by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Chapman doesn’t get out much.
Sure, they make the off-year trip Colorado and have taken the random trip to Oregon and Texas under the Dallas Hartley regime, but that strange land east of the Mississippi River might as well be a different planet.
(NOTE: This column doesn’t believe Greenville ever happened. Urban legend).
That’s what makes this weekend’s three-way between the Panthers, Boston College and Georgia Tech in the ATL – the A-Town Showdown, if you will – so interesting. Getting a national power out of its geographical comfort zone makes for an compelling storyline.
If you’re driving through the ATL, you’ll see that the word is out. #mcla18 #RaceforSaltLake
A post shared by The MCLA (@the_mcla) on
That’s certainly not the only plot this weekend.
Much to the chagrin of the Georgia Tech, Chapman has ended the last two Yellow Jackets’ seasons in the nationals semifinals, with 2017 finishing in excruciating fashion. A win would provide a measure of solace, but this Wreck team is much different than the last two years.
“We have a very young squad: three seniors, 19 rookies,” said Tech coach Ken Lovic. “Playing high-caliber teams like this will certainly help us, but this is just the beginning of a really tough four weeks of lacrosse. We hope this time will allow us to gain some experience as we work towards the postseason goals we have established for ourselves."
Chapman is more experienced, if only because the Panthers have the incomparable Dylan Garner on their roster (named "Mr. Oregon" by Inside Lacrosse yesterday), but this weekend’s expectations aren’t too much different than Georgia Tech’s.
“Any time you venture away from home, it is a great opportunity for the guys on the team to jell, compete, and have some fun,” said Hartley. “The goal is to build as a team throughout the year, so we will be looking to make adjustments as necessary against two great teams.”
What is the MCLA D-I Game of the Week for the period ending Feb. 25? #mcla18
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) February 19, 2018
From a coaching standpoint, Boston College head man Louie DeDonatis is an outlier in this three-way. Hartley has numerous high school coaching accolades and an MCLA title. Lovic has been at GT for two decades and led the Jackets to two straight national semifinals.
DeDonatis is in his second year in Chestnut Hill after graduating from Grand Canyon in ’15 and last year was an important learning experience. Now he’s a bright, innovative young coach sitting on wealth of talent, which can be a dangerous combination.
“Georgia Tech and Boston College are similar in the fact that both have great athletes on both sides of the ball and are well coached and well prepared,” Hartley said.
DeDonatis is wise enough to know what is awaiting him in A-Town.
“We certainly hope to go 2-0, but the reality is when you play teams of this caliber, you really have to play near perfect games to beat them and we know that,” he said. “Our challenge is doing all of the little things right. Channeling every ounce of energy and focus we have for 120 minutes this weekend and playing our best lacrosse.”
For an MCLA wonk like myself, the the most interesting part of the Throwdown is which new faces will emerge as big pieces of their team’s puzzle. For instance, Georgia Tech will have to lean on some fresh offensive faces whether they want to or not.
“With our captain and leader Timmy Peterson out for a few weeks, we hope to get some offensive production from guys like [middies] Riley Callaghan and Evan Juncal,” Lovic said.
“Our under-the-radar guys worth keeping an eye on are junior captain Parker Core, who is a do-it-all midfielder, and senior captain Kipp Planchard, who is our vocal leader on defense and plays the wing on faceoffs,” added Hartley.
Tomorrow night in Harder Stadium, the Gauchos face 5th ranked Arizona State at 7pm. Let’s go!
A post shared by UCSB Men's Lacrosse (@ucsblacrosse) on
BC senior pole Ryan Neff isn’t an under-the-radar guy – he’s a two-time All-American – but DeDonatis thinks this weekend will be his true debutante ball as he'll be going mano y mano with Garner.
“I believe Ryan Neff is the single best defender to have ever played in the MCLA and certainly the most underrated,” DeDonatis said. “Dylan Garner’s resume speaks for itself. I played against him when he was a freshman and even then he was virtually unstoppable. I trust Neff against him, though. I think a lot of people are going to watch our game this weekend and really be impressed by the play of No. 43.”
Wow. OK, now I’m really ready for the A-Town Showdown. Thank goodness Chapman is getting out more.
* * *
A lot of eyes will be on the A-Town Showdown, but this a full weekend for premium Division I entertainment. Top-ranked Grand Canyon shakes off the cobwebs with games against No. 11 Cal Poly and No. 14 UC Santa Barbara.
The Lopes have Cam Wengreniuk, Jack Lamey and Jordan Vicente as a nice foundation, but there are a lot of unproven pieces in the line-up. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some growing pains this weekend. Not losses, necessarily, but perhaps a closer than expected shave.
What is the MCLA D-II Game of the Week for the period ending Feb. 25? #mcla18
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) February 20, 2018
St. Thomas puts its No. 1 ranking to the test against No. 8 Duluth. Remember that the Bulldogs stung the Tommies during the regular season last year, handing UST its first setback.
The Division II clash between Oklahoma State and Baylor doesn’t feature a ranked team, but it should be highly entertaining. It also might be a preview of a future LSA tournament game with a lot more riding on it.
I’ll be tracking Texas A&M on its three-game tour of Florida. If the Aggies can pull off the sweep, they will be 10-0 with only two games left in the regular season.
NOTES: Fun little three-way in Vegas with Arizona, Nevada and UNLV. The Wildcats have control of the_mcla Snapchat account, so swing on by…they only have half the traditional schools participating, but the Big 12 is having a little gathering at Baylor…Boise will try and steal one from Oregon or Oregon State this weekend and keep them in play for the PNCLL postseason…No. 17 Liberty at No. 15 South Carolina will be a peach on Sunday…as always, Commanding Performance of the Week coach’s nominations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday morning.