MCLA Division II Notebook
Westminster is essentially playing two seasons concurrently this spring. The Griffins have their Division II campaign, consisting of three Top 10 non-conference opponents and the usual slate of league foes, all pointing towards a May appearance in Greenville. They also have a Division I season ongoing, which includes all but one of the senior RMLC programs and scrimmages against NCAA D-II teams, which are all part the Griffins transition to MCLA-I next spring.
The confluence of these two seasons has created a turbulent start for Westminster, with a 5-3 record juxtaposed with a No. 2 ranking that they will earn this Tuesday.
"As I wrote in a note recently for the AD, I looked at the latest poll and wondered about my wisdom with CSU and BYU at one and two, and CU being No. 4," said Westminster head coach Mason Goodhand. "I was thinking, what the heck have I done to myself?"
The early season gauntlet was actually what Goodhand wanted to do to himself, and his program.
"I have been doing this long enough where I think I can come up with some good ideas, so this early season was to give our guys a good dose of the reality that you might think you're pretty good, but there's always room for improvement," Goodhand said. "And we got that against CSU, CU and Adams State. We saw a lot of progress. We're really excited. We got a dose of what D-I is going to be like and we understand we have a lot of work with recruiting and developing the kids in order to play that schedule. That's what these first six games did for us."
One of the biggest lessons for the Griffins in the early going has been the need to value the ball.
"The biggest limitation we felt we had with CSU, CU and St. Thomas was giving them possessions that the other team didn't earn," Goodhand said. "Whether we made stupid mistakes on penalties, or didn't execute well on a ground ball, or just throwing and catching, our turnover numbers were just way too high. When you lose some games and win some games that are close, and every possession counts, it certainly helps from a teaching standpoint."
A corollary to Goodhand's possession theme is managing unsettled situations. The Westminster coach said when it came to scramble situations, the D-I guys don't mess around.
"Teams like CSU, BYU and CU that play at a faster pace than Division II and have more experience. What separates us right now are broken plays," Goodhand said. "When we can avoid the broken plays and the easy turnovers that come back in our face, we can hang with anybody at any level. When we have those break downs and teams score three goals inside of a minute and a half, which is what happened against CSU and with CU a little bit, that's the difference. I'm not anticipating we'll have that weakness for a long time. Our work is paying off and we're earning the respect of our opponents."
No. 5 North Dakota State certainly has a newfound respect for the Griffins after Westminster routed the Bison, 16-5, on a neutral field. Westminster had to do it without the services of attackman Matt Hearn, who amassed 55 points last year. He is likely done for the season with an injury. This has forced several freshmen to see the field perhaps earlier than Goodhand would have liked. "There have been a couple of kids who have stepped up nicely," he said.
Westminster's two seasons will keep chugging along with a run of Division II games before the Griffins cap off the season with games against BYU and Utah. The record may not be as pretty as in year's past, but Westminster is hoping it will allow them to not only be a threat in their final year in D-II, but a formidable addition to D-I.
- The biggest surprise last week was the 0-2 start for No. 2 Grand Valley State. The Lakers lost to No. 24 Florida Gulf Coast, 12-7, on Monday before No. 15 Palm Beach Atlantic tacked on a 14-10 setback less than 24 hours later. The losses were surprising enough, but also the manner of the defeats. Going back three years, all of GVSU's losses have been by one goal, including last year's national championship game. Teams pulling away from the Lakers is an odd concept.
GVSU's stumble was short-lived, however. The Lakers punished No. 18 Western Washington, 20-5, behind six goals and an assist from junior attackman Brenden Austin on Thursday and then waxed No. 20 SCAD, 17-11, on Friday behind another sixer from Austin.
The Lakers are sitting at an unfamiliar 2-2, but Mason Goodhand, whose Westminster team will likely supplant GVSU at No. 2 this week, said don't read too much into these early results.
"Grand Valley State, coming from where they are coming, could be having their first week on a full field going against some Florida teams that have been licking their chops since January," he said. "So those scores will have to be tempered with that situation. I'm not writing Grand Valley off by any means."
- Next game for No. 1 St. Thomas comes in a couple of weeks against a Western Oregon team that is undefeated against D-II teams. Tommies head coach Pete Moosbrugger is looking forward to matching his team up against Wolves stud midfielder Jacob Bohince, who missed last year's match-up with UST in the first round of the tournament with a season-ending injury.
"I'm excited to play against the Bohince kid," Moosbrugger said. "He's one of the kids who has the 'it' factor. We'll definitely be making sure we find him defensively. I think it's going to be a very similar game like last year. This isn't a pushover team. When they are motivated, they can run with the best. Everyone is going to be giving us everything they have."
- With the LSA missing it's automatic qualifier this spring, Sam Houston State had to make an impact on its Florida trip where it was playing three ranked teams in four days. So far, so good. Michael Mann scored three goals and set up four others in the Bearkats 14-12 win over No. 9 Elon. That was followed up on Sunday with a 12-5 win over a fading No. 20 SCAD team. SHSU has a big game against No. 15 Palm Beach Atlantic on Tuesday. A win in that contest and the 'Kats will heading to Greenville, AQ or no.
- Concordia had its 120 minute streak of not allowing a goal snapped by Fort Lewis. The Eagles allowed a pair of markers in a 23-2 victory, giving them a combined 58-2 advantage over the last three games...SCAD finally snapped its four-game losing streak with a win over Palm Beach Atlantic on Saturday, but turned around and lost to Sam Houston...Kyle Peterson had 10 goals and seven assists in Cal State San Marcos' 26-1 triumph over Cal Lutheran...Western Oregon outscored Humboldt State and St. Mary's by a combined score of 44-15.