(Photo by Penny Brennalt)
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Clemson coach Buff Grubb and Texas A&M head man Tony Scazzero have known each other a long time.
The first meetings were on the fields of New Brunswick, N.J., and Ithaca, N.Y., when the two played against each as members of the Rutgers and Cornell lacrosse teams, respectively.
It continued as coaches in the MCLA. Grubb at Tennessee, Wake Forest, Wofford and Clemson with Scazzero planted in College Station for the duration.
When he was coaching with Tennessee back in 1999, Grubb scored the SELC’s first tournament victory at nationals when the Vols took down A&M in St. Louis.
“Tony got his revenge the next year as they knocked us into the loser's bracket at the nationals,” said Grubb. “We’ve met up a couple of times now in the regular season and we are looking forward to the ‘finale,’ so to speak, this weekend. Every one of our games have been competitive and contested and I don't expect anything different this time around.”
The game on Saturday between the coaches is the “finale” because Grubb has announced to his team that this – his 30th season on the sidelines of an MCLA program and his 17th at Clemson – will be his final one.
Those are staggering numbers, and attest to the fulfillment Grubb has found at the non-varsity level.
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“I've enjoyed every minute and I can say the opportunity to work with superior bunches of kids, regardless of school, was a big part of the appeal,” Grubb said. “I particularly prize that our players play for the right reasons: out of love of the game and being part of a team.”
As someone who stands behind only Scazzero in terms of length of service in the non-varsity world, Grubb has a unique insight into the growth of our league.
He has seen uniforms styles, offensive styles, defensive styles and hair styles all change.
Perhaps the biggest change he has seen is the most important.
“By far the biggest difference from the early days is the level of talent and the depth of talent playing MCLA lacrosse,” Grubb said. “This is one of the truest reflections of the growth of the game nationally.
“Back in the day, if you were fortunate to have a couple of kids from the traditional hotbeds, you were a contender right out of the gate. That's not the case anymore. Our teams are thriving on talent from all parts of the country and it's beautiful to see.”
"When Buff and I played lacrosse, it was a much smaller community, both in numbers and geographically," said Scazzero. "The growth of the sport is a testament to those who love the game and gave back so much to the game."
Because of the labor invested in the MCLA, announcing that this was his last year was no easy one for Grubb.
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“I gave it a lot of thought before announcing to our team and at this point, I'm comfortable with it,” he said. “I'm sure as the season progresses things will get more emotional, but we will get through it.
“There's no doubt I'll miss it and the players and our coaches, but I'm good where I am. I wouldn't be surprised if the itch comes back. We will see.”
Being able to compete against his old friend in the final season is an important one for Grubb. In addition to being rivals as players and coaches, Scazzero and Grubb worked to build the structure of the league.
They served nearly 10 years together on the MCLA Board of Directors – Scazzero as president and director of the LSA and Grubb as director of the SELC.
The ability to stalk the sidelines together as aging lions will be part of a nice farewell package for the Clemson stalwart.
“We have a lot in common, even besides age! I valued the opportunity to get to know him on and off the field,” Grubb said. “It's been an honor to have both competed against and to have worked with Tony.”
"I always look forward to getting together with Buff," said Scazzero. "Buff has left his lacrosse legacy at Tennessee, SELC, Clemson, Greenville Host Committee and now the ALC. Thank you, Buff Grubb!"
BATTLE BY THE BAY
Foley, Ala., will be the site of a big-time Division II tournament this weekend. Eleven teams are making the trip, including six ranked programs, for the Battle By the Bay. Whether or not this event shakes up the polls is to be determined, but this will be a quick and easy way for a lot of good teams to get at-large eligible for nationals. It has the residual effect of showing good lacrosse to Alabama high school players.
As for the games, the teams I will be keeping an eye on are Missouri State, Kennesaw State and Rhode Island. The compact nature of this event will stress every team’s depth and I want to see if these teams have it.
On the other side of the country, the 15th Annual Pac-12 Shootout occurs this weekend at UCLA. Nine of the traditional conference schools will be in attendance at the Westwood campus.
GAMES I’M FOLLOWING
South Carolina at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. – Friday
The Gamecocks were tripped up by Boston College in their opener, but things don’t get any easier. It starts with the Hokies, who breezed to a pair of wins last weekend. Both teams will have a common opponent, however: the gametime temp is expected to be 34 degrees in Blacksburg. No hoodies, please.
Boston College at Texas, 7 p.m. – Friday
A nice test for both of these programs. BC had a chance for a statement weekend against two Top 10 teams, but got tripped up by Georgia Tech. Texas has dispatched a pair of teams, but the competition level jumps now – at least by ranking. Longhorns coach Kyle Hartzell is no stranger to big games. Can he have his troops ready?
California at Chapman, 12 p.m. - Saturday
No. 5 Cal will be participating at the Pac-12 Shootout against Washington on Sunday, but their initial focus will be on No. 3 Chapman. The Bears and Panthers square off on Saturday at noon in what is certainly the game of the week. Teams don’t win championship in February and both have strong enough schedules where the stakes are relatively low. Still, this is a nice chip to have when seeds are determined.
Minn.-Duluth vs. Montana State, 1 p.m. - Saturday
Montana State opens its season in confident fashion drawing the Bulldogs. What does Chris Kelley have in the cupboard? That’ll be the question of the day. As for Duluth, they were able to score some points against Minnesota in its opening loss. Stopping a Bobcat squad that always has a couple of gunmen ready to tally goals will be the key.
St. Thomas vs. Montana, 3:45 p.m. – Saturday
The top-ranked Tommies have been licking their offensive wounds for two weeks after being held to just a pair of goals in their opener against Minnesota. They’ll be going against an experienced Grizzlies outfit that already has three games and a scrimmage under its belt. Keep an eye on the faceoff dot in this one.
Dominican at Minnesota, 11 a.m. – Sunday
After a 2-0 start to the season, including the win over a ranked Oregon squad, Dominican has a chance to ensure they’ll be among the rated teams when the poll comes out next Wednesday with a win over the Gophers. It won’t be easy, however. There aren’t a whole lot of weaknesses for Minnesota, but the Penguins might like the weather.
New Hampshire vs. Florida & FSU, Sat.-Sun
Am I allowed to do this? Two-for-one? Damn, right. I’ve a got a nice early feel for the Gators and Seminoles. Now I need to find out about a team that was one of the most intriguing squads in the country when the roof caved in. The Wildcats have a new coach, but one with plenty of coaching experience. I have no idea what to expect, and neither do the Florida schools.