by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Magical. That’s the only way to describe South Carolina’s run to the national semifinals last year.
It started with a 16-0 streak start to the season, but the game that really opened the nation’s eyes to the Gamecocks' intentions was the 19-5 annihilation of Florida State in Tallahassee on Feb. 18.
South Carolina posted a nine-goal second quarter and then blanked the Seminoles in the second half in one of the most thorough loses the ‘Noles have taken in quite some time.
Now the two meet again tonight, and there’s plenty on the line for both.
What is the MCLA Division I Game of the Week for the period ending Feb. 10? #mcla19
— MCLA Tournament '19 (@MCLA_Tournament) February 5, 2019
In the wake of last year’s success, USC has pushed all of its chips into the pot. They are playing as good a schedule as anyone in the country, featuring all three of last year’s semifinalists on the road.
It’s a schedule that succinctly says, “We believe we can with the whole thing, and we’re going for the top seed.”
On the other side of the field will be a Florida State team looking for redemption against the Gamecocks for the aforementioned thrashing as well as atonement for 2018 season, which held so much promise.
A one-goal road loss to Texas probably kept the ‘Noles out of the 2018 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour as the last at-large qualifier. A win over Clemson in the SELC tourney first round might have done the trick, too.
New coach Darby Brower is at the helm, and he knows a win over the Gamecocks can put the Seminoles on the fast track to Salt Lake City in early February.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to challenge our guys Friday night against a strong South Carolina team,” Brower said. “The Gamecocks had a great run last year in both the SELC and MCLA tournaments, and that big-game experience will certainly help them.”
“Early in the season, we are looking to find our true identity as a team and Friday night is the first real step in doing so,” Darby continued. “We have high expectations for this group and they want to reset the standard for the program moving forward. Can’t wait!”
Alas, James Harkey and South Carolina view the ‘Noles as a great way to build up to championship Saturday.
“We're excited to get back after it,” Harkey said. “Our guys are tired of beating each other up but they've been doing a great job of competing in practice. We've got an exciting blend of returning contributors and fresh faces, and I can't wait to see how they put it together when it counts. Glad to have Florida State visiting us in Columbia to start the year. They are always a tough opponent and we'll have to bring our A game right out of the gates.”
These are the games that make February great.
View this post on Instagram#Bison Nation! The Herd kicks off the 2019 season this weekend against a pair of MCLA Division One opponents at the Bielenberg Sports Center in Woodbury, MN! The Herd will take on the University of Minnesota this Friday @ 8:45PM. Saturday, the Herd will face Iowa State University @ 9:45PM. #GoBison #SKIYUH
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When teams from different divisions square off, it rarely has any lasting consequence for either squad in terms of postseason viability. With that said, these games can still be compelling.
Take Friday night’s game between Division II No. 1 North Dakota State and Division I No. 23 Minnesota. This legitimately has the potential to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend.
D-II No. 1 North Dakota State is facing D-I No. 23 Minnesota this weekend. How will it shake out? #mcla19
— MCLA (@MCLA) February 6, 2019
Not only are the Bison and Gophers evenly matched – on paper, anyway – but it’s no secret that NDSU is comprised mostly of MSP kids who were teammates or opponents in high school. In short: plenty of summer bragging rights are on the line.
Regardless of the final, I’ll be keeping an eye on the NDSU defense to see how they handle being without Evan Schraut.
Cal Poly is three years removed from a spot in the national championship game and one year removed from a losing record. That’s quite a swing.
Granted, last year’s Mustangs outfit wasn’t as bad as its record showed. It boiled down to the defense being several steps ahead of the offense.
In six of the eight losses in ’18, the defense kept the opponent in single digits, but the offense just wasn’t up to speed. The perfect example was the WCLL title game when the defense stifled Cal, holding the Bears to six goals.
Unfortunately, the Mustangs managed just four.
None of this is news to Bobby Dabrieo and his staff, and it’s something they were undoubtedly working on in the offseason. Now they open this campaign with the same team they finished with last year.
The No. 8 Bears are coming off a one-goal win over No. 17 Santa Barbara, which gives the veneer of vulnerability (although they just ran into ridiculously hot Gaucho goalie Peter Brydon).
Solid money would have this be a preview of the WCLL title game, so you should keep an eye on it.
The first two legs for possession of the coveted “Taco Trophy” take place this weekend when UT-San Antonio hosts city rival Trinity on Friday night before heading across town to square up with Incarnate Word on Sunday.
The Taco Trophy, which is presented by the San Antonio Taco’s high school club team, is an intra-city competition between the three San Antonio-based MCLA Division II schools mentioned above.
UTSA can retain the trophy with a sweep this weekend. If there is some kind of split or the Roadrunners get swept, the trophy will get decided on St. Patrick’s Day when Incarnate Word visits Trinity.
Slides & Rides
Looking forward to the Florida-Oklahoma game on Saturday. Both of these teams have high aspirations this year and this will be a key non-conference win for one of them…Division II is going to have a bunch of bids up for grabs this year, especially in the teen seeds. The winner of the Western Oregon-UC Santa Cruz contest should be considered viable…Missouri State embarks on a three-games-in-three-days adventure to the Southeast where they’ll face No. 8 Kennesaw State, UNC-Charlotte and No. 20 North Florida. Follow the_mcla Snapchat account for a first hand view of the trip.