by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Ten of the premier teams in Division II are about to converge on Nashville for Music City Judgement and it should be an event like no other in the MCLA history.
Sure, the association has had its share of in-season gatherings before. The Pac-12 Shootout was just a couple of weeks ago and the Battle at the Beach is coming up here at the end of the month. Throw in a Coaches vs. Cancer round robin and we’ve seen almost everything.
But nothing matches the scale of Music City Judgement.
To give you a brief primer, Judgement Weekend emerged in 2016 when the top teams in the UMLC and CCLA decided to meet up outside Chicago for a three-day event that allowed both conferences to schedule quality non-league opponents and boost the tournament resumes.
It continued again last year with eight teams, including Kennesaw State, which made the trip up to Georgia to help fill the gaps left by the NAIA departures from the CCLA.
Now we have Music City Judgement on the campus of Vanderbilt University that will have 10 teams, with nearly all of the them boasting a national ranking – No. 2 Grand Valley State, No. 3 St. Thomas, No. 4 Minn.-Duluth, No. 5 Dayton, No. 7 St. John’s, No. 9 Kennesaw State, No. 10 Bridgewater State, No. 11 Florida Gulf Coast, No. 23 Central Conn. State and Columbus State.
St. John’s coach Derek Daehn and Florida Gulf Coast coach Mike Dubbelde – both Minn.-Duluth grads – teamed up to be the point persons for organizing the Nashville excursion.
It will be the biggest D-II event outside of nationals.
“I know Coach Dubbelde and I are excited about Judgement Weekend moving to Nashville,” Daehn said. “We have nine ranked teams coming, which will sort out the best teams in the country quickly.”
In addition to organizing the event with Daehn, Dubbelde is using the weekend to toughen up his team in a hurry.
“We play three games in three days against the No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 teams in the country,” he said. “That’s a pretty tough stretch for anybody, but we’ll be better for it regardless of the outcome. We’re still growing and these three games are going to put a little hair on my team’s chest.”
The ability to use Nashville as a dry run for nationals – both in the level of competition and the logistical aspects of travel and off-field scheduling – made it alluring.
“We are looking to get our young guys some experience playing a tournament-style games against some of the best teams from the Midwest and East Coast,” said Dayton coach Joe Venturella. “This weekend will also be telling in terms of seeing the competition for a large segment of the division, with many parts of the national rankings becoming much clearer. Dayton will definitely know where we stand overall after this weekend, and give us a good path forward to prepare for the rest of the year.”
Just two days until the Bears are escaping the snow and off to Nashville, TN! pic.twitter.com/bWvmBKYi99
— BSU Lacrosse (@BSULacrosse) March 6, 2018
There is also a measure of pride for the 10 teams heading to Nashville, and a lot of that is based on committing to a fantastic event and following through for the betterment of their conference and the division.
“Getting eight of the top 11 teams in MCLA D-II to put their national rankings on the line in Nashville during spring break to find out how you stack up is really unheard of in any sport at any level of collegiate athletics,” said Bridgewater State coach Pat Welsh. “It really shows that the level of commitment of MCLA D-II players and coaches is on par with anyone.”
There will obviously be winners and losers at the event, and some of the repercussions will be felt in May, most likely during the seeding process.
Likewise, when we get to May, we’ll be looking back at the results from Music City Judgement to formulate how the first couple of rounds of the tournament are going to shake out.
That’s part of what makes the Judgement series so important.
“Judgment Weekend is such a great showcase for MCLA D-II and has, in many ways, become a preview of the postseason with so many ranked teams playing one another in one central location at one time,” said St. Thomas coach Brian Gross. “This year, just like years past, there are a ton of exciting matchups.
“For us, it's an exciting opportunity to play teams that we haven't played in a few years and playing three games in three days against top competition is great test of what it would take to make a championship run later in the season. I'm sure there will be a lot of attention across the MCLA on Nashville all weekend!”
Nashville, here we come! pic.twitter.com/pZwvRJZeLZ
— UMD Men's Lacrosse (@Duluthlacrosse) March 7, 2018
2018 Music City Judgement Schedule
All games on the campus of Vanderbilt University
Thursday, March 8
Minn.-Duluth vs. Florida Gulf Coast, 5 p.m.
Friday, March 9
St. John’s vs. Dayton, 12 p.m.
Florida Gulf Coast vs. Grand Valley State, 2:30 p.m.
St. Thomas vs. Bridgewater State, 5 p.m.
Minn.-Duluth vs. Kennesaw State, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 10
St. John’s vs. Central Conn. State, 11 a.m.
Columbus State vs. Minn.-Duluth, 11 a.m.
Dayton vs. Bridgewater State vs. 1:30 p.m.
St. Thomas vs. Florida Gulf Coast, 1:30 p.m.
Grand Valley State vs. Kennesaw State, 4 p.m.
St. John’s vs. Columbus State, 4 p.m.
Central Conn. State vs. Dayton, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 11
Bridgewater State vs. St. John’s, 9 a.m.
Grand Valley State vs. Central Conn. State, 9 a.m.
Columbus State vs. Dayton, 11:30 a.m.
Kennesaw State vs. St. Thomas, 11:30 a.m.