by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – We’re a couple of weeks into the season and there are teams racking up some nice wins and establishing themselves as intriguing contenders in May.
One that is lurking under the water, so to speak, with a nice February resume is a squad that may not always resonate.
At least since 2010.
Florida is 4-0 with a win over a solid Georgia team and, after this weekend, a triumph over No. 10 New Hampshire. This is a outfit on the move and the team is likely feeling pretty darn good about themselves.
“We’re encouraged, but not surprised,” said Florida coach Garrett Hanrahan. “There is a sense of affirmation for all of us, certainly to find ourselves at 4-0. We are able to see the fruits of our labor, so to speak.”
At first blush, the defense appears to be doing much of the heavy lifting so far for the Gators. They’ve allowed just a shade over five goals per outing, but that’s not particularly surprising.
Senior Matt Corazon is veteran in the cage for Florida and has a trio of senior poles – Parker Beeson, Kenny Geremia and Tyler Schaffer – in front of him that have lived up to their billing so far. Throw in a young and athletic blend of LSMs and shorties, and it’s a formidable backline.
Hanrahan won’t overlook his offense, however.
“We're also scoring over 13 goals a game so far, so I don't view defense as the strength of our team. I think our offense and our defense are supporting each other in a complementary manner.”
Next on the docket for the Gators is back-to-back contests against a talented Temple squad and an impressive Florida Gulf Coast D-II outfit that just rolled to a 3-0 mark at the Battle by the Bay.
Hanrahan is particularly reticent to look past Temple because his former Florida coach, Ryan Winters – a person he describes as a “dear friend” – is on the Owls’ staff. And he’s all too familiar with FGCU, who have always played the Gators close.
Alas, if one peeks past next weekend’s games lies three games in four days against No. 2 Georgia Tech, No. 16 Michigan State and No. 4 Liberty – two at neutral sites and one on the road.
It’s a gauntlet worthy of the Monday-thru-Thursday stretch at nationals. Surely Hanrahan and the Gators were thinking of prepping themselves for May with that list of opponents.
Anything you hear coming out of the Florida camp is strictly focused on Temple.
“Any logistical resemblance to the postseason is a welcome coincidence,” said Hanrahan, seemingly with a wink.
Hey, he’s having fun. Hanrahan has a team with talent all over the field and depth that hasn’t been seen in Gainesville for a bit – 2010 is the last time the Gators qualified for nationals.
Hanrahan talks about the fact that seven different players scored in the 11-7 win over UNH and it has been nearly impossible to give out a game ball over the 4-0 start because the contributions have been spread across the board.
“My favorite thing about this team is that there are multiple guys at every position who make their mark on the game,” Hanrahan said. “They share the field, and they deliver when called upon.”
What the Gators aren’t doing is getting caught up in the moment. As with any team, they are enjoying the early success. And perhaps when the polls come on Wednesday and they inevitably move up the charts, they will enjoy that for a minute or two.
But there’s a long way to go.
“The guys recognized in our post-game huddle after beating UNH that we are still in the early stages of a long journey,” Hanrahan said. “At 4-0 in February, we have not achieved any of the goals that we set our sights on back in the fall of 2021. Those goals are still ahead of us, so we'll keep working each week to improve, bit by bit.”
Both the Division I PAC-12 Shootout and the D-II Battle by the Bay wrapped on Sunday, and there were numerous intriguing results.
In Westwood, USC’s narrow win over Arizona stood out. The Wildcats’ offense has looked borderline unstoppable, but the Trojans did a nice defensive job. Mason DePaola and Peyton Boyd got their points, but not enough in the 12-10 USC win.
Both Rhode Island and Florida Gulf Coast went 3-0 in Foley, Ala., and both squads are clearly legit. FGCU gets the nod because of the win over a higher-ranked Missouri State team, but Rhode Island rolling past Florida Atlantic could prove to be sweeter in the long run.
Out in Denver, things played to form with the exception of Montana hanging a 17-spot on Duluth in an upset. Teams are still finding their footing in February, but that’s a lot of goals for a team traditionally known for its nasty defense.
MY TOP FIVES
The first polls are coming out on Wednesday, so I’ll give you my (unwanted) Top 5. My metrics are far different than the coaches poll and are far more volatile. If you haven’t played a game, you aren’t in the running.
1. California (5-0) – The win over No. 3 Chapman is the best win of the year so far.
2. Florida (4-0) – The UGA victory may resonate more than UNH. We’ll see.
3. Georgia Tech (3-0) – Grinding up Boston College gets more and more impressive.
4. Brigham Young (2-0) – A lot of people think they’re pretty good, so we’ll keep ‘em around.
5. Boston College (3-1) – The Eags are heading to Cali in two weeks for three more road games!
1. St. Thomas (2-1) – Good bounce-back weekend.
2. Montana (3-2) – Hanging 17 on Duluth is staggering.
3. Florida Gulf Coast (3-0) – The wipeout of MoState raised an eyebrow.
4. Rhode Island (3-0) – That win over FAU is a spicy one.
5. North Dakota State (1-0) – Whatever.
SLIDES & RIDES
- What should we think about Georgia right now? They lost a close one to Florida, but beat a higher-ranked Florida State the next day. They lost to Colorado State, but beat a higher-ranked Colorado the next day.
My initial reaction is for UGA to find a travel partner, because they went into both of those weekends two-v-one (the old “double-down,” for my long-time readers). Not a fair setup. On the other hand, they won the second game both times. So what do I know.
- They’re still the defending Lone Star Alliance champion and LSU showed this weekend they aren’t giving up the hardware without a fight. They took out SELC foe Alabama and a hot Oklahoma team this weekend to improve to 4-1.
- As always, get those nominations for the Warrior Player of the Week and PEARL Goalie of the Week to [email protected] ASAP!
- NOTES: The PAC-12 Shootout has been going on for 15 years. I would love to see the Battle by the Bay in Foley, Ala., be an annual event. Great facility and a lot of room for growth…big ups to Washington State for making the trip to the Shootout. They are an important team in the MCLA…Minnesota is no joke. They handled Dominican…heard it hear first: USC is going to be problematic in the SLC…it won’t get heated up for another two months, but the CLC D-I race is going to be amazing…hey, Florida Poly. Keep grinding. Success will come. Glad to have you on board.
Cal over Chapman, 12-10? Sounds about right. Be wary. Panthers peak late…Clemson traveling to Athens to play Georgia next Friday only to host Georgia Tech on Saturday in Seneca? I love this league!...send/tag all of your travel photos (bus, plane, van, etc.) to @MclaRoad on Twitter (one of our interns runs it).