Weekend Watch: Scrimmage Sentiments
(photo by Kevin Schoonover)
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Back in one of my previous lacrosse-writing iterations, I worked with a colleague who was hell-bent on getting the backstory about a contest between a NCAA Division III power and a NCAA Division I stalwart.
In that game, supposedly, the Division III team defeated the D-I outfit in an upset for the ages.
The only problem? It was a preseason scrimmage.
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My buddy contacted the legendary D-III coach in hopes of finding out about what really happened and unveil a previously untold story. He was met with a simple response.
“Who cares? It was a scrimmage.”
Preseason scrimmages hold a special place in fans’ hearts. They are the first glimpses of who will be the standouts on the field and how deep the team will be.
Unlike fall ball scrimmages, which typically occur during the player selection process, the preseason non-game usually happens after the final cuts. At least in the MCLA. As such, it’s very close to the finished product.
For teams striving for the next level, the preseason scrimmage is a chance to shake the rust off the starters while also giving the twos and threes an opportunity for live game action.
What is the MCLA Division I Game of the Week for the period ending Feb. 5? #mcla23
— MCLA (@MCLA) January 30, 2023
For programs trying to build momentum, scrimmages can be a confidence-builder.
A decade or so ago the defending NCAA D-II champion traveled from Long Island to Pennsylvania to play a relatively new D-III school in a preseason scrimmage. When the final whistle blew, the D-III squad won, throwing their sticks in the air as they mobbed their goalie. The D-II players looked on, scratching their heads.
The “win” meant nothing, but was affirmation that, ostensibly, the program was heading in the right direction. So be it.
Ultimately, scrimmages are a way to play a nearby school that may or may not be affiliated with your league, but offer solid competition and low-cost travel.
From a developmental perspective, they are meaningful. It is often an important tune-up as teams enter the games that count.
From a win-loss outlook, they are meaningless. That’s why you rarely see a scrimmage score posted on MCLA.us. It’s also why scores aren’t even kept in some instances.
Be excited for the start of the season, as scrimmages are a harbinger of the spring. But don’t get too worked up about the results.
What is the MCLA Division II Game of the Week for the period ending Feb. 5? #mcla23
— MCLA (@MCLA) January 30, 2023
The preseason poll played out as expected for the most part. South Carolina and St. Thomas are in the big chairs and the breakout teams from last year’s nationals fill out the rest of the top spots. Then followed by a smattering of traditional powers and potential dark horses.
If there was one surprise for me, it was Utah’s omission from the Top 25 in Division I. From the eye test – which admittedly is worth very little – I thought the impending move to Division I could lead to some success for the Utes.
I’m certainly not saying the pollsters are wrong by omitting Utah. They might be relying on precedent, and they’d have a pretty strong case.
Montana won the D-II title in 2007, transitioned to Division I and basically fell off the grid for a decade until returning to D-II in 2017. San Diego won the first two D-II championships in 2005-06, went D-I for a decade and managed a couple of .500 seasons before returning.
Westminster (’08) made a pair of short-lived visits to the D-I championships while Davenport (’11) never got any traction on the senior circuit.
Concordia is the former D-II champion with the best D-I résumé, but the Golden Eagles have still yet to advance out of the first round of nationals in three tries after winning the D-II grail in ‘17.
So Utah is certainly swimming against the historical current, but maybe they can become the new big thing. Time will tell, I guess.
We’re coming in hot to our first games of the season. Check the game times and make it to one or both games this weekend to support your Tigers pic.twitter.com/2HhvnZ3ipj
— Auburn University Men’s Lacrosse Club (@AULacrosse) February 1, 2023
GAMES I’M FOLLOWING
No. 10 Florida at No. 5 Clemson, 7 p.m. – Friday
Clemson was the last ALC team standing in 2022, advancing all the way to the semifinals. It was a fitting farewell for long-time MCLA coach Buff Grubb, as he led the Tigers to the brink of the finals in the Tigers’ first trip to nationals.
Now Clemson has a new coach and huge expectations to follow up on last year’s success. It starts with a gritty test against the Gators. Jumping out of the gate with a Top 10 matchup is a spicy start for each of these programs and the winner will have quick lead on the race to Round Rock.
No. 2 Georgia Tech at Auburn, 7 p.m. – Friday
Auburn head man J.J. Arminio has been growing the Auburn brand since he left the Georgia Tech staff, so this will once again be a litmus test for the Tigers. A win here might be a stretch, but if they pull it off it would plant the Tigers’ flag as legit contender in May.
— UCSB Lacrosse (@UCSBLax) February 1, 2023
No. 13 California at No. 25 UC Santa Barbara, 1 p.m. – Saturday
The pollsters have lost a little love for the WCLL heading into the ’23 campaign. Sure, the conference has four teams in the Top 25 and two more receiving votes, but the Bears are the flag-bearers at No. 13. If Cal is going on a revenge tour for their snub last year, it’ll start with a resurgent Gauchos outfit looking to make a mark.
No. 7 UNC-Charlotte at NC State, 2 p.m. – Saturday
Charlotte laid down a marker last spring and this will be great opening-season test. Playing a very good Wolfpack team will give the 49ers its toughest look of the season right out of the gate, so they will know exactly what needs to be improved as they eye another tournament run.
No. 8 Minnesota at No. 1 St. Thomas, 2:45 p.m. – Saturday
This is such a smart game for both programs. It will be a test for both teams and could, potentially, be the toughest game on each of their dockets. Note I said potentially. Last spring, the Gophers ground out a 6-2 win as Minnesota advanced to the quarterfinals and St. Thomas to the semis.
Better yet, the interdivisional contest won’t count against any tournament résumé. Zero risk, all reward. But don’t get it twisted: this is a big game for these outfits. They played on the same prep teams or in the same conference or for the same trophies. There are huge bragging right implications for these two programs separated by three miles on the east bank of the Mississippi.
Dominican at No. 9 USC, 2 p.m. – Sunday
For those who have been around the association for a while, it’s rather staggering to see USC in the preseason Top 10. The job Jake Van Nostrand has done in L.A. has been extraordinary. Still, this opening weekend will provide a couple of stern tests. After playing Cal Poly on Saturday, the Trojans must face a veteran Dominican team ready to take the next step at USC’s expense.
SLIDES & RIDES
The Warrior Player of the Week and PEARL Goalie of the Week will be awarded this week. Head coaches are encouraged to get their nominations for either/both awards by noon on Monday, Feb. 6. The winners will be announced on Tuesday...the first regular season New Balance Coaches Poll won't come out until Feb. 22. You can find the preseason poll HERE...the MCLA is excited to announce that New Balance will remain our primary and championship sponsor through the 2024 season...want your captains to wear the (C) on the roster? Send them to [email protected].