by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
Last weekend was a light snack to get us ready for the 2016 season. This weekend brings the heavy appetizers.
The season isn’t quite at full throttle, but we’re getting close. There are 26 games scheduled in both divisions this weekend, with several compelling contests sprinkled among them.
You know what? I take that back.
All the games are compelling.
It’s easy to get caught up in rankings or ‘traditional’ programs and the like, but there are no unimportant games. Just check out this graphic:
Humboldt (Calif.) State traveling to Southern Oregon may not ring the bell for a lot of people, but it’s a monster for these two teams in a serious border war.
Long story short: respect all the games, because they’re always important to someone.
Now that I’ve finished chastising my readers, here’s a carrot to balance that stick. Everyone who suits up this weekend will be in the mix for the first Commanding Performance of the Week powered by Under Armour award.
The winner in each division will receive national recognition as well as a new Under Armour Command Head. Coaches, submit your nominations HERE with stats and background for your candidate by noon EST/9 a.m. PST on Monday. The winner will be announced on Tuesday and the Command Head shipped off the same day.
Who will win it? Who knows?
Here are a couple of games to keep an eye on this weekend.
Utah Valley (0-0) at No. 1 Grand Canyon (0-0) – 7 p.m., Friday
Weighted down with a fat ring, the champs start up their defense of last year’s crown with a home tilt against a non-conference foe. Utah Valley is hoping to rebound from a 4-9 campaign, especially with the top three scorers returning. Alas, opening with the big dog is a tough assignment, even if the Lopes are without the services of the legendary Carson Barton. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but Dean Fairall (54g, 37a) and crew will be expected to answer the bell.
No. 13 Stanford (0-0) at No. 25 UC Santa Barbara (0-0) – 2 p.m., Saturday
The eggheads in Palo Alto are ranked ahead of the beach boys from Isla Vista in the preseason poll? We’re through the looking glass, people. At least that’s what they would have said a decade ago, but this is the ‘new’ MCLA, and the Cardinal is a significant favorite over the Gauchos. Stanford is coming off a WCLL title and trip to the dance while UCSB slogged through an uncharacteristic 3-13 campaign, including an 8-5 loss to the Cardinal at the Farm. This is a redemption tour for the Gauchos and this contest will give them a feel for how well it will go.
Southern Methodist (0-0) at LSU (0-0) – 12 p.m., Sunday
Texas State is the defending LSA-I champ, but these two outfits have designs on ending that reign. SMU lost a pair of games by a goal to the Bobcats last year and with senior goalie Adam Connolly returning, the Mustangs will likely be the class of the North division again. SMU ended LSU’s season last year in the LSA semifinals, 13-7, so the Tigers will be looking for a little payback, as well as a fast start. Both teams will have to play Clemson – LSU on Friday night and SMU on Saturday – so early-season conditioning could be a factor.
No. 19 Western Oregon (0-0) at No. 6 Western Washington (0-0) – 7 p.m., Saturday
Well, well, isn’t this an early season PNCLL gem? The Wolves and Vikings are traditionally the two teams vying for the league’s automatic bid. Since 2008, either WOU or WWU has owned the conference AQ to nationals. The Vikings are currently on the upswing, having advanced to the national semifinals last spring, and they have plans for a return visit even though they graduated an impressive senior class. Meanwhile, the Wolves will try to start the process of swinging the pendulum back in their favor.
No. 2 Concordia (Calif.) (0-0) at UCLA (0-0) – 12 p.m., Sunday
This interdivisional clash won’t resonate much in May – both teams will find their avenue to Orange County later in the schedule – but we will get a feel for how strong Concordia will be. The Eagles won their first 20 games last year before losing in the national championship game to Dayton by a goal, and that likely still weighs heavy on their minds. Senior Dillon Bernad (55g, 32a) will be the top gun for CUI, and he’ll have to produce against a Bruins squad that was ranked last season.
Oklahoma State (0-0) at St. Gregory’s (0-0) – 1 p.m., Sunday
This contest features the top teams from the LSA last spring, with Oklahoma State taking a narrow, 7-6 triumph in the conference championship game. Without an automatic qualifier to the national tourney, this game is hugely important. Neither team can afford a loss if it wants to stay in the highly-competitive at-large hunt. The Cowboys will be at a slight disadvantage, having to play a 2-0 Stephen F. Austin team on Saturday afternoon along before facing a Cavaliers team that wants to make amends for ’15.