by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
After a summer, fall and half a winter getting ready, the MCLA is finally prepared to start its 20th season of bringing virtual varsity lacrosse to the masses. It should be a great ride as we move steadily closer to the national championship games on May 14.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s savor every game and every weekend, especially this first one as we kick off the college season for the country. This opening weekend will mark the start of the ‘Weekend Watch’ on MCLA.us, which will take a sneak peek at the weighty contests occurring from Friday through Sunday.
The amount of games is relatively light this weekend – there are just five games in Division I and 20 in Division II – so we’ll get to ease into this first edition
Auburn (0-0) at Miami (0-0) – 7 p.m., Friday
This is the one that starts everything in Division I. The Tigers and ‘Canes will throw down in Coral Gables with each trying to get off to a fast start in a season that will challenge both to make the SELC playoffs. This isn’t a divisional game – Auburn is in the Southwest and Miami is in the Southeast – but the winner will get a nice confidence boost.
The two teams played last April, with the Tigers rolling to a comfortable, 15-7 win at home. The Hurricanes will be hoping that home field advantage proves to be the difference, along with some help from senior goalie Chase Oswald, who turned away 14 shots in last year’s matchup. Auburn will lean on an experienced midfield, led by senior Braxton Roman (10g, 12a).
TCU (0-0) at Texas A&M (0-0) – 1 p.m. , Saturday
Much like Friday night’s game, this Lone Star Alliance affair is more about momentum than anything pertaining to conference standings. The Horned Frogs are in the LSA North while the Aggies are situated in the South. A&M rolled past TCU last year, 17-12, but that was later in the season. With both teams having lost their opener in ’15, this an opportunity for a faster start.
Burly junior attackman Bryce Green (51g, 42a) will be the tip of the spear for the Aggies, although the Frogs will be well aware of the Highland Park product after he hung a 7-point day on them last spring. TCU looks toward 6-foot-3 netminder Austin Birch (12 saves in last year’s meeting) to stifle A&M.
La.-Lafayette (0-0) at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (0-0) – 6 p.m., Friday
The Ragin’ Cajuns have moved to Division II after laboring the last couple of years in LSA-I, and this conference game will be the first obstacle to winning the LSA-II crown. With no automatic qualifier, La.-Lafayette’s avenue to the national tourney will come via its non-conference schedule, but they need to lock down the league first. Look for junior attackman Tanner Castagna (20g, 16a) to lead the way against the Islanders.
No. 21 Cal State-San Marcos (0-0) at No. 25 San Diego (0-0) – 1 p.m., Saturday
Those who have been following the MCLA for a while will notice that San Diego is returning to Division II. The Toreros won the first two D-II national championships back in 2005-06 before moving to Division I. There wasn’t much success waiting there, so they return to their roots in ’16. It starts with this SLC conference game against a Cougar outfit that went 13-5 last spring and appeared in the league tourney. First task for USD will be to stop sophomore Cade Vlacos and junior Austin Jenkins, who both racked up 106 points last year.
Wake Forest (0-0) at Emory (0-0) – 12 p.m., Sunday
Continuing our mini-theme, the Demon Deacons are another former MCLA-I program that will compete in D-II this spring, and they’ll do it with a pair of games on opening weekend. The first is against Georgia State on Saturday, and then against the Eagles on Sunday. Both teams were picked behind Wake Forest in the preseason coaches poll, so a 2-0 start is expected for a program that holds serious potential in SELC-II. Petey Fabian should be the Deacons' top gun after finishing second on the team with 19 points in '15.