(Photo by Bob White)
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – With the Pac-12 listing to starboard in the NCAA ocean with some schools already declaring their exodus while others are rumored to be making a runner soon, men’s lacrosse might be conference’s last gasp at viewing its current membership for years to come.
Nearly all of them – 11 of the 12 – will be in attendance at the 17th annual Pac-12 Shootout this weekend on the campus of UCLA. Cal Poly is acting as a stand in for Colorado, which is hosting Nebraska on Saturday in an old school Big 12 tilt.
In addition to giving SoCal lacrosse fans a glimpse of the MCLA’s outstanding product, the fact that the traditional Pac-12 schools are spread out over four different MCLA conferences is an added bonus.
In fact, it’s a big part of what draws these teams to Westwood every year.
It’s an affordable way to get a pair of quality non-conference opponents at a great venue in city than handle the influx of teams.
It was the model for the now defunct “Judgement Weekend” – without the traditional conference affiliation – in Division II.
What is the Division I Game of the Week for the period ending Feb. 19? #mcla23
— MCLA (@MCLA) February 13, 2023
Judgement Weekend has now been replaced with the Battle by the Bay, which is a strictly D-II event in Foley, Ala., occurring this weekend and featuring teams from the CLC, LSA, SELC and ALC.
These events are no picnic to produce. They are a logistical jigsaw puzzle that stresses event staff, facilities and officials’ availability. Throw in possible weather complications and it can be handful.
Thanks to UCLA director of operations Zack Winters and Florida Atlantic director of operations Chris Fantaccione, both of the events have been a success in the past and will be again this weekend.
So if you’re near any of those areas, swing by and check it out. And if you’re not, maybe think about creating your own event where you are.
What is the Division II Game of the Week for the period ending Feb. 19? #mcla23
— MCLA (@MCLA) February 13, 2023
GAMES I’M FOLLOWING
No. 18 Chapman at No. 8 Minnesota, 7 p.m. – Friday
The Gophers already have a pair of quality D-II tune-ups under their belt as they await an untested Panthers outfit with a new head coach in MSP. Minnesota made its first trip to the national quarterfinals last year while Chapman had its 13-year tournament run snapped. Who will get the jump in ’23?
No. 8 Utah State at No. 6 College of Idaho, 7 p.m. – Friday
The Aggies hop on I-84 to Caldwell in a game featuring a pair of promising teams coming off losses. Utah State got crunched by D-I Utah Valley while the Yotes lost a nailbiter to UC San Diego in Vegas. COI doubled up the Aggies last year in Logan, so they’d have to be considered favorites heading into this one.
Washington vs. Utah, 12:30 p.m. – Saturday
The Utes officially abdicate their D-II crown against Washington at UCLA. Utah has crafted a very strong schedule for its prodigal return to Division I, so there is plenty of time to make up for an opening loss. And the Huskies have been in the hunt for the PNCLL crown the last couple of seasons. We won’t call it a referendum on the season, but it could be an early indicator of things to come in Salt Lake City.
No. 4 Virginia Tech at No. 6 Liberty, 1 p.m. – Saturday
This is the weekend’s monster D-I matchup as the No. 4 Hokies visit the No. 6 Flames in Lynchburg. Tech has mauled its first four opponents, outscoring the competition by a combined score of 72-12. Yikes. Liberty has also breezed in its two contests with an average winning margin of 11 goals.
These two are on opposite sides of the ALC divisional structure, so this is more of a warm-up for the conference championship game. The winner also gets a leg up in the seeding battle.
No. 1 South Carolina at Florida State, 5 p.m. – Saturday
The Gamecocks open the weekend with Florida on Friday night, but I think this game will be more compelling for both teams. If the champs stumble against the Gators, this will be to salvage the weekend. If South Carolina beats Florida, it’s an opportunity for the Seminoles to really get the rest of the country’s attention.
No. 13 North Dakota State at No. 16 Minn.-Duluth, 7:45 p.m. – Saturday
Cumulatively, UMLC-II took a step back in 2022 with only one team in the semifinals and two teams missing the postseason entirely. It was somewhat startling considering the roll the conference has been on over the past decade. Here, a pair of stalwarts clash at the start of the season in what is a non-subdivisional game (NDSU is the East with Dayton and GVSU this spring).
The Bison ground out a pair of one-goal victories last spring over the Bulldogs with neither team cracking double-digits in either contest. Duluth will be wearing the home jerseys, but this is essentially a neutral site game occurring roughly halfway between the schools. Expect another grinder.
No. 2 Rhode Island at No. 9 Kennesaw State, 9 a.m. – Sunday
This is the marquee matchup at the second annual Battle by the Bay. The national runner-up Rams enter the season on a high from last season while Kennesaw – which was the top team in the country for much of ’22 – returns after a startling loss in the first round at nationals.
The Owls have the advantage of more outside preseason time while confidence is certainly on Rhode Island’s side. Really curious to see how this plays out.
No. 17 Arizona State vs. Oregon, 12 p.m. – Sunday
Oregon opened some early-season eyes by putting an 18-spot on Dominican last weekend while Arizona State is ready to build off last season that showed a tremendous amount of promise. This will be the second game in two days for both squads, so the playing field should be level, but this could be the Shootout’s most compelling contest.
SLIDES & RIDES
- Utah Tech picked up its first victory as an MCLA program in its first-ever contest on Thursday night. The Trailblazers rolled past UC Irvine, 22-3, to improve to 1-0. They'll play again next Friday when they host Utah State in an RMLC-II divisional clash.
- Award nominations due by noon on Monday by the head coaches to [email protected]. In addition, the first regular season edition of the New Balance Weekly Coaches Poll will drop this Wednesday.