2013 RMLC Season in Review
The Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference, on behalf of all of the team representatives, would like congratulate the Colorado State University Rams on another impressive season (21-0 overall), the fourth conference championship in as many years, and culminating with a most prestigious title, MCLA National Champion. Bravo. CSU remains not only as a top competitor, but a model program.
The Colorado Buffs had an incredible season as well. With John Galvin back for a 2nd year, his 10th overall with the team, he was back in his groove. An 18-3 overall record, undefeated at home, as well as out-of-conference, CU spent most of the season within the Top-3 of the MCLA polls (ninth in the pre-season poll, second by week nine.)
The RMLC was represented well this year in the Division I National Title game, and though the Buffs fell short for a second-time in school-history, they will no doubt return in 2014 a changed-team, yet still as determined as ever. “Overall we had a very good year, can’t complain about making it to the National Championship Game, but losing to one team three times makes you think you need to change a few things,” said Head Coach John Galvin.
CSU also achieved something within the Conference that had never before been accomplished. Four consecutive Conference Championships, dating back to 2010. Head Coach Alex Smith is a sure-fire CSU Lacrosse Hall of Famer, who continues to set the bar high for his team. As a player for the Rams, Alex had achieved three Conference Championships, and three National Titles. As a coach now, he has led the team to an additional nine Conference and National Championships. “Alex Smith”, is inscribed on the proverbial chalice of 15 total CSU Championships.
Yet still Coach Smith does it for his Rams. “We definitely are proud of our accomplishments. For me, it’s more about getting our team to be the best they can possibly be. When all is said and done, when you are setting team records here at CSU, you are doing some pretty special things. These guys will be able to have this for the rest of their lives.”
For the RMLC and its fans, a CU versus CSU National Championship game, and for a second time in seven years, is just too good to be true. The sacrifice, dedication, and discipline it takes to make it that far, and for two very-intense rivals as these, it’s competition at its finest. Good for the league, the game, and our passions.
Both coaches credit their teams with having the right stuff, and doing the right things. At CU, Coach Galvin said, “Our players were engaged in working hard in the offseason and bought into being accountable for the amount of work they put into practice, film, and extra time.” At CSU, Coach Smith credits his seniors for leading the way. “We had 14 seniors and they were really focused from the very start of the year. We lost to CU in the fall and that really motivated us going into the spring. Our senior class was definitely the strongest point of our team and they were a really special group.”
For Coach Smith, 2013 shall be remembered at CSU for its midfield, a strong, deep group of players that solidified the team on game-days. “Midfielders, Alex Devlin and Tim Taggart were great for us. They were part of an all-senior line with Braxton Campbell. Dustin Grybinas was part of our second group this year. I think we were one of the few teams at our level to be able to go three lines deep at the midfield and that really helps us in those long tournaments and back to back situations.” That senior line combined for 67 points this season. Coach Smith continued to tout his midfield, “Logan Chandler and Josh Gregg, a couple of unsung guys most of the time. Both are defensive midfielders that really got a lot of the dirty-work done for us. Josh was great as a clearing mid and wing guy, and Logan is as hard-nosed and smart as they come.”
Then you have the face-off specialist, Dan Warfield. Second team All-Conference, as well as All-American, winning 65 percent of his draws, including nearly 60 percent in the National Championship game. “He’s arguably our most valuable player and kept us with the ball on our offensive end in some very key spots.”
In Division II, the Westminster College Griffins, led by head coach Mason Goodhand, finished their season with another RMLC conference championship, their third consecutive, and an appearance in the MCLA National Championship game. A second in school-history, with 2008 resulting in the ultimate goal, Champion. 2013 however, fell short for the Griffins, by two goals, but Coach Goodhand knows it’s only fuel to the fire. “We challenged our players with a tough schedule.” The top-ranked strength of schedule (#2 overall), five Division I opponents, and two NCAA opponents, the Westminster team prepared themselves for the move up to MCLA Division I in 2014. “I believe that the proper dose of competition is the key to getting better. Our players were tough down the stretch and I think they’ll be ready for the challenges awaiting them in the RMLC DI ranks.”
With the elevated designation, also must accompany an elevated-level of play, planning, and recruiting. “Undoubtedly the biggest component of our future success will involve recruiting the right players to fit in our program. We have a great opportunity but it doesn’t fit everyone. We’re getting much better at finding the players who will embrace our approach to the game. Depth of talent will be a huge need as we tangle with DI next year,” added Coach Goodhand.
With the move to DI, opportunities to challenge for the Conference Championship become more available to others. In 2013 we witnessed Regis University make a statement upon beating Montana State University and Metro State College for the first time in school-history. Both were strong division wins, but a loss to the University of Northern Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines, kept them out of the playoffs still. Regis University hopes to continue with their success into 2014, and qualify for the post-season for that elusive first time.
Fort Lewis College, of Durango, CO, had another successful season, albeit challenging, making it to the RMLC championship game for the second year in a row. Starting off the 2013 season with an 0-8 win-less record (all being road-games), the Skyhawks were at a crossroads. Head Coach Dan Riecks explains, “I scheduled the first half of the season to give us a chance to qualify for the MCLA Championships. Unfortunately we lost some key players to injuries and academic conflicts, and eight straight road games took their toll on us.” The FLC team returned to the thin-air of Colorado and won nine straight, including regular-season wins over Northern Colorado and Montana State, two teams that would qualify for the conference tournament; the latter of which would take on the Skyhawks yet again in the conference semi-finals. “Home sweet Durango cured what ailed us, as we focused on achieving what was our goal from the get-go a RMLC Championship,” said Coach Riecks. Yet, the end of the road came fast. In the conference finals, the FLC boys took a beating from Westminster. Losing in similar fashion (by 20 goals) to a match-up earlier in the year. Riecks remains confident however, and anticipates another impressive season in 2014, “Even though we came up short of our goal, we expect to be back next year… this time with maybe a bit less challenging road schedule to start.”
Northern Colorado completed their first season with a new head coach since 2009. Keith Lindgren’s leadership of the team has been there as a player and an assistant coach for several years prior, but 2013 was his debut as Bears head coach. A record of 5-6 overall doesn’t speak to the challenges and successes that the Bears had this season. 3-1 in the conference, is overshadowed by regular-season losses to Westminster, North Dakota State, and Gonzaga, teams that spent the majority of the season atop the Top-25 poll. UNC was bounced from the playoffs by Westminster, after a successful first round match-up against Western State Colorado University (WSCU’s first playoff appearance since 2006) by a score of 20-5.
In 2014, the RMLC remains strong. The CSU Rams look to defend their titles, extend their winning streak (have not lost since April 7, 2012, in total, 29-0), and build a case for why they are the best. While the Buffs wait for their next chance, and the BYU Cougars continue to knock on the door, Utah remains, as a tiger in the tall grass, anything can happen. Westminster only makes it that more exciting. New Mexico, a growing program, and Utah State, a team under new management the past couple of seasons, could be making big strides in the coming months.
Division II will be very interesting in 2014. Every team has a chance to win games, make a statement, and re-write the status quo. Utah Valley University will return the MCLA, this time as a D1-AA team (a new delineation within the RMLC DI), designating them as a Division I team, yet not requiring them to compete against all RMLC DI teams. In the post-season, D1-AA teams can secure a conference playoff berth if at the top of the D1-AA standings. New Mexico, Utah State, and Utah Valley will be the members of the D1-AA structure. New-comer Johnson and Wales University, a NAIA institution, will be a DII member for 2013-2014. The Wildcats were recently voted-in by the RMLC board of directors (team reps), and also requested to be allowed immediate full-membership, this was also approved. JWU will make an excellent addition to an already exciting, and very competitive lacrosse conference.