by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The 2017 Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference (GRLC) Division II campaign is going to be one filled with a lot of question marks, but the biggest benefactor of the recent upheaval appears to be Missouri State.
The GRLC shed five NAIA schools and a sixth program to the GLLL (DePaul), while adding a pair of new teams in Southern Illinois and Rose-Hulman. This has opened the door for the Bears to step into the favored role this spring.
As a result, Missouri State head coach Dustin Rich is riding the good vibes with inches of hard copy.
First round of recruit letters going out today. pic.twitter.com/duE0MwR8Vy
— Dustin Rich (@MSUCoach_Rich) October 11, 2016
Missouri State, like all GRLC teams, will find its avenue to SoCal through the conference's automatic qualifier, but the Bears have strung together a solid schedule, including a rugged trip to Minnesota in mid-February.
That should be helpful when the Bears shoot to return to nationals for the first time since 2010.
Team: Missouri State
2016 Record: 6-5
Conference record/finish: 1-1 / GRLC Quarterfinalist
Head Coach: Dustin Rich (5th year)
Matt Hanes -- The senior defender was the anchor of the Mo. State defense. He also presented an enormous threat in the transition game.
Mason Goodwin -- He was a four-year starter in goal for the Bears, setting career records games, saves and wins. Both he and Hanes will be tough to replace in 2017.
Austin Todd -- The senior midfielder scored 10 goals in 2016 and is captain of this year's team. He has really filled the leadership role for the offense and has the green light to shoot from 18 yards.
Gunner Serota -- The junior defender from Carthage, N.Y., is another captain for us. He will anchor down the defense as the top pole on the squad.
Best moment of the 2016 season
There were some good moments last year. If I had to pick one, I would say getting to end our season competing in our conference tournament. We hadn't qualified for the GRLC tournament in a couple of years, and even though we didn't go as far as we would've liked to go, we got to send our seniors out in the playoffs.
Biggest challenge facing Missouri State in 2017
It sounds cliche, but It has to be ourselves. I wish I could come up with something original, but the truth is, we're capable of playing really good lacrosse on both sides of the ball. When we're performing at 100 percent, we play some of the best ball I've seen during my time at Missouri State. The challenge is, we're not always playing our best ball, and as coaches we're always focusing on how we make that happen.
Why the Bears will be better in 2017
Leadership. Not just the captains, either. Our players know they're in control of their destiny. They know coaches don't pad up and play games with them. I think they're ready for the challenge. I think they're ready to take what's theirs.
We're definitely excited to be favored to win the GRLC and compete for a spot at nationals. Our team is about as mentally ready as we've been in a while, and I'm looking forward to the future at Missouri State.