by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Ah, December. The holiday season is upon us and the temperatures are plummeting.
That can mean only one thing: the MCLA schedules are getting locked in.
We’ve got another great slate of contests in both divisions, but you don’t have to dig too deep into the calendar to uncover some gems.
In fact, I’m going to line up 18 contests – actually 17 games and one Shootout – you should be getting excited for before we even get to March.
Jan. 31 – Sierra Nevada at Oregon, 7 p.m.
After owning WCLL Division II for the last half-decade, Sierra Nevada jumps to Division I, where they will get things rolling against the Ducks. The Eagles will also tangle with Simon Fraser in its first weekend in D-I.
SNC’s ticket to nationals will be through the WCLL AQ if it happens, so this will be a good introductory trip for Matt Day’s troops. They can a taste for a D-I road trip with no long-term repercussions.
Feb. 1 – UC Santa Barbara at Stanford, 7 p.m.
Who has the first conference game of 2019? That’s right, it’s the Gauchos and Cardinal in Palo Alto. The new-look WCLL with its two subdivisions and six-team tournament (and the addition of UCSB) has created a strong south division that includes these two.
Former Cal assistant Paul Jepsen will look to get Stanford back on track after a pair of rough seasons, and it starts with the Gauchos, who got out from underneath Chapman’s thumb in the SLC.
One team is going to get a crucial victory on the first day of February. The other will discover February urgency.
Feb. 2 – Simon Fraser at Oregon, 1 p.m.
We get the rematch of last year’s PNCLL Division I championship game on the second day of February. Fraser beat Oregon by seven in the regular season before losing by two with the AQ on the line a fortnight later.
Charlie Jackson is now at the reins for the Ducks, who are eyeing a third straight PNCLL crown. The Clan lost a ton of points off last year’s team, so this may not be the optimum time for this matchup.
Feb. 8 – Missouri State at Kennesaw State, 6 p.m.
A pair of qualifiers for the 2018 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour square off in hopes of pocketing a nice non-conference victory.
The Bears appear to be the class of LSA-II once again and have compiled a relatively beefy schedule in hopes of avoiding the No. 16 seed that has saddled them during the last two appearances at nationals, and it starts with the Owls.
Kennesaw will be the favorite, but the Owls better be prepared.
Feb. 8 – Florida State at South Carolina, 7 p.m.
South Carolina posted its best season in program history last spring, and now comes the hard part. With a bullseye on their back, the Gamecocks must now attempt to repeat the performance.
And they are certainly going about it the right way. The schedule is stacked with powerful programs, starting with Florida State.
Looking back on last year, if FSU hadn’t lost to Texas and made it past Clemson in the first round of the SELC, it could very well have been the Seminoles getting the last at-large bid that went to Georgia Tech – a team FSU beat on the road.
This is going to be a game the selection committee will be looking at in May.
Feb. 9 – Cal Poly at Cal, 3 p.m.
These rivals reside in different subdivisions of the new WCLL, but they could still meet in the conference championship game down the road just like they have for the past three seasons.
The most surprising part of Cal Poly’s struggles last year was a 2-6 record at home, including setbacks to New Hampshire and Santa Clara. For the most part, the defense stood tall, allowing double-digits just three times (Chapman, Colorado & UNH) in 17 games.
The offense, unfortunately, was uneven.
Cal surged late last year to earn the WCLL AQ, but should have the experience to hit the ground running in ’19.
Feb. 15 – Brigham Young at Concordia-Irvine, 3 p.m.
Concordia became the second team to jump divisions and qualify for nationals the next year and there is no reason the Eagles can’t build on that. They have a new coach in former SDSU head man Jesse Fosse and a roster than returns nearly intact.
Optimism should be running high in the BYU camp, as well. Still in the afterglow of sending Utah to the rail well before its championship game aspirations, the Cougars have a loaded cupboard that just might produce title numero cinco.
Most compelling Division II contest during February? #mcla19
— MCLA Tournament '19 (@MCLA_Tournament) December 17, 2018
A Friday night Clash of the Titans in Fargo as the Bulldogs and Bison reprise their national semifinal dance from last May.
UMD’s Scott McNamara might be the best player in D-II and he’ll go against the rock-steady NDSU backline that will be missing all-everything pole Evan Schraut.
This is likely to be the first of three installments of this matchup depending on how seeding goes in the UMLC and MCLA tournaments.
Feb. 16-17 – Pac-12 Shootout
Nothing gets the East Coast lacrosse establishment as breathless as the Pac-12 Shootout, although this year will be lacking a lot of the high-powered matchups we’ve seen in the past.
The highlight of the weekend will be Cal vs. Arizona State on Sunday, although there will be a bunch of up-and-coming programs who can make a mark with a couple of wins.
Feb. 17 – Texas at Texas A&M, 2 p.m.
Is there any hope of unseating A&M from its spot atop the LSA? The Longhorns are realistically the only team that can keep the Aggies from grabbing the top seed in the conference tourney out of the South division.
Most compelling D-I contest in February? #mcla19
— MCLA Tournament '19 (@MCLA_Tournament) December 17, 2018
The Ramblin’ Wreck heads to Orange County to return the favor of Chapman coming to Hotlanta in ’18. The Panthers are going to own the far better ranking at the time of the game, but Tech is not intimidated by the powerful Chapman brand.
In the last three meetings – two of which came at nationals – the goal differential has been four in favor of the Panthers. Look for another low-scoring, narrow affair.
Feb. 23 – Cal State San Marcos at UC Davis, 1 p.m.
The Cougars and Aggies each made their debutante appearance at nationals last spring, and each will be attempting to pick up a crucial non-conference win for the committee to mull over.
This one is far more important for Davis, however. Since the Aggies don’t have the luxury of an AQ – the WCLL is down to five teams with Sierra Nevada’s move to D-I – they need signature wins.
San Marcos is favored in the SLC, so they can make up for a loss a lot more easily than UCD.
View this post on InstagramHard work, dedication, and determination! The #MCLA18 National Championship hardware has arrived! #GoBison #Champions
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Feb. 23 – St. Thomas at North Dakota State, 5 p.m.
A national championship rematch in February? Yes, please.
Neither of these teams are going to drop any lower than No. 4 in the polls all season – Midwest bias! – but the winner will have the inside track on the top seed in Salt Lake City.
St. Thomas is going to be loaded for Bison after the double-overtime heartbreaker that has kept the Tommies as bridesmaids for the second straight year. If NDSU can withstand this revenge game, we’ll know they are ready for a repeat.
Feb. 24 – Liberty at Clemson, 3:30 p.m.
Clemson is making a move forward this spring, trading in the casual wins that get ignored by the committee for a stiff slate featuring a host of tourney staples.
The Tigers trip to play Colorado State and Colorado in early March is the telltale sign, but this intra-SELC contest is another indicator of Clemson’s seriousness. They are swapping out the likes of Miami, Ole Miss, George Washington and Auburn for Liberty, Central Florida and Florid State.
It’s a smart play, especially if the Tigers are on the upward trend that they appear to be following.
The Flames are loaded, however, and might be the class of the SELC when everything settles. Win or lose, this a positive for Clemson.
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— MCLA (@MCLA) December 17, 2018
Feb. 28 – Colorado State at Arizona State, 7 p.m.
Both of these MCLA bluebloods managed to miss out on the nationals last year after a pair of pedestrian seasons. It’s unlikely that will happen again.
So says conventional wisdom, anyway.
Because they both came up short last year, there will be plenty on the line when these two meet up in the desert on the last day of the month. The winner will have reason for a well-earned deep breath while the loser will have to fight off hyperventilation. Again.
Feb. 28 – Colorado at Grand Canyon, 7 p.m.
These two former champions got dunked on in the first round of last spring’s tournament – a very unfamiliar spot for another set of MCLA top dogs. While the postseason is all about matchups, the regular season should be fruitful for both of these squads.
As such, this game could be an important marker when the committee starts seeding nationals.
The Lopes have won four out of the last five meetings – including the 2015 national championship game – but it’s always been close. The winner has won by an average of 1.8 goals in the five clashes.