by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Changing a team’s culture in the MCLA is not easy. In fact, I would say it’s probably the toughest challenge facing a new coach trying to get an established program on a postseason track.
That’s what makes the University of Southern California's turnaround so remarkable.
For those not familiar with the Trojans’ program arc, they had established a reputation for not following through on their commitments. It was a philosophy that truncated several seasons and amassed a sizable stack of fines within the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference.
It was saddening.
Not just because of the inconvenience to the conference and its members, but because of the lost potential. There was no reason, other than internal dedication, that kept the Trojans from being a formidable MCLA outfit.
There is also the fact that USC is a “name” school in the MCLA. The better USC is, the better it is for our organization as a whole.
A confluence of events – and individuals – started to turn the ship in the right direction last year.
“I’d say the stabilization of the program is due to the work that Peter Hollen, Dan Moriarty and Charlie Meister have put in,” said USC coach Jake van Nostrand. “Those three really helped build the program before I took over and I’m just looking to continue the work and those guys started.”
Hollen, an All-American long-stick midfielder from California prep power Torrey Pines who graduated last year, asked more of his fellow student-athletes while Moriarty increased the expectations during his one year as head coach in ‘18.
Meister, the long-time USC general manager, oversaw the entire process, which meant playing a strong Arizona team on the road Saturday in the season opener.
“I wanted our guys to get a sense of the teamwork it takes to win in college lacrosse, no matter what the level,” said van Nostrand of scheduling the Wildcats right out of the chute.
In a back-and-forth battle, the Trojans pulled out a 10-9 victory.
“I think [sophomore middie] Ryder Mora really stepped up for us as well as [junior middie] Cormac Bateman on offense,” continued van Nostrand. “Our defense returned from last year, but it was a great team effort today.”
It’s a huge win. Not only because of the confidence it creates, but the continued affirmation that this program is on the right course.
Alas, Troy wasn’t built in a day, and top-ranked Chapman is up next on Wednesday. A win there might be a little bit too much to ask for the Trojans at this point, but they’ll be showing up for this conference game – something that wasn’t always a given.
“I hope our guys are excited to be the first team to test Chapman this year,” van Nostrand said.
Gamecocks Grab a Tough Victory
Everyone loves style points.
There’s nothing better than walking off the field with the swagger of a dominating performance. You know, the kind of win that resonates in both locker rooms.
And sometimes you just need to tip your cap to your opponent, take your ‘W’ and move onto the next contest.
The latter is where South Carolina should be right now, as they walk away from their home battle with Florida State with an 8-6 victory that seemed unlikely after the first 30 minutes.
At halftime, the Gamecocks were in a 4-1 hole and, at first glance, in significant trouble.
“They beat us to the 50-50 ground balls in the first half,” said USC coach James Harkey. “We also didn't do a great job of sharing the ball during too many possessions.”
Is the crease dive back? According to @CocksLacrosse middie Griffin Giles, the crease dive is definitely back. : @Chrislohoff #mcla19 pic.twitter.com/1IcGSX1Akq
— MCLA (@MCLA) February 11, 2019
With the help of Griffin Giles – credited with a pair of goals and two dimes – USC rallied by outscoring the Seminoles 7-2 over the final 30 minutes.
Should we be surprised?
“Credit goes to Florida State,” Harkey said. “They brought a winning attitude and it showed in their sense of urgency from start to finish. I’m really proud of our guys for rising to the occasion. We have plenty to work on but, after tonight, I don't doubt this group will fight together for 60 minutes week in and week out.”
There are a lot of new faces on this USC team. The numbers on the roster have been shuffled like a deck of cards. Giles has moved from No. 0 back to his freshman number (54) just to keep things fresh. Or something
What is old is new again.
And what is also new is South Carolina’s regular season winning streak, which now stands at 15.
If they want to get to Sweet 16, they’ll have to beat No. 15 Georgia on Friday.
Owl Be There for You
No. 8 Kennesaw State improved to 3-0 with a pair of victories over ranked teams this weekend, thanks to the continued outstanding play of goalie Jay Molander.
Fresh off earning Pearl’s Goalie of the Week honor, Molander made 16 saves against No. 13 Missouri State while allowing just two goals. He followed that up with another superb performance against No. 20 North Florida with 12 stops in a 9-8 victory.
“Our man-down unit played lights out, holding [MoState] to 0-for-8 on EMO,” said Kennesaw State coach Alex Gavilla about Friday’s game. “That was a very bright spot if I had to give credit to one defensive unit. Honestly, it was just another great day from Jay Molander. He seems to be our defensive rock this year.”
With Molander leading the way, the Owls are in a nice spot. They’ve got a couple of quality wins in their back pocket and they can start to ramp up toward “Judgement Weekend” in Nashville in early March when they play No. 2 St. Thomas and No. 3 Minn.-Duluth.
“Our players and coaches understand what that tradition means and how hard previous players and coaches worked to keep it that way,” Gavilla said. “We plan on keeping it that way for as long as possible.”
Slides & Rides
Cal improved to 2-0 by downing Cal Poly. Now the Bears get No. 1 Chapman and No. 13 Arizona State back-to-back this weekend…Minnesota won’t get any committee points with its two wins this weekend, but it showed the Gophers are ready for the upcoming challenges…Florida will have plenty of confidence heading to Georgia Tech on Friday. The Gators swept LSU and Oklahoma in Baton Rouge…BYU breezed to a 21-3 win over Boise State…Concordia-Irvine is going to be a handful this spring. They wiped out UCLA…Auburn is 3-0 and averaging 16 goals per outing…Pac-12 Shootout this weekend.
Congrats @UTSALacrosse on their Taco Trophy 3-peat! @MCLA @LSALacrosse pic.twitter.com/r20SujvgF6
— San Antonio Tacos (@SanAntonioTacos) February 10, 2019
Kennesaw State hasn’t lost a home game since March 23, 2013…rough weekend for Missouri State, posting an 0-3 mark, including a heartbreaking, 8-7 double-overtime loss on Sunday to No. 20 North Florida when the Bears had a three-point lead in the fourth. On a positive note, MoState is going to be well-prepared for the LSA grind. They’re still the favorite in that league…have to keep our eye on UNC-Charlotte now after the MoState win. The 49ers have Kennesaw in two weeks…UT-San Antonio is the Taco Trophy champions!
Get those Commanding Performance of the Week and Pearl’s Goalie of the Week nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP!