Weekend Watch: The Simmering Giant
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
That’s how long Grand Canyon will have stewed in Phoenix after getting jumped by Utah Valley in the season-opener on Feb. 5. And ever since that evening, when the Wolverines used numerous Lopes’ mistakes and rock-solid goaltending to become the darlings of the MCLA (for a day, anyway), the champs have gone silent.
There has been barely a peep on any of the Grand Canyon social media since the loss. A tumble all the way down to No. 9 in the first poll couldn’t even elicit a tweet. Radio silence in the desert. There’s almost a sense the Lopes are on a slow boil right now, waiting for the chance to prove themselves again.
What have they actually been up to?
“The two weeks off have given us time to refocus on the things that have made us successful,” said GCU head man Manny Rapkin. “The things you don't see in the box score.”
As painful as the season-opening setback was – “I'm sure it was a tough weekend for our guys,” Rapkin conceded – it’s really not that big of a deal. In fact, there is precedent for it being a positive. The GCU coaches and players will tell you that the loss to Brigham Young in the second game of the season last spring was the catalyst for their championship run.
The Cougars manhandled the Lopes, 15-11, and Canyon never lost again. Could the same script be followed again?
“I think a lot of question will be answered Sunday,” Rapkin said, ominously. “We’re anxious to get back to it.”
It will be Cal Poly tasked with trying to tame the tiger for a second straight game. Not only will the Mustangs be playing on the road, but they’ll have to deal with No. 3 Arizona State the night before.
Not a great recipe for Cal Poly, especially with the champs already simmering.
No. 12 Boston College (0-0) at No. 6 Georgia Tech (1-0) – 7 p.m., Friday
The Eagles aren’t wasting anytime jumping into the season. BC hits the road and faces one of the toughest defenses in the country right out of the chute, never mind the contest against No. 16 Liberty the next day. It’s nothing new for the Eagles, as they played Colorado and Colorado State to open the ’15 campaign. BC was a young team last year with only two seniors, but now they have plenty of experience and a quality goalie in senior Mike Shepard. Tech is Tech, and will try to grind the Eagles into dust on the defensive end and utilize its opportunistic offense. The Jackets won last year’s game in Boston, 8-7.
No. 7 Cal Poly (2-0) at No. 3 Arizona State (2-0) – 1 p.m., Saturday
This is the game of the weekend going by rankings, and it provides an early measuring stick for both these programs and their new coaches. Todd MacRobbie has taken the reins for the Sun Devils and is off to a 2-0 start with a nice win over No. 11 Oregon State last week aided by powerful midfield play. Bobby Dabrieo also has the Mustangs out of the gate at 2-0, as well, including an 11-6 triumph over UC Santa Barbara. SLO is a young team with just a handful of seniors, so they’ll have to grow up fast in the desert, especially with Grand Canyon waiting on Sunday.
No. 5 Brigham Young (2-0) vs. No. 20 Simon Fraser (1-0) – 2 p.m., Saturday (at Boise)
Fraser always plays a premium schedule, but just couldn’t find the quality win last year in its 10-8 campaign. This year, the Clansmen are picked to (narrowly) win the PNCLL, and they have plenty of points returning, led by sophomore Greg Lunde (65 points in ’15). As usual, Fraser’s ceiling will be determined by its defense, which will be tested all day by a confident BYU bunch. Junior LSM Max Neser is living up to his preseason billing so far with 13 ground balls, five goals and an assist in two games for the Cougars.
Missouri State (2-0) at Emory (2-1) – 7 p.m., Friday
Both of these teams received votes in the Under Armour Coaches Poll this week, and whoever comes away with the victory will likely be on the cusp of cracking the Top 25. State is feeling good after taking care of two MCLA-I squads last weekend, based mostly on a stingy defense. Now they’ll face an Eagles outfit that has averaged 15 goals per game in their last two contests. This has the looks of a contest that might need extra time to decide.
No. 23 Lawrence Tech (0-1) at Washington-St. Louis (0-0) – 1 p.m., Saturday
This contest will act as a de facto “heat check” for Tech. Was the double-overtime loss to Dayton last weekend an aberration, or are the Blue Devils for real? Wash-U is good enough to punish LTU if the Devils think they are better than they are. However, if Tech is legit, they should roll this one up early.
No. 15 Minn.-Duluth (0-0) vs. No. 5 St. John’s (1-0) –5:30 p.m., Saturday
Johnnies head coach Derek Daehn is a Duluth grad. When asked in the fall about the prospects of playing his alma mater now that the Bulldogs are in the St. John's division, Daehn was candid. “It's bittersweet to play Minn.-Duluth. Since they were a Division I team, I always pulled for them to win, but now that they are a Division II team, they are just another nationally-ranked team when we play them.” This is a monster February tilt in Division II and will have repercussions in May, whether it’s an at-large berth or tournament seeding.