top seed in the SLC tournament. Concordia has had its ups and downs, and brings a 3-3 record in its last six games. Meanwhile, Chapman is on an absolute heater, winning nine straight after an early-March loss to Boston College.
The Golden Eagles have the home-field advantage and are likely locks for Round Rock, but the Panthers are always eager to take on their local rivals in what could potentially their last-ever MCLA meeting.
South Carolina vs. Georgia, 4:30 p.m. – Saturday
When will the Gamecocks magical run finally end? Is it this Saturday? The Gamecocks are certainly underdogs considering Georgia has already beat them, 11-7, on April 7. But South Carolina is a scary underdog.
That first game was tied at half, it was at Georgia, and now they will be on a neutral field that South Carolina has been dominant on. The Dawgs young guns have been spectacular all year, but the Gamecocks are an experienced crew used the big stage. I think this has the makings of a classic.
Georgia Tech vs. Florida, 7 p.m. – Saturday
Both of these teams are heading to Round Rock, so the stakes are somewhat tempered. This game is far more important for the Gators than the Jackets, however. Florida was nearly in an identical situation last year and faded pretty quickly, losing to South Carolina in the SELC semis as a top seed before falling in the first round at nationals.
They will have that experience to focus them, but they are going up against a Tech squad that is used to this situation. The Wreck’s defense isn’t quite as stout as it has been in past years, which is good news for the Gators’ dynamic offense, but Florida will have to ride its defense if they want to win and grab a Top 5 seed at nationals.
Boston College at New Hampshire, 1 p.m. – Sunday
It looked like the CLC horserace was going to come down to BC and Northeastern at the wire, but the Wildcats changed that narrative by putting the clamps on the Huskies last week. UNH is now in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the conference playoffs. If the ‘Cats take down the Eagles in Durham, it’ll make things very interesting in New England.
LSA First Round – Saturday & Sunday
We know that there will be at least two South subdivision teams heading to Dallas on April 29-30 considering the TCU-SMU matchup and the Texas bye. The real interest will be to see if the South can make it a clean sweep to the semifinals when A&M heads to Kansas and LSU faces Missouri. Just how good are those North teams?
SLIDES & RIDES
- This weekend is just an appetizer of what is to come next weekend, April 28-30. While we are crowning a pair of champions – and two automatic qualifiers to nationals – on Sunday, we will be handing out 16 titles and AQ bids next weekend. It’s going to be a crazy time.
The RMLC will dole out its hardware on Saturday, but the 14 others will come on Sunday, which will then lead into the announcements of the tournament fields for the 2023 MCLA National Championships presented by New Balance that evening. Then the bright lights come on.
- There are some other games to keep an eye on as we try to fill out the conference tournament bracket. The CLC-II bracket has three of four bids set up, but the final one could get tricky. If Bridgewater State beats Stonehill on Friday, the Bears are in. If Stonehill picks up the victory, and then loses to UMass-Dartmouth on Sunday, it will trigger a three-way tiebreaker.
In UMLC-I, both Illinois and Iowa State are into the playoffs, but their rescheduled Friday night game will determine who gets the second seed and draw Western Michigan in the first round, or the third seed, which lines up with Purdue in the bracket.
- We’re getting to the end of the line, but there are two more weeks of PEARL Goalie and Warrior Player of the Week awards. Noon on Monday is the cutoff. Send to [email protected].