by Alex Smith | MCLA.us
The 2005 season was kind of the heyday of what we now call the MCLA. I was two years out of college at Colorado State and spending my first spring without lacrosse since 1995. I loved my experience as a player in the MCLA and wanted to stay connected. So I contacted Sonny Pieper (he was one of the founders of our league – a true pioneer) about writing a column to appear weekly on collegelax.us, which was the equivalent of the current MCLA.us site.
The title of the column was “Picks on Point,” and I would basically rip off Bill Simmons with a quick anecdotal lacrosse tales followed up by my picks for five or six games a week. It was pretty fun and decently popular as it was basically the only content about the MCLA being written at the time. Over time, that “space” was taken up by Jac Coyne and Nick Schooler, who had a terrific back and forth picks column weekly on laxmagazine.com.
I also loved being a part of the vibrant message-board community. Parents from UCSB, current players with anonymous screen-names, opinionated loud mouths (like myself), current coaches and even the league’s board all participated. Heck, I believe this is where we truly “hooked” Jac. It was a unique time in our league’s ability to exist together as a community. Yes, it got ugly in there at times, but there were also a lot of respectful and reasoned views of the MCLA experience.
At any rate, in 2005 I wrote a horrible April Fools article about Colorado State getting kicked off campus and having to participate as the Front Range Community College lacrosse club for the rest of the season. It was stupid and not funny or inspired at the time, but it got exponentially less funny around May 1, when two CSU players were found academically ineligible and the entire program was suspended from the MCLA tournament. I think I can still taste my foot from that one.
On the bright side, the controversy sparked me to come back to Fort Collins and get back involved with my alma mater as a coach. After four years as an assistant and six as the head coach of the Rams, I guess you could say that I had officially dedicated my life to both the program and the MCLA. It gave me some of my greatest memories as a human being. And a support system through some of my worst.
It also gave me a lot of the aforementioned “foot in mouth” moments. Sometimes the things we love the most are the things that can reduce us to our worst.
Now that Jac has to be the reasoned voice on this site, someone needs to stir things up.
But enough about me.
This MCLA season is shaping up extremely well with what looks like a lot of top end teams who have a chance to go on a run down the stretch.
With an ode to the good ol’ days, here is a biased, but mostly well-reasoned, slate of games and storylines that I will be following this weekend.
Who is the SLC South’s Top Dog?
The SLC South gets into it in a big way this weekend as San Diego State descends on the desert. Arizona State is the real story, however. The Devils had two major games postponed last weekend in Colorado and currently sit with a 2-3 record and no games since the March 12. Including a three-goal loss to Westminster (NCAA Div. III), ASU hasn’t won a game since Valentine’s Day against USC. Every game has weight for the Devils now and how they come out of this weekend will have a lot to say about their postseason chances.
GCU has put a couple of exclamation points on their schedule in the last few games. It’s not the biggest schedule for the ‘Lopes, and part of that has been what’s hurt them in my polls, but now they come to a four-week stretch playing four conference opponents – all in the top 25. These games will be the true litmus test of our defending national champions. But how will this team fare in a tournament situation and games back-to-back? Or four more in six days to get back to the final game of the year?
Arizona had a strong start, but a light bit of scheduling in March leaves questions about the defensively-minded 'Cats. They close with SLC South games for the remainder of the season.
Grand Canyon 12, Arizona State 9
Arizona 8, San Diego State 6
Arizona State 10, San Diego State 5
Is Boise for Real?
No one in the country has a more ambitious schedule than the Boise State Broncos, who have already had two-game weekends against Simon Fraser/BYU (home), at CSU/Colorado and at GCU/Arizona. The last four games have been against top ten competition. The Broncos have yet to post a true statement win, but were competitive up until the Arizona weekend. GCU and UofA handed Boise their most disappointing losses of the season thus far.
But now we’ll see if Jon Mundy’s scheduling strategy will help the Broncos reach the top of the PNCLL or relegate them into a four-way race for two spots in the PNCLL playoffs with Washington, Simon Fraser and Idaho.
Oregon State fell off the map against Chapman in one of their worst losses in several years. We’ll see how the Beavers respond playing Boise two days after the Broncos get the Ducks in Eugene.
Oregon 13, Boise State 11
Oregon State 8, Boise State 7
Comeuppance for Up and Comers?
Utah Valley, another early season darling, face a critical home stand as two MCLA powers come to town this weekend. The Wolverines upset Grand Canyon in the season’s first game, but outside of a couple close losses to New Hampshire and SDSU, they haven’t really made a lot of waves this season. They get Colorado State in Orem on Saturday.
The Rams. It will be hard for me to be unbiased with this group, but consider the facts. Colorado State’s defense has quietly put together a pretty stellar resume. Jake Bender is playing very solid behind a veteran group of defenders. Only Grand Canyon has cracked double digits against CSU. The Rams have an elite face-off man in Ryan Chamberlain and a still mostly young offense that is maturing as the year rolls on. I think CSU, despite what some may see as “disappointing wins,” are building towards something pretty good.
Colorado is also trying to bounce back from a tough loss at the hands of the UC Santa Barbara. A friend of mine thinks that the Buffs are still one of the favorites to make a run at the national championship despite some interesting results at this point in the season. It's hard to argue against John Galvin, who has appeared in three straight national championship games.
Colorado State 8, Utah Valley 5
Colorado 14, Utah Valley 10
Who’s Top of the Class in the PCLL?
The PCLL looks to be the strongest it has ever been. Quality coaches and extremely experienced players are the difference. Whereas ten years ago this would have seemed impossible, the PCLL might very well get and expect two bids to the tournament. UConn is 5-0 and rolling. With a huge win over Virginia Tech several weeks ago under its belts, this game is for a chance to jump into the Top 10. Boston College is another of the three teams benefiting from Grand Canyon’s early swoon. However, the Eagles made their win against the ‘Lopes count by taking down Arizona State. The Huskies likely need this game more than BC since the Eagles have a better schedule down the stretch.
Boston College 7, UConn 6