by Lucas Ailport | MCLA.us
MISSOULA, Mont. – The bracket is set for the D-II Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League (PNCLL) tournament, which will be held at the University of Montana for the first time in 10 years on April 26-28. Six teams will duke it out for an automatic bid to the national championships in Salt Lake City.
The three top teams from the North and South subdivisions participate in the tournament. Ranked No. 6 nationally, College of Idaho will be the top seed from the South and No. 13 Montana will be atop of the North.
Both teams received first-round byes. The No. 2 seeds will be Central Washington (North) and Western Oregon (South). Southern Oregon and Gonzaga round out the No. 3 seeds.
No. 1 (South) College of Idaho
It’s clear that defending conference champions, No. 6 College of Idaho (10-0, 4-0 PNCLL), burned through its competition this season. The Yotes’ only close game was a 13-9 win over No. 23 Utah State.
Other than that, the team produced 20-plus goals eight out of its ten games this season.
Two freshmen attackmen have been lights out for the Yotes on offense this season. Casey Davies has 90 points (48g, 42a) while Ryan Henning finished behind him with 42 goals and 19 assists (61 points). NCAA Division I transfer Henry Ontiveros has been practically unstoppable when it comes to winning draws. He’s handled 183 faceoffs and only lost 11 of them.
College of Idaho will play the winner of the Central Washington-Southern Oregon game on Saturday at 10 a.m. The Yotes defeated Southern Oregon, 30-4 on March 31.
No. 1 (North) Montana
Montana was faced with one of the toughest schedules in program history, but mother nature wasn’t too friendly in terms of letting the Grizzlies prep for the season early on. The lack of preparation resulted in Montana dropping three of its first five games to Top-10 opponents in No. 7 St. John’s, No. 6 College of Idaho and No. 9 North Dakota State.
Montana rounded out the season with a 7-1 run down the stretch.
The Grizzlies have three 35-plus point-getters, all of which are attackmen. Junior Aidan Larson leads the team with 42 points, averaging around 3.5 points per game. Sophomores Miguel Generoso and Jimmy Pierce followed behind Larson in the point column. Generoso racked up 38 points (20g, 18a) and Pierce snagged 36 points (27g, 9a).
Although Montana will be hosting the tournament, head coach Tucker Sargent doesn’t believe the team has a true advantage over the other teams.
“Obviously, Washington-Grizzly Stadium is an awesome venue and we do get a good crowd here,” Sargent said. “Sometimes it’s nice, though, to go on the road and have that time to bond as a team. We haven’t hosted the conference tournament in 10 years, so it does get the guys hyped up with the defend the fort mentality.”
The Grizzlies will face the winner of the Gonzaga-Western Oregon matchup on Saturday at 1 p.m.
No. 2 (N) Central Washington vs. No. 3 (S) Southern Oregon, Friday, April 26, 1 p.m.
The last time these two teams faced off, it went to overtime. Central Washington (6-2, 3-1) pulled out a 10-9 win in a tightly contested matchup against Southern Oregon (5-4, 2-2) on March 10. One week earlier, the Raiders won 13-12 in overtime to Saint Mary’s. Southern Oregon started the season off with four straight wins before finishing the year off winning one of its last four.
Central Washington’s only two losses this season came to Montana (16-6) and St. Mary’s (17-11). The Wildcats capped off its last game of the regular season against Western Washington with an 11-8 win.
The Wildcats’ leading scorer is sophomore attackman Keegan Sullivan (22g, 11a). Sophomore faceoff specialist Jackson Finnerty leads the team with 60 ground balls along with 11 goals. Finnerty has handled more than half of Central Washington's faceoffs, winning 19-of-29 draws.
Raiders junior attackman Connor Mason raked in 28 goals along with eight assists. Junior midfielder Andre Morris picked up a whopping 86 ground balls and managed 32 points (13g, 19a).
No. 2 (S) Western Oregon vs. No. 3 (N) Gonzaga, Friday, April 26, 4 p.m.
No. 25 Western Oregon’s (8-3, 3-1) three losses all came to Top-25 opponents. Two of the three came early in the season when No. 10 UC Davis handed out a 12-7 loss, and No. 16 UC Santa Cruz defeated the Wolves 10-5. Western Oregon lost to divisional rival College of Idaho, 24-13. The Yotes scored 19 points in the second and third quarter to pull away.
Gonzaga (3-6, 2-2) went to overtime in two of its games this season, both to divisional opponents. The Bulldogs dropped its first game of the season to Central Washington, 10-9 in overtime. Gonzaga had better luck against Western Washington to secure an 11-10 win in extra time.
The Bulldogs didn’t produce very much offense this season with its top-point getter finishing the regular season with 27 points. Freshman midfielder Rath Jessen scored 16 goals and tallied 11 assists. Gonzaga only recorded 10-plus goals in four games this season. Senior long-stick midfielder Leo La Rocca scooped up a team-high 50 ground balls.
Western Oregon, freshman midfielder Johnathan Williams leads the Wolves offense with 58 goals and nine assists. It seems like while Williams puts the ball in the net, senior attackman Andrew Barret typically sets it up. He has 31 assists with 18 goals on the year.
The championship game will be on April 28 at 1 p.m. with the winner earning an automatic bid to the 2019 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour, which will be held in Salt Lake City from May 6-11.