Monday Notebook: MCLA Division II
I'm always hesitant to root for a team coming off of a suspension, but I think I'll make an exception for Western Washington. The Vikings were kept out of the postseason last spring due to an unfortunate incident that didn't directly involve any of the current players (nor last year's seniors), but had enough of the program's fingerprints on it to mandate that the school ban it from PNCLL tournament play.
For a lot of teams, that would mean lights out. Expecting kids to not only play, but also pay substantial dues, without the potential gratification of a league tourney? Unlikely. No one would have been particularly surprised if the WWU enterprise just folded up shop until things blew over.
Not this group.
Not only are the Vikings the presumptive favorite to win the PNCLL's automatic qualifier, especially after knocking off conference vanguard Western Oregon earlier in the season, but the march to Greenville is almost entirely on their own nickel. One of the lingering sanctions imposed by the school from last year's contretemps is a halving of the institutional funding for the lacrosse team. As such, it has made the players further buy in to the program, and its quest to travel to Greenville.
"If we had to make the trip tomorrow, we'd be in a tight spot," said Western Washington head coach Avram Feld, about going to nationals. "We plan on doing some fundraising and we'll probably need the guys to increase their dues a little bit. They're all aware of that. Not only have we taken a lot of trips, including hopefully a big one to Greenville, but we haven't received the same amount of support from the school. As a result, it has forced us to double the player dues."
WWU is clearly a team that is willing to put its money where its mouth is. The leader of the team is senior middie Colin Gaddy, who is currently second on the team in points (28g, 4a).
"He's really the heart of our team," said Feld. "The team has a lot of confidence in him when the ball's in his stick. Both of our overtime wins [against UC Santa Cruz and D-I Portland State], he's gotten the game-winner both times with basically a standard iso from up top. He's the guy that the team and the coaches have the most confidence in."
Considering the seed they're likely to get, it easy to dismiss Western Washington as a footnote for this first championship in Greenville. Alas, this is a team that is willing to ante up for the good of the MCLA. As such, everyone without an affiliation should be rooting for the Vikings in May.
- I spoke with Cal State-Fullerton head coach Kyle Morrison and the topic of how many bids the SLC would receive this year. I thought the conference was looking at least two, and possibly a third depending on how things played out in the rest of the conferences. Morrison disagreed, mostly on the basis that for the past three seasons the Titans have gone into the national tournament as one of the bottom seeds.
Morrison's point: if the SLC was slotted so poorly in the past, how could it sustain a pair of bids now? It's a legitimate issue, but there is no question that with the introduction of Grand Canyon and the rise of Concordia, the SLC is a much different league than even last year.
The frustration with paying thousands of dollars to travel to nationals only to get a match-up with one of the top teams in the country – and ultimately play just one game – has led to Fullerton contemplating a move to MCLA Division I.
"We play five divisional games and in the bottom two-thirds of our conference the games were 20-2," Morrison said. "The guys on my team are sick and tired of budgeting for South Carolina or Denver and losing in the first round. Money is so tight and we would like to buy the gear and have some fun and go on some trips instead of setting aside $15,000 and our budget is only $60,000. That's a pretty substantial chunk. I've got quotes on flights and it's $8,000 one-way, so we don't have enough money to get there and get back! Now I've got to figure it out. To potentially go there, be a No. 15 seed and go out in the first round."
The belief is playing in Division I will provide better competition, and give Fullerton the most bang for its buck. And it's not like the Titans can't handle the move. They beat San Diego and took San Diego State to four overtimes. Still, the transition is not set in stone.
"It's on the books for discussion at the end of season conference meetings in May," Morrison said. "I'm going to have another discussion with the team and see what they want to do. I'm not sure."
- Anyone up for a mock bracket? I thought you might be. Here's what I'm thinking if the selection committee went to work after Sunday's late games. The last AQ is a crapshoot at this point. I went with St. Mary's, but that could change quickly.
No. 16. St. Mary's (AL) vs. No. 1 St. Thomas (UMLL)
- Davenport is starting to round into form. The Panthers waxed D-I Wisconsin and then followed it up with a tidy, 8-4 win over St. John's. Don't write off DU quite yet...championship teams don't give up 20 goals. I've got to wonder about Dayton...the win over Westminster was the marquee game of the weekend, but the trap-game victory over Concordia tells me St. Thomas is locked in...Northern Colorado has played a schedule second to none, but you've got to win one of the key games along the way....starting to think Coastal Carolina could win the SELC...Indiana Tech needed to beat North Dakota State to get in the discussion...wrote a feature on Westminster's Matt Hearn on Friday.