by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – In the final scene of the movie Fight Club, Edward Norton’s character turns to the woman standing next to him as buildings are crashing down all around them and says, “You met me at a very strange time in my life.”
Similarly, we’ll be watching No. 3 Grand Valley State and No. 5 Dayton this weekend at a very strange point in their existence. You know, besides all the schizophrenic and nihilistic subplots.
Both the Lakers and Flyers are members of CCLA Division II, which is currently a three-team party with no automatic qualifier. The NAIA exodus ravaged the league, leaving it with just a trio of core members, and one of those – Grove City – will be matriculating at NCAA Division II next spring.
As a way to keep some kind of normalcy, the CCLA is actually hosting a D-II tournament this year, with the second and third seeds meeting on April 22 with the winner facing the top seed a week later following the CCLA Division I semifinals.
There won’t be much on the line, mind you. If the final is between the Flyers and Lakers, as it appears very likely to be, it will feature two outfits that are locks for the MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour. There might be some seeding implications, but that’s about it.
Despite all the odd logistical aspects of the CCLA right now, when Grand Valley State and Dayton meet, as they will on Saturday at noon in Rockford, Mich., it is a must-follow game.
Let’s start with the fact that this duo owns two of the last three Division II national champions as GVSU won it ’14 (and was about 15 minutes away from winning it again last year) while Dayton walked away with the ’15 crown. They are still championship-caliber programs and fully in the hunt this spring.
The history between the teams adds to the match-up's cachet. On its way to championship in ’15, Dayton lost to GVSU in the CCLA tourney. Similarly, before making its run to the national finals last spring, the Lakers were knocked out of the conference tourney by the Flyers.
Perhaps the most compelling part about a Dayton-Grand Valley game is there are no short cuts when these two teams meet. You’re not going to see any gimmicks or fancy plays. The winner on Saturday will be the team that is tougher, smarter and executes the best.
It’s lacrosse at its purest.
A bit of normalcy might be returning to the lives of Dayton and GVSU in the future. Despite the departure of Grove City, there are rumors being bandied about that several teams are ready to jump in and get back the automatic qualifier for CCLA-II. Or maybe a conference change is in the offing.
Fortunately, the first rule of the Flyers-Lakers rivalry is none of the peripheral stuff really matters. This game will always be special.
Games of Note
No. 3 Grand Canyon at No. 25 Sonoma State, 4 p.m. – Friday
This is a monster game for the Seawolves. While they certainly won’t lose much credit in a loss, they need a big bump to stay among the bubble contenders for the last couple of spots in the tournament.
Noma was buoyed by the three-win East Coast swing, but none of those wins are going to move the needle. It’s obviously not a must-win, but Panchito Ojeda and company would be wise to treat it as such.
No. 24 Liberty at No. 5 Colorado, 6 p.m. – Friday
The Flames need a confidence boost as it heads into the final six games of the regular season – five of which are coming against ranked teams – and knocking off the Buffs would be a tasty start. But Liberty needs goals.
That’s weird to say after the kind of numbers the Flames were putting up in years past, but someone has to put them on their back. The Buffs are going to give up some goals. They are not a great defensive team, but you’re going to have to outscore them. That’s Liberty’s challenge.
No. 14 Boston College at New Hampshire, 12 p.m. – Saturday
Hey, look! It’s Boston College! The Eagles come out of their hibernation for a season-opening affair in Durham. BC was supposed to open last weekend, but weather put a stop to that, so Louie DeDonatis will eye his first win against a conference rival. The Wildcats would love to spoil Louie's debut.
No. 8 Arizona State at No. 20 San Diego State, 1 p.m. – Saturday
The Aztecs are in a pickle. The divisional loss to Arizona has them needing at least two wins in the SLC South to make the conference tournament. Meanwhile, with the Sun Devils’ win over UNLV last week, Arizona State just needs one more win to wrap up their bid (although I’m sure their sights are slightly higher). That’s the drama here.
No. 15 UC Santa Cruz at No. 23 Southern Oregon, 7 p.m. – Friday
The Banana Slugs have been one of the quickest risers in the MCLA D-II polls over the past couple of weeks, peaking this week at No. 15. The win over No. 18 Northern Arizona was a nice triumph, but there is some skepticism – at least from this guy – about that rank.
Fortunately, the Slugs get to put their 6-0 mark to the test with games against No. 23 Southern Oregon and No. 24 College of Idaho in Ashland, Ore. A sweep here and I’m a full member of Slug Nation.
No. 5 Dayton at No. 3 Grand Valley State, 12 p.m. – Saturday
We’ve been over this above. One thing to keep an eye on is the faceoff units. It sounds somewhat contrived, but that part of the game is what will win this game and ultimately determine how viable these teams are for the long haul.
No. 17 Metro State at No. 2 Concorida-Irvine, 2 p.m. – Saturday
The Roadrunners picked up a monster win over No. 16 San Diego on Thursday night to avoid the possibility of a West Coast sweep like the one suffered by RMLC colleague Fort Lewis last week. Metro did it with defense, too, holding the Toreros to just four goals in the 6-4 triumph. That's good, because the 'Runners will need a stiff backline to handle the wide open Eagles. It seems like a stretch, but Metro is already playing with house money, so they should be fast and loose.
No. 24 College of Idaho at No. 23 Southern Oregon, 12 p.m. – Sunday
We’re still trying to figure out the PNCLL and who is really the big dog. This contest will help get a slightly clearer picture. The Raiders are still stinging from their loss to Western Washington a couple of weeks ago, and a loss to the Yotes would probably knock them out of any chance for a top seed in the conference tourney. At 5-0 and ranked for the first time this year in program history, COI has all the momentum.