Thoughts from the MCLA Opening Weekend
The first weekend of action is in the books for the MCLA and, although it wasn't the most compelling slate of games, there were a couple of scores worth investigating.
It's always a semi-surprise when a Division II team knocks off a Division I squad. Granted, KSU is ranked No. 21 and Tech is a middling D-I team, but this result was somewhat unexpected. The Yellow Jackets struggled to score goals last year, and it looks like this spring will be no different. Meanwhile, the Owls once again look like they'll be in the mix for a bid to nationals (although they're still looking for their first trip), even with a new coach.
Casey Newton scored four goals for KSU, but the story was goalie Andrew Flood. A transfer from Lindenwood, Flood played in a four-person platoon last year, putting up solid numbers. This spring, he's the only netminder on the roster, and he came up aces, making 16 saves and allowing just the two goals. Kennesaw plays Georgia, another D-I team, next Sunday. A win over the Dawgs and the Owls will be the story of the early season.
Central Florida 32, North Florida 6
This outcome will undoubtedly be grist for the "running up the score" mill, but this is what happens when you have a Top 20 Division I team playing a second-tier D-II squad. Plus, it's not like the Osprey didn't know what they were in for when they scheduled the game. The Knights hung 30 on Nebraska and 31 on Washington – both D-I teams – last year, so if you don't show up against UCF, you're going to get stomped.
If you can look past the score, the sub-story of this game is the offensive power that UCF is still showing despite the graduation of David Drehoff and his eight points per game. It was assumed that Drehoff was the catalyst of the team, and in many ways he was, but he was the only offensive weapon that graduated off last year's team. It's tough to make sweeping statements from one game, but the Knights may not have fallen off that much from 2011 and could once again be a threat to grab one of the two slots out of the SELC Southeast.
Texas State 12, Texas Tech 5
I don't want to delve too deeply into scores, it being the first game of the season and all, but I had my eye on this game to see what kind of performance Texas State would have. It's been two years since the Bobcats won the LSA and went to nationals, but it feels longer. Will they be able to regain that form this spring? It appears that junior middie Clark Dansby, one of the unheralded players in the MCLA, is on track for another strong season (4g, 1a against Tech), but this score leads me to believe the TxState might not have the juice to unseat the Longhorns. We'll see.
The Gamecocks went 12-3 last year and established a reputation as a tough defensive team, led by then-senior goalie Shaun Lynch, who led all of D-I with a 72.6 save percentage. If USC is giving up seven goals to the College of Charleston – a second-year D-II program – it would seem unlikely the Cocks will be able to match their stinginess of 2011. South Carolina has a three-week break to get better before a three-game, three-day weekend against Georgia, Miami (Fla.) and Florida State.
Sam Houston State 13, Baylor 10
We've grown accustomed to Sam Houston routing most of its competition in the LSA, whether it's D-I (like Baylor) or D-II, so this score seems a little closer than expected (the Bearkats beat the Bears, 14-5 last year). Best case scenario is Baylor is an improved team and made Sam Houston work because games against No. 6 Westminster, UC Santa Cruz and Western Washington in Vegas loom in three weeks – the first time SHS has tested itself in the regular season.
St. Edward's (Texas) 25, Centenary (La.) 4
Baylor 19, Centenary (La.) 3
In Michigan's run-up to going varsity it won the three previous MCLA titles and advanced to the national semifinals. Centenary's run-up to going varsity (in NCAA Division III) in 2013? Well, the story is yet to be finished, but getting waxed by a couple of MCLA lightweights (relatively speaking) to open the season would be classified as inauspicious.