by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
Saturday will mark the start of the month-long countdown to May 9 and the beginning of the 2016 MCLA National Tournament powered by Under Armour. These next 32 days are going to fly by for everyone involved – the student-athletes, coaches, fans and, yes, even administrators. It’s crunch time.
A month out is also important because it means MCLA teams and player need to start getting their house in order if they have even the remotest aspirations of making the trip to Southern California.
What should be on your to-do checklist?
Let’s start with perhaps the most obvious: how’s that travel budget looking? The Monday after you pull off the massive upset that got you the unexpected AQ to nationals is not the time to be doing bake sales and car washes.
Maybe a preemptive email to alums and parents is in order. Are there are other fundraising opportunities between now and your conference tournament that you can utilize? Worst case scenario is your dues are cheaper next year or you take a better spring break trip. Don’t wait.
How about your rec sports director? Does he or she have all the information they need to allow a May trip to happen? It’s best not to make assumptions if you have serious plans for The OC. Double-check it.
There’s also a personal responsibility component involved in maintaining a focused approach in this last month.
Taking care of business on the academic end needs to be a priority as well as putting the team ahead of the individual. For example, during this last month, players should constantly be asking themselves, “Is this decision I’m about to make going to cost my team a trip to nationals?”
Trust me, it’s never too late to lose everything you’ve worked for during the past eight months or, in some cases, the last four years. Make sure it’s not you who messes it up.
There’s an added bonus in knowing that all of your ducks are in a row: you'll be playing with a clear head. When you don’t need to worry about the details, you can put all your mental energy into finishing the season strong, or possibly extending it into mid-May.
Again, don’t’ take anything for granted. SoCal in May is pretty sweet and we want you here.
No. 5 Brigham Young (8-3) at No. 8 Colorado State (8-2) –5 p.m., Saturday
These two are basically lead-pipe locks to make nationals, but the jockeying for conference seeds is always important. Both would like to grab the top seed and its favorable first round matchup, and a win here is the first step. As has been their recent tradition, CSU is leaning on its defense to cover for a sometimes less-than-dynamic offense. Goals have been bountiful for BYU during most of the season, but a couple of red flags went up with the 12-4 loss to Grand Canyon two weeks ago. They scored 10 against CU on Thursday, but gave up 15. Neither BYU or CSU will have a hard time getting up for this one, as usual.
No. 4 Grand Canyon (6-3) at No. 7 Arizona (7-2) – 7 p.m. Saturday
Getting the top seed in the SLC South is always a high priority, and a loss by Arizona pretty much knocks the LaxCats out of that hunt. Perhaps more concerning is a loss imperils Zona’s chances of even making the SLC tournament. Unfortunately for the Cats, Grand Canyon has found its groove. The Lopes fought their way through the early part of the season when they were searching for an identity, and now they appear to have it.
Georgia (11-0) at No. 2 Georgia Tech (10-0) – 1 p.m., Saturday
A couple of pretty records are on the line in this rivalry contest, although there is a pretty significant different in the quality of the schedules. Georgia Tech will be the Bulldogs first ranked opponent of the season, while the Yellow Jackets have already knocked off three ranked teams, including a rout of No. 9 Boston College. Rivalry games are weird, however, and Tech’s competition level has dropped off considerably. The Dawgs could catch the Wreck napping.
No. 1 St. Thomas (6-0) vs. No. 7 St. John’s (5-3) – 7:30 p.m., Friday
It’s a pretty thin weekend in Division II, but this rivalry game gives us something to look forward to. St. Thomas totes a newly-minted No. 1 ranking and, even though it’s tough not too feel for Concordia-Irvine getting jumped, it’s tough to argue with the Tommies résumé. The 14-7 wipeout of NDSU looks better every day and only Grand Valley State has shown the ability to even hang with UST. As such, St. John’s has a pretty big hill to climb. However, if rookie Ryan Nelson gets hot in the cage and the Johnnies turn it into a grinder, things will interesting quickly.