by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – The champs are starting their defense for real this weekend.
Sure, Michigan State kicked things off with a couple of appetizers in Minnesota and Pittsburgh, but now we’ll finally find out what this version of the Spartans has in the cupboard.
It starts on Sunday when rookie coach D.J. Lubs brings his troops to Orange, Calif., for a rematch of the ’18 title game with Chapman.
The trip will be lengthy and pose all of the logistical issues that you’d expect trying to get 40 or so college student-athletes three-quarters of the way across country.
And the Spartans can’t wait.
“Our team loves the road,” said Lubs. “We truly enjoy taking our brand out and seeing what lacrosse is like in the toughest places in the country. That comes from experiencing nightmare bus trips through SELC country, sleet in Delaware, and very few home games overall.
“Our guys are road warriors and know this is a business trip. We’re familiar with the adversity that comes from cross-country travel and will roll with any punches that may come our way.”
State will get three solid punches in the next week, starting with Chapman on Sunday – a contest that will be the SLC Game of the Week.
At the beginning of the season when both teams were tied at No. 1 in the preseason poll, this game was looking like a monster. The shine has come off it with the Panthers’ recent woes.
Losses to a pair of Top 5 teams is typically not the end of the world, but we’ve come to expect more from the Chapman program. That’s what three straight trips to the finals, including a championship, will do.
Regardless, a mildly desperate Chapman might make the test even tougher for the Spartans.
Michigan State doesn’t seem terribly worried. In fact, the Spartans expect Orange County to be downright homey.
“We have a good amount of California representatives on our team as well as alumni who have migrated to the more inviting SoCal weather, so we’re really looking forward to showing our family what we’ve been working on over the past couple months,” Lubs said.
What's the MCLA Division I Game of the Week for the period ending March 3? #mcla19
— MCLA Tournament '19 (@MCLA_Tournament) February 25, 2019
Michigan State squares up with another Orange County power, No. 5 Concordia-Irvine, on Tuesday, so having some backup will be nice. The Eagles possess many of the same traits that MSU had last year – the ability to score combined with a great defense and an unheralded goalie.
The Spartans round out the trip against Arizona on Wednesday in La Jolla.
For the Spartans to go 3-0 and maintain its position as the team to beat, they won’t be straying too far from the approach that got them a nice, shiny ring.
“If you watched our first two games, we have been balanced so far,” Lubs said. “But balance isn't a state, and you're always working to maintain it. Our team finds its strength in that we're a hydra, and someone will always step up.”
Texas A&M’s Big Test
They are 7-0. They are ranked No. 16 in the country. They are a near lock for the LSA automatic qualifier to the 2019 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour. Now it’s time to see how high the Aggies can get seeded.
A&M is playing three rough road games in a span of 43 hours with the hopes of moving out of the No. 15 seed that their conference is seemingly always locked into.
The quest starts with a one-loss Auburn team on Friday and then proceeds to No. 4 Georgia Tech on Saturday and culminates with Georgia on Sunday. A sweep and we’re looking at a Top 10 Aggies outfit. Swept and we’re back to No. 15.
If Tony Scazzero’s kids can take two out of three – seemingly the best-case scenario – then A&M is still upwardly mobile. Something to keep any eye on this weekend.
My Five Predictions
No. 24 Davenport (0-0) at No. 24 Minnesota (3-2), 9:30 p.m. – Friday
The polling gods aligned to make this a contest between a pair of similarly ranked squads. These two teams used to be in the CCLA, but since the demise of that league, this is a non-conference affair.
The Gophers dinged Davenport twice last year and enter the game as significant favorites. Big difference in this game is Minny playing its sixth game while the Panthers are opening the season. That means something, especially on the road. Gophers, 13-9.
No. 22 Santa Clara (3-3) at No. 20 UC Santa Barbara (1-4), 1 p.m. – Saturday
This is a big one for the Gauchos. UCSB is already 0-1 in the WCLL South after losing to Stanford and a setback to Santa Clara would put them in a hole, forcing them to beat both undefeated Dominican and No. 17 Cal Poly to get into the conference tourney.
That kind of pressure, combined with playing at home, should give the Gauchos the edge, but they’ll need Peter Brydon to be on his game. Santa Clara has had its ups and downs, but the urgency isn’t there yet. UCSB, 13-11.
In lacrosse and life, always remember to follow through. : @GaryMukaiImages pic.twitter.com/fFXdHzuGct
— MCLA Tournament '19 (@MCLA_Tournament) February 28, 2019
No. 14 Stanford (5-0) at No. 17 Cal Poly (1-2), 2 p.m. – Saturday
I’m looking forward to this one. Stanford has passed all of its test to date, but this will be the Cardinal’s first true road game (they had a pair of neutral site games at the Pac-12 shootout). Winning ranked roadies are often times what separates contenders and pretenders.
It doesn’t appear that Cal Poly has the same type of defense that led them to the title game a couple of years ago, but the offense is clearly taken a step forward. That come-from-behind win over Grand Canyon showed me something. I’ll take the ‘Stangs at home, 12-8.
No. 8 Virginia Tech (2-0) at No. 3 South Carolina (3-0), 7 p.m. – Saturday
Scheduling-wise, the Hokies haven’t done themselves any favors with this SELC title game rematch. They play UConn at home on Friday night before traveling five hours to Columbia on Saturday to face a fresh Gamecocks outfit. That’s a tall order for anybody.
South Carolina has survived a couple of near-misses against Florida State and Boston College, but the deck is stacked in their favor this time. Gamecocks, 9-8.
No. 17 Cal State San Marcos at No. 19 Loyola Marymount, 2 p.m. – Saturday
The Cougars, who qualified for nationals last spring, are off to a wobbly start, giving up a lot of goals in losses to UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz. Rookie goalie Kade Strauss is going to have to play a little better, and the defense in front of him needs to step it up.
CSUSM rocked Loyola Marymount by 13 goals twice last spring, including in the SLC playoffs, but Ryan Kelly has moved the Lions to the next level. The comfortable win over UC Santa Cruz resonates right now, especially after the Slugs dominated San Marcos. LMU, 15-11.
#MCLAHOF19: Mark Plonkey, Colorado State | https://t.co/mAClOB39g1 #mcla19 pic.twitter.com/UU0xaMH876
— MCLA (@MCLA) February 28, 2019
Slides & Rides
The College of Idaho canceled its trip to Montana to play UM and Montana State this weekend because the roads were impassable. Montana will now be playing COI in Nampa next weekend while the MSU game has been canceled…the Chapman-Northeastern game, originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 5, has been moved up to Monday, March 4 at 5 p.m. to help with traveling issues…Buffalo enters the fray this evening when they head to Pittsburgh.
No shame. We aren't worried about early season losses. It's 100% coaching. We need to do a better job with our young group who is working hard to learn what it takes to win. FWIW I don't vote in the poll, but I wouldn't have us in the top 20. We have shown we don't belong. https://t.co/IC8DJjuMv2
— Chapman Lacrosse (@chapmanlaxcoach) February 23, 2019
Davenport is in control of the_mcla Snapchat account as they head into Friday’s game with Minnesota. Check it out…Grand Canyon needs a big bounce-back win against Colorado State on Saturday after getting beat on Thursday by Colorado…Boston College will look to win the SELC Southeast division by facing Florida, Florida State and Central Florida in a four-day span.