by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Clemson may not get this chance again for some time.
A powerful western team is making the trip across country and traveling to the Tigers’ home field – a rarity, to say the least for this up-and-coming SELC program.
Brigham Young is willing to make the trip to Seneca, S.C., for Monday night’s 7 p.m. contest because Clemson can provide something the Cougars need: a ranked win.
BYU came to SELC country ostensibly to take a crack at Georgia Tech’s No. 4 ranking – something the Cougars will get partial credit for even with the 9-4 setback on Saturday evening.
Snagging a win off No. 18 Clemson is sort of the back-up plan.
But what if the Tigers don’t roll over for the Cougars? What if Clemson puts a 13-point trophy buck on its wall.
Obviously, it’s an opportunity to completely change the arc of the season for Clemson and would be the culmination of Buff Grubb’s restoration project in western South Carolina.
The Tigers were a couple of goals short of making a trip to nationals last year. If they flip the results in two of their three regular-season one-goal losses (New Hampshire, Florida State and South Carolina) and they’re in.
“Our 10-6 record in 2019 was a little misleading, as all six losses were to teams finishing in the Top 10 and three of those were by one goal,” said Grubb, who has posted a 89-36 mark in his 11 years at Clemson.
“We got close enough that we have a good idea of what we need to do to take the next step. Last year's ‘near misses’ did generate a lot of confidence and ‘want’ in our returning players. I think they believe in themselves enough that we can take that next step. Monday will be a great measuring stick for us.”
Because they showed they could hang with the big boys, Clemson is getting another chance to post a signature – and program defining – victory against an MCLA blue blood.
The Tigers do have some head winds.
While it’s odd to say a team could be desperate on Feb. 3, but BYU needs this win. And the Cougars have the luxury of already playing two games while this is Clemson’s opener. The Tigers also took a hit with some juniors studying aboard
On the flip side, Clemson does have the luxury of two-time All-American attackman Garret Brennan (42g, 47a in 2019) and lockdown All-American long pole Nathan Brown returning.
Alas, the Tigers will get BYU’s most focused effort.
“We will know a lot more about ourselves after Monday night,” said Grubb.
The opportunity is there. Will Clemson take it?
SLIDES & RIDES
- I’m mildly intrigued by the 13-2 win by Florida over North Florida. Being an interdivisional game, there wasn’t a whole lot at stake, but I’m not sure what to take from the final. The Ospreys made nationals last year in Division II, but managed just six shots on goal for the entire game (according to UF's goalie stats). Is UNF going to struggle scoring goals this year or is the Florida defense going to be a problem for the SELC-I?
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- Matt Butler has taken the reins of the South Carolina goaltending position from Colin Hains and held up well in his first two games of the season as the Gamecocks dispatched both Texas A&M, 15-10, and No. 25 LSU in Baton Rouge, 21-7…No. 10 Cal Poly, No. 11 Concordia-Irvine, No. 16 Utah Valley and No. 17 Santa Clara all started the season with solid wins.
The powerful Cal combo of Brendan Cook and Jake Pistotnik has not missed a beat from last season. The two combined for nine goals and six assists in the Bears’ wipeout of Chico State, 21-5…Sierra Nevada made its MCLA return with a thrilling, 7-6 win over Saint Mary’s…coaches, make sure you get your nominations for the Dominant Performance of the Week presented by Warrior and the PEARL Goalie of the Week to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Monday.
- PEEKING AHEAD: A quick glance at the upcoming schedule would suggest that Saturday’s clash between No. 10 Cal Poly and No. 11 Concordia-Irvine might be the premier matchup. We’ll also get our first look at St. Thomas as the defending D-II champs square up with D-I qualifier Minnesota on Friday night. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have a tri-meet in Columbia that will answer some questions about all three programs. No. 17 Santa Clara at No. 2 Cal will be interesting, as well.