by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – MCLA fans are being treated to a pair of in-season events this weekend that will act as showcases not only for their respective divisions, but for the MCLA as a whole.
There are 10 Division I programs converging on Owings Mills, Md., for the Battle for Baltimore while eight of the top teams in D-II are playing in a three-day round robin in Chicagoland.
These gatherings are both helpful and important occasions for the MCLA.
They are helpful because of the one-stop shopping it provides for its entrants. In the course of three days, a team can fulfill its non-conference requirement to stay eligible for an at-large bid while also splitting the field costs.
The importance of these large in-season functions is illustrated by the spotlight it shines on the association.
The Division II meet up in South Barrington this weekend for Judgement Weekend II provides one of the largest cities in the country – and a burgeoning lacrosse hotbed – with a series of games that only takes a backseat to nationals in terms of individual talent and marquee team match-ups.
Making a premium product available in a huge market can only be a good thing (as long as it doesn’t snow).
Similarly, the Battle for Baltimore inserts the MCLA into one of the seminal lacrosse staging grounds; a location that often times has its head in the sand about non-varsity lacrosse and/or is holding onto antiquated, ‘80s-era preconceptions about how we run our organization.
Now fans and interested spectators will get to see numerous “name” institutions play a quality of brand of lacrosse that can instantly dispel any tired assumptions about the MCLA.
If a couple of casual fans walk away understanding what the MCLA has to offer and some youngsters realize that their lacrosse dreams aren't limited to the East Coast, organizing the event was a success.
As for the organizing, it is no simple task. It’s one thing to work out all of the logistics of a large tournament-type event – the fields, practice space, officials, locker rooms, hotels – on your home field and it’s completely different trying to do it at a neutral site.
As any MCLA coach or administrator can tell you, there are a lot of moving parts with our teams, and they can shift from day to day. Herding all of these teams and pulling off a quality affair is no small task. Those that are involved should be applauded loudly.
Not every team can participate in these types of events, and not every coach or team president has the time to organize one. But they are always an option, and the opportunity to showcase our product should always be a priority.
Games of Note
No. 1 Georgia Tech at No. 5 Colorado, 5 p.m. – Friday
We’ll have to incorporate Georgia Tech’s game against No. 10 Colorado State on Saturday into this analysis because that’s the story line here. Can the Jackets deal with the distractions that come from traveling two time zones away and beat two grizzled, confident teams on their own turf?
Fortunately for Tech, they are the only complete team of the three because the Buffs have struggled defensively and the Rams have stumbled on offense at times. That doesn’t guarantee wins, but it gives the Ramblin’ Wreck a chance for the sweep, which was a very unlikely occurrence in years past.
No. 8 Arizona State at No. 3 Grand Canyon, 7 p.m. – Friday
The Lopes are going all out in this contest that will almost certainly determine the top seed in the SLC South. GCU is hosting the game in its new stadium and publicizing the contest with the title, “Date with the Devil.” The game will be free admission to ramp up the crowd (and will also be live streamed).
The game itself will not disappoint, as it features a gritty defensive team in ASU against a Lopes outfit that is starting to find its rhythm offensively. Both of these teams will be at nationals, so the stakes aren’t massive, but this crosstown rivalry is all about bragging rights.
No. 17 Connecticut vs. No. 7 Florida State, 8 p.m. – Saturday
The Huskies make their second foray south of the Mason-Dixon line when they visit Lynchburg for a double-dip with Liberty and the Noles. UConn gets the luxury of facing FSU on full rest while the Seminoles will be coming off a game against the No. 25 Flames on Friday night.
UConn impressed in its narrow loss to Georgia Tech, but they’ll need a clean sweep of Liberty and FSU to be in any kind of at-large hunt (and that might be a stretch). The Noles are in a nice spot right now, but they can’t afford to be ceding their hard-won ranking against a PCLL hopeful. Pressure is on FSU.
No. 9 Chapman at No. 6 Cal Poly, 12 p.m. - Sunday
Has there ever been a championship rematch with the two teams ranked this low? Could be, but with a stacked schedule over the weekend, this usually marquee matchup has taken a back seat. The Mustangs have the revenge factor, but the Panthers need another ranked win. We’ll see what motivation is more powerful.
No. 3 Grand Valley State vs. No. 1 St. Thomas, 12:30 p.m. – Friday
Another week, another brutal match-up for Grand Valley State. The Lakers breezed by CCLA rival Dayton last week, but the bar goes up a couple of notches on Friday with a rematch with the Tommies.
St. Thomas has been its usual clinical self, controlling the pace of play while throwing waves and waves of offensive players at their opponents until they succumb. GVSU has the talent and depth to roll with the Tommies, but the ability to play mistake-free will be the key. Can they?
No. 9 St. John’s vs. No. 7 Kennesaw State, 1 p.m. – Friday
Who are these teams? St. John’s has lost in its own barn to teams from California and Montana while KSU’s best victory is against Grove City. Unless one of these two can go on a run in South Barrington, this has an 8-9 seed preview written all over it.
No. 6 Dayton vs. No. 4 North Dakota State, 3 p.m. – Friday
Whoever wins this game will have its best win of the season. Dayton has single-handedly made Bridgewater State a (near) Top 10 team while NDSU helped put Concordia-Irvine in the No. 2 slot. It’s pretty much assured that whichever team finds enough goals will be at No. 4 next week.
No. 13 Minn.-Duluth vs. No. 14 Grove City, 3:30 p.m. – Friday
The loser is going to feel very uncomfortable about its nationals potential.