by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – As he was walking off the field after Concordia’s 11-9 victory over North Dakota State in the semifinals of the 2017 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour, then-Eagles’ coach Ryan Brent looked relieved.
“If my team played with the same discipline that they have, we wouldn’t lose a game,” he said, reverentially talking about the Bison’s approach to the sport under Zach Bosh.
It was a cool moment because despite advancing to the championships for the second time in three years, Brent was able to take a second to acknowledge what many people know.
NDSU is always going to give you a game.
What is the D-II Game of the Week for the period ending April 8? #mcla18
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) April 3, 2018
In years past, the Bison have always been working from an underdog position, whether it be in the semifinals of the tournament or against any of the “name” D-II programs.
Now they are the biggest bully on the block and appear to be headed toward favorite status in Salt Lake City as the No. 1 seed. Obviously, this involves bouncing former bully St. Thomas on Sunday and taking care of business in the UMLC tourney.
Both are things that look likely at this point.
So the question begs: can NDSU win the whole enchilada?
If you had asked me in December, or whenever it was that I heard that the Bison lost their first team All-American attackman Kevin Sturgeon to transfer, it would have been a resounding no.
Not only has the Herd brushed off that departure, they seem to have improved. Much of that, of course, is due to the defensive play, which is as salty as they come.
Led by senior close defender Evan Schraut and aided by the likes of sophomore Jack Dietz and Tanner Straus, NDSU is allowing 5.3 goals a game against one of the best schedules in the country.
The four Top 10 teams they’ve faced have only fared slightly better (5.8). This is a team built for postseason success.
A win over No. 2 St. Thomas, which has been operating under the radar this spring since its loss to Duluth in late February, would eliminate any questions about NDSU’s dominance.
If there were any to begin with, that is.
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Come on out tonight as we take on @pittlacrosse for our annual Midnight Mayhem Game! Don’t miss out on all the free t-shirts and other prizes! If you are not able to make it, you can also stream it live through ESPN 3#MidnightMayhem #LibertyLax #PlayingWithFire #GoFlames #GameDay
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Plenty More UMLC Action
The No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between NDSU and St. Thomas is just one of three Top 6 matchups this weekend in the UMLC.
On Saturday evening, No 4 St. John’s hosts the Tommies in the annual grudge match that has to be considered one of the best rivalries in MCLA Division II.
Over on the eastern side of the UMLC, No. 6 Dayton hosts No. 5 Grand Valley State in a rivalry tilt that is on the same level as the Johnnies-Tommies collision.
None of these games are make-or-break affairs for the participants, it’s just the seemingly never-ending jockeying for conference and national seeding.
What is the D-I Game of the Week for the period ending April 8? #mcla18
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) April 3, 2018
SELC Tipping the Scales
Upon the release of this week’s Under Armour MCLA Division I Weekly Coaches Poll, it was noted that the SELC had placed eight teams in the Top 25. For you math wizards out there, that’s nearly a third of ranking.
More interesting is the eight teams that were ranked are in synch with the octet that are on pace to qualify for the conference tournament in Johns Creek, Ga., on April 20-22.
If the season ended today the bracket would look like this (with national rankings to the left):
#22 Clemson vs. #20 Florida State
#13 Georgia Tech vs. #9 Liberty
#25 Florida vs. #4 South Carolina
#10 Virginia Tech vs. #16 Georgia
That’s the kind of draw that gets you a couple of at-large bids to nationals in addition to the automatic qualifier.
Keep an eye on a pair of games this weekend in the SELC. The first one is the Game of the Week as No. 4 South Carolina puts its undefeated mark on the line against No. 10 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
On Friday night, Georgia entertains Florida State in what could very well be an elimination game from at-large status.
#20 Florida State travels to Athens today to take on #16 Georgia at 7pm! #gameday #EAT
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On Wednesday, No. 1 Chapman posted a 20-5 victory over Claremont. On the surface, it appeared to be a garden variety conference tilt. In actuality, it was a symbol of Chapman's dominance.
The win over the Cougars was the 50th consecutive victory in SLC North competition, dating back to the inception of the conference 10 years ago. In short, the Panthers have never lost a regular season conference game. Not bad.
LSA-I South Lined Up
With Texas' 11-7 victory over Texas State on Thursday night, the seeding in the LSA South has been established. Texas A&M will be at the top of the bracket, followed by the Longhorns, LSU and the Bobcats.
The LSA North still has to be fleshed out this weekend. The biggest game will likely come Sunday when Arkansas and Texas Tech meet with the winner grabbing the fourth seed and the other going home.
The LSA tournament begins next weekend.
Big weekend for the Chos with two SLC North Division games. At Concordia Saturday and home vs Claremont on Sunday.
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NOTES: The march towards conference tournament season continues this weekend with a host of league affairs. Of the 101 games taking place Friday through Sunday, 67 of them count against the league standings…if you want to take your own highlight videos of your favorite player or team from the sidelines, download the Rapid Replay app and shine the spotlight on your program…Liberty is hosting its annual Midnight Mayhem event tonight when they host Pitt. The game will be streamed on ESPN3…UC San Diego upset No. 15 San Diego on Thursday evening. Rough loss for the Toreros...if you expect to qualify for nationals, make sure to take a hi-rez team photo for the program and either upload it to your roster page or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.