by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – The numbers are staggering. A cursory look at the Liberty stat sheet from last year shows the Flames losing 92 goals and 99 assists from its recently graduated six-man senior class.
For scale, that’s 55 percent of Liberty’s total goals for the season out the door. Left behind is an extremely young – 23 of the 28 roster spots are filled by freshmen or sophomores – squad.
Has a door of opportunity closed with the departure of the prolific class of ’16?
“I don’t think that any doors were closed in regards to this program, but I do feel bad that we were not able to accomplish more with those guys,” said Liberty coach Kyle McQuillan. “They have been such a big part of getting this team to where we are now, and for them to not get the chance to win an SELC championship at the Division I level and attend nationals was tough.
“So the door has been closed for those guys, but this program will continue to move forward and get better each year. We have a very young team, but probably our most talented overall, and there is going to be a ton of opportunity for players to step into new roles and have an impact.”
The callowness of the Flames’ roster will almost certainly change the game-to-game approach. Liberty still has seasoned offensive players like junior attackmen Sam Gregory (33g, 16a in ’16) and Nick Lombardozzi (26g, 10a), but that won’t be enough to sustain the wide-open tactics used in years past.
“There will be some changes for sure,” admitted McQuillan. “You have to coach for the team that you have, but there are definitely some aspects about our program that will remain the same. We will continue to be a very good team on the offensive side of the ball, but I also know that we feel confident about our defense. We need to have balance, and I think Georgia Tech was a great example of that last year.”
McQuillan holds the Yellow Jackets in the highest regards. Even though the two teams won’t face each other in the regular season, the Liberty coach respects the way Tech punishes its opponents for their mistakes. He hopes his team can emulate that to a degree.
The biggest test comes Monday when No. 20 Liberty hops off the bus in southeastern Michigan after a 10-hour ride to face No. 18 Michigan State at 2:30 p.m. EST. The Spartans just finished a sweep of No. 23 Minnesota and Indiana over the weekend and are looking like once again the team to beat in the CCLA.
And that’s just what McQuillan was banking on.
“As of the last poll, every team we play outside of the SELC is currently ranked,” he said. “This is done by design in an effort to prepare our team with the most competitive schedule we can make, and provide us with as much exposure across the MCLA as possible.”
In addition to Michigan State, No. 25 Sonoma, No. 2 Colorado, No. 6 Colorado State, No. 19 Connecticut and No. 22 Davenport are all on the docket. All of the contests will be a severe test for the Flames.
These games also act as a door for Liberty to step through and reach the next level.
“Our guys expect a tough schedule, and we are always up for a challenge,” McQuillan said. “They are excited to play against some of the best teams in the country to prepare them for what is hopefully another run at an SELC Championship and our first bid to nationals as a Division I program.”
School’s In Session for Bridgewater
In my Weekender piece on Friday, I hypothesized that this weekend’s trip to Central Pennsylvania to face No. 5 Dayton and No. 9 Grove City would be an education of sorts for Bridgewater State.
I just didn’t bank on the Bears being the teacher instead of the pupil.
Bridgewater, ranked 16th, subdued the Flyers on Friday afternoon, 5-4, to record the biggest win in program history thanks to 15 saves from Joe Marmion and two points apiece for Nate Rock (2g), Tom Lewis (1g, 1a) and Seth McGreal (2a).
The weekend had to be downgraded from epic to simply outstanding when Saturday’s game against Grove City was called at halftime because of lightning with the two teams tied at five. Bridgewater was leading early on in the contest, 5-2, before the Wolverines knotted it at the break. What kind of credit both teams will receive from the selection committee for this truncated contest will be interesting to see.
Regardless, the Bears have upgraded their status as overwhelming favorites in the PCLL into what could potentially be a workable seed at the 2017 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour.
Big win for the Rebels last night! Thanks to all those who came out to support! #unlvlacrosse @the_mcla
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Division I Notes
- We’re not even into March yet and half of the members of the first Under Armour Division I poll have taken at least one loss, including four in the Top 10. This past week was particularly rough on ranked outfits with No. 1 Cal Poly, No. 2 Colorado (twice), No. 4 BYU and No. 6 Colorado State all taking a hit.
The three most important survivors with unblemished records are Grand Canyon, Georgia Tech and California. All are candidates for the No. 1 spot in Wednesday’s poll and have shown they are national championship-caliber squads.
- Brigham Young had the wildest ride of the weekend. The Cougars looked like they’d be out of the Top 10 after losing to unranked UNLV on Friday afternoon. Now they'll likely stand pat in the polls -- or close to it -- after upending Cal Poly on Saturday.
As any gambler will tell you, walking away from Vegas with a push is as good as a win, but there are still some concerns about BYU. Namely, scoring six goals per game is not going to get it done for the rest of the season. The offense needs to wake up and do it quickly, although this may prove to be a beneficial, low-cost learning moment.
- Like UC Santa Barbara before it, Chapman found the NorCal swing to be an up-and-down affair. Both the Panthers and Gauchos were out-classed by California in the first leg only to find a mild form of redemption against Stanford. Utah will be the opponent to undertake this double-dip in two weeks during their spring break trip. Utes beware!
- Oregon State quietly keeps stacking up the wins. Beavers now 6-0 heading into a weekend in Palm Desert against SDSU and USC…not a great weekend for the GRLC. Indiana took a pair of losses in Michigan while Purdue were steamrolled by both NC State and Clemson…Virginia Tech lost to South Carolina, 10-8, killing momentum heading into the Hokies' spring break trip to the desert to face GCU, ASU and Zona…one would think that with the volatility of the current teams included in the poll, Texas (5-0) will find a way to sneak in this week.
Division II Notes
- Montana State’s offense appears to be working just fine. At least judging things by the first two games of the season. The Bobcats downed Division I Utah State, 19-14 behind five goals (!) and eight assists (!!) from junior Louis Richman. MSU followed that up by dropping a thirty-burger on Weber State in a 30-1 rout. A pair of divisional games are on tap this weekend for the Bobcats.
- I was expecting to feature slightly more offensive fireworks from College of Idaho and Gonzaga, but the 13-9 win by the Yotes was still entertaining. With this opening-season victory, COI will almost assuredly be 6-0 -- and perhaps even ranked -- heading into its division showdown with No. 14 Southern Oregon in late March.
With a goal in the third Jon Prichard owns the record for Most Points in Biola Lacrosse history. #mcla17 #colossians317
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- Because it’s been a bit of a slow start to the season in terms of premium games, we’ll take a quick peek ahead at some premium games next weekend. See if there’s something here that tickles your fancy.
March 3: No. 1 St. Thomas at No. 3 North Dakota State, 8 p.m.
March 4: No. 4 Concordia-Irvine at No. 6 St. John’s, 7 p.m.
March 5: No. 4 Concordia-Irvine at No. 3 North Dakota State, 12 p.m.
Also, in terms of cross-divisional games, No. 8 Sierra Nevada visiting No. 1 Cal Poly is intriguing.
- Long Beach’s 11-8 win over UCSD keeps The Beach alive in the race for the SLC tourney. The Tritons are going to have pull some upsets…just in case you wondering if Dayton was down a little bit this year, they beat Southern Conn., 22-5 and Bridgeport, 21-1. Bridgewater State didn’t beat either of those teams by more than 10 goals last year. (This is a round-about way of saying that the Bears' win was no fluke)…happy trails to Wake Forest, which has concluded its nine-game schedule, but wasn't able to qualify for the SELC tourney. See you next year!