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September 2, 2011

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Midsummer Night's Power Ranking – MCLA-1

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

It's been two straight berths in the national championship game for junior goalkeeper Dylan Westfall (above) and Arizona State. The Sun Devils are near the top of Jac Coyne's Midsummer Night Power Rankings for MCLA Division I, but there are two teams above them.
© Cecil Copeland

The Midsummer Night's Power Rankings for NCAA Division II and Division III are completed, so it's now time to turn our attention to MCLA Division I. In many ways, the NCAA divisions are easy to compile due to the stable nature of the players, coaches and program history. The MCLA is a trickier animal to stack up.

Not only do you have to determine what a team has coming back in terms of personnel – no easy task with the transient MCLA – but we also have to gauge what a team's schedule looks like. Unless a team is a lock for a conference automatic qualifying bid, all of the players in the world won't make a difference on Selection Sunday if the schedule is soft. Further complicating the matter is the association's members aren't obligated to submit their final schedules until December, so as you can see, trying to create a summer power ranking is an imperfect science.

Still, there is enough concrete information – aided by conversations with many of the coaches in the MCLA – to formulate a power ranking. Remember, this isn't the Lacrosse Magazine preseason rankings. Those will come out in December. This is just a quick snapshot of the division as we sit in the temporal void between the season just passed and the one approaching.

Without further ado, the MCLA Division Midsummer Night's Power Rankings.

20T. Arizona (9-6)

Biggest asset: Sophomore attackman Willie Stanaback (17g, 10a). Three of the four attackman in the 'Cats rotation are gone, meaning Stanaback will be the veteran presence on the frontline. He'll be the go-to guy.
Biggest loss: Cooper Robbins. The four-year starter was not only effective in stopping the ball (63.6 sv%), but was also the trigger for the Arizona transition game with his deft passing abilities.
Biggest question: The Wildcats raced out to a strong start in '11 but couldn't keep the momentum going. Can they pick up a key win over a ranked opponent to keep the confidence high in Tucson?
Summary: Even with the loss of Robbins, Arizona should once again be a strong defensive team. If they can pick up one or two wins they need to make the SLC tournament, they have the midfield strength to be dangerous. The 'Cats should also have a strong staff to break in a solid bunch of incoming players.

20T. Florida (6-9)

Biggest asset: Senior attackman William Buch (27g, 18a). The quarterback of the Gators offense, Buch will be counted on to make the attack more prolific after the midfield created much of the scoring in '11.
Biggest loss: It's tough to say. There's only one player – defender Joshua Beeber – who burned his final year of eligibility last spring.
Biggest question: Can the Gators subdue Central Florida in their division of the SELC in order to get a crack at the conference automatic qualifying bid?
Summary: Florida took its lumps last year, but the Gators always play a rugged non-conference schedule that keeps them in the discussion. Last year was a rebuilding year, which gave a lot of players some important playing time. That should pay dividends this spring.

19. Simon Fraser (9-9)

Biggest asset: Junior attackman Colton Dow (56g, 55a). Sophomore Calvin Craig was the 100-goal man, but Dow was the motor for the Clansmen's attack.
Biggest loss: Luke Genereux. Genereux was a staple on defense for Fraser for four years and provided a level head for last year's young squad.
Biggest question: Having a 19-man roster, however talented, leaves very little wiggle room. Does the Clan have to address the low squad size in order to get back to the top of the heap?
Summary: No one questions the quality of players in Burnaby, but with Oregon back as the face of the PNCLL the margin of error is very small for Fraser. And with plenty of teams playing stiff schedules, the Clansmen need a couple of key wins to stay in the hunt for Greenville.

18. Virginia Tech (11-4)

Biggest asset: Junior attackman Matt Gianelli (45g, 15a). The Hokies attack unit should be second to none in the SELC, led by Gianelli and senior Kevin Hayden (38g, 14a).
Biggest loss: Brent Willess. His loss, plus two other seniors, thins out the Va. Tech midfield ranks a bit. Filling the void in the middle of the field will be the challenge for this year.
Biggest question: The schedule has been suspect for Tech in the past. Will the Hokies put together a slate that will keep them in the at-large hunt even if they can't snag the SELC automatic qualifying bid?
Summary: Just two seniors graduate off the Tech roster and all of the big guns return. If the defense continues to improve, the Hokies have the look of a contender in the SELC, regardless of the schedule.

17. Utah (7-7)

Biggest asset: Junior goalie Alex Wantanawekin (54.9 sv%). Defense should be the strength for Utah this spring with seemingly the entire starting unit returning. Wantanawekin will be the anchor.
Biggest loss: Mark Manning. Undoubtedly the best player for the Utes, Manning's (24g, 29a) departure creates a huge hole on the attack unit.
Biggest question: Does this program have enough momentum to ever push pass its usual spot as the fourth-best team in the RMLC.
Summary: The way the MCLA is set up now, it's extremely unlikely that one conference will snag three at-large bids, regardless of the schedule. The Utes will likely have another dangerous team, but one that will ultimately fall short of the conference's Big Three.

16. Illinois (12-6)

Biggest asset: Senior attackman Dan Dickson (51g, 18a). A cold-blooded scorer, Dickson rounds out a potent attack corps that essentially returns intact.
Biggest loss: Bob Ridlen. The combo middie took faceoffs (68-for-129) for the Fighting Illini and was also a playmaking threat (32g, 21a) on the top midfield line.
Biggest question: The pieces are in place to win the GRLC, but can Illinois win a couple of key non-conference games in order to grab a reasonable seed in Greenville?
Summary: The Illini have a dominant faceoff man in Nate Coburn, a stacked attack and a defense that will be solidified by the return of Christian Holmes (fractured heel). If the midfield can gain some depth, Illinois could be the first GRLC team to advance past the first round of the tourney.

15. Clemson (14-2)

Biggest asset: Senior attackman Jim McLoughlin (20g, 9a). McLoughlin should be at full strength from his knee injury suffered midway through last season. Along with Will Patch (41, 31) and Chris Buechele (34, 30), Clemson should be stacked up front.
Biggest loss: Brett Becker and Ian Thompson. Becker (63.5 sv%) and Thompson (69.7) were a formidable goalie platoon for the Tigers. While there are plenty of netminders returning, they'll be hard-pressed to match that production.
Biggest question: With the loss of two goalies and two close poles, can the Tigers break in a new defense in time for the SELC stretch run?
Summary: The schedule is strong – featuring the program's first-ever trip to Colorado – which should help when the Tigers get into the SELC schedule, but the defensive question marks keep Clemson out of the Top 10.

14. Minnesota-Duluth (7-8)

Biggest asset: Senior goalie Joey Slattery (60.1 sv%). It was another solid year for Slattery, but with all the Dawgs have coming back on defense, he could put up some very low numbers this spring.
Biggest loss: Brandon Nispel. The midfielder didn't have as big a year (18g, 5a) as some expected – mostly because he was the focus of some very good defenses – but he was always a threat.
Biggest question: Duluth used to own the UMLL, but it finished second in the regular season to Minnesota. Is the league starting to catch up with the Dawgs?
Summary: It was a rocky first campaign for Frank Clark, which resulted in a low seed and a first round loss. Duluth will get back to its roots and possess a deep and talented defense, which should improve the Bulldogs results.

13. Texas (13-1)

Biggest asset: Senior middie Johnny McKnight (25g, 8a). One of the premier midfielders in the country with his blend of athletic ability and stick skills, McKnight should have plenty of help around him this spring.
Biggest loss: Stefan Knipp. The former Bryant (R.I.) transfer and '11 LSA defensive player of the year played a huge role in the Longhorns undefeated regular season.
Biggest question: Can the 'Horns find a team identity that takes advantage of its experienced players and young talent?
Summary: Brian Myers' first season in Austin was a triumphant one. He should have just as much talent, helped by the play of unheralded sophomore goalie Jordan Lee (65.3 sv%). The schedule will be considerably tougher with games against Oregon, Simon Fraser and Arizona State.

12. Florida State (19-2)

Biggest asset: Senior pole Ben Pelton. I'm not sure if the 'Noles will have more trouble scoring goals or keeping them out of their own net, but the return of the team-leader in ground balls should help the latter.
Biggest loss: Jason Castellanos (238-for-328, 73% F/O). The Seminoles lose a bunch, but Castellanos was a monster at faceoffs all year and almost single-handedly sunk Michigan State in the first round.
Biggest question: Even with a heavy attrition rate, can FSU afford to sit back in its scheduling and hope for the AQ, or does it need to travel more this spring?
Summary: Offense is very rarely a concern in Tallahasee, but the loss of goalie John Goodrich (65.9 sv%) and stud close defender Jack Mata will be hard to replace. This wouldn't be too much of a concern most years, but there are several teams ready to end FSU's SELC dominance.

11. UC Santa Barbara (10-7)

Biggest asset: Sophomore goalie Andrew Nota (58.3 sv%). There will undoubtedly be a transition period to new (sort of) coach Mike Allan on the offensive end, so having a game-changer in goal will be pivotal, especially in the early season.
Biggest loss: Dave Kurtman. He wasn't the most polished attackman in terms of stick skills, but the two-time captain's knowledge of the defense helped a young UCSB backline perform admirably.
Biggest question: Stability counts. Is Mike Allan the man to settle this program down or will he be looking over his shoulder, as well?
Summary: The Gauchos haven't cleared the first round of the tourney since '07, but now they have the coach they wanted the whole time. Still, this is an unstable, albeit talented, program. As such, it's tough to believe they'll instantly return to past glory.

10. Colorado (11-6)

Biggest asset: Junior goalie Brad Macnee (53.5 sv%). After a spectacular freshman campaign, which included a win over Michigan, Macnee's numbers were down in '11. If he can some more defensive help in front of him, he will be able to be a difference-maker for CU.
Biggest loss: James Blackburn. The lightning quick attackman was a playmaker (39g, 21a) for the Buffaloes, and will be nearly impossible to replace.
Biggest question: Does the return of John Galvin solve all of Colorado's coaching woes, or is there a systemic problem in Boulder?
Summary: There has always been talent at CU, and that won't change. The challenge is harnessing all of the power in a positive direction. Galvin has done it in the past, so things are looking up for the Buffs.

9. Boston College (11-3)

Biggest asset: Senior attackman Connor Tinquist (3g, 5a). Tinquist, who posted 27 points as a sophomore, will be tasked with anchoring a frontline decimated by graduation.
Biggest loss: Justin Katchis. The multi-dimensional player was a lockdown defensive player (tops in the PCLL), a stubborn wing player on faceoffs and a lights out draw man with the pole (64.1%).
Biggest question: The defense should have little problem shutting down the top programs in the country, but will the offense provide enough punch on the other end?
Summary: The schedule is in place for the Eagles to return to nationals regardless of whether they can unseat Buffalo at the top of the PCLL. Optimism is running high in Chestnut Hill, and this could be the year for a deep run.

8. Oregon (12-7)

Biggest asset: Senior midfield Spencer Robertson (33g, 8a). The Ducks will be young on the offensive end and Robertson will be one of the few proven scorers returning.
Biggest loss: Nick Johnston. Kevin Clark (24g, 23a) was a key player for Oregon, but when he was on, Johnston could alter the course of a game from the goalie position. Fortunately, Oregon has depth at the position.
Biggest question: The Ducks finished the season strong, but can they find a way to avoid the abysmal start to the season like last season?
Summary: Oregon managed to snag a No. 8 seed with a roster that boasted more freshmen and sophomores than upperclassmen, so there will be enough experience despite the graduation losses. The Ducks need to ensure they are ready for the non-conference schedule so they don't necessarily have to rely on the PNCLL auto bid.

7. Buffalo (11-4)

Biggest asset: Senior attackman Ryan Grogan (18g, 28a). The quarterback of Buffalo's offense, Grogan made use of all the talent around him, whether it was in the midfield or on attack.
Biggest loss: David Sarubbi. The all-conference defender was a key cog for a relatively inexperienced unit that blossomed into one of the best backlines around, holding BC to three goals and ASU to 10 in the first round.
Biggest question: The Bulls have a host of goalies, led by junior Ryan Lichtman (68.2 sv%) and sophomore Ryan Bergstol (55.4 sv%). Will they be able to make a platoon work or will they settle on No. 1 netminder for the big games?
Summary: Buffalo's first season in the PCLL couldn't have gone any better, and this year's team appears to be deeper and more talented. Even more, they have the schedule to back it up. There's no reason the Bulls couldn't be a Top 8 seed.

6. Cal Poly (14-6)

Biggest asset: Senior attackman Scott Heberer (40g, 48a). Heberer quietly (for an All-American) had one of the best outputs in the country and could eclipse those numbers in 2012.
Biggest loss: Matt Rudow. He gave Poly a dangerous presence (34g, 7a) out of the midfield and managed to produce against top teams (3g, 1a combined against Chapman and CSU).
Biggest question: The Mustangs are an excellent team, but will they ever be able to win an meaningful game outside the state of California?
Summary: This is the year. Poly should have two high-end goalies, an experienced defense and the attack should be loaded. With a little depth in the midfield, the Mustangs should easily clear the WCLL again and grab a tasty seed in Greenville.

5. Michigan State (12-6)

Biggest asset: Senior attackman Michael Bailey (25g, 17a). Bailey was effective at finishing and passing, and he might be expected to assume more of the quarterbacking role for the Spartans.
Biggest loss: Smith Atwood. The goalie made a relatively seamless transition after Dean Hall graduated, but now that Atwood is gone, MSU will have to find someone new to carry on the netminding tradition.
Biggest question: With a strength of schedule that will be well short of last year's epic slate, will the Spartans be prepared for a deep tourney run?
Summary: Last year ended in disappointing fashion with a bad first-round match-up against Florida State, but Dwayne Hicks thinks he has a better squad coming back this year. Without archrival Michigan in the picture anymore, the Spartans should cruise to the CCLA automatic bid.

4. Colorado State (15-3)

Biggest asset: Junior attackman Austin Fisher (34g, 12a). With Cooper Kehoe gone, Fisher will be expected to not only produce, but do it in the face of an early slide.
Biggest loss: Scott Gelston (108-for-165, 66% F/O). Junior Dan Warfield should be adequate, but will be unlikely to give the Rams the extra possessions that Gelston provided in the key games.
Biggest question: It's been five years since the Rams have made the championship game. Will they ever get back?
Summary: There's plenty of talent on the offensive end, but there are questions defensively, meaning CSU is well off the BYU pace in the RMLC. It's not unreasonable to assume that the Rams could be outside of the top four seeds.

3. Arizona State (12-5)

Biggest asset: Junior goalie Dylan Westfall (66.1 sv%). He's the premier goaltender in the country and a legitimate player of the year candidate. If ASU returns to the title game, it will be on Westfall's back.
Biggest loss: Ryan Westfall. No surprise here. Westfall was the best all-around midfielder in the country and was the key cog in the Sun Devils deadly transition game.
Biggest question: Arizona State has the defense to play with anyone, but will they be able to get the ball to their offense against the top teams?
Summary: The loss of Ryan Westfall and attackman Eric Nelson leaves large holes, but the Sun Devils have the schedule and the defense to make a return trip to the national tournament. How well the midfield and attack units mature will determine if they'll have the seed to make another run at the title.

2. Chapman (14-4)

Biggest asset: Senior LSM Matt Walrath (7g, 3a). Whether it's on defense, in transition, on offense or with faceoffs (both at the dot and on the wings), Walrath is a potent weapon. He could be a player of the year candidate.
Biggest loss: Will Morrison. The big-shooting lefty (29g, 6a) played both attack and middie for the Panthers. He'll be difficult to replace.
Biggest question: How easily will the Panthers transition back to a team that has its strength lie on the offensive end instead of the defense?
Summary: Dallas Hartley had a solid first season with Chapman and he might be a dominant faceoff man away from returning to the national semifinals.

1. Brigham Young (20-3)

Biggest asset: Senior attackman Ted Ferrin (54g, 41a). Ferrin's season started with a strong start to the season and ended with an impressive performance in the championship game. He'll be one of the nation's best.
Biggest loss: Tyler Monteath (19g, 23a). The Cougars lose a big threat out of the midfield and a polished leader.
Biggest question: It's easy to be the hunter. Does BYU have poise and confidence to succeed with a huge bulls-eye?
Summary: Eliminate the players they'll lose to missions as well as those returning to the program, and this team is still primed for a repeat. Anything short of another crown will be a surprise.


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