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May 8, 2013

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WCLA Nationals: A Closer Look at the Sweet 16

by J. Jude Hazard | LaxMagazine.com

The 2013 US Lacrosse WCLA National Championships are underway in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Click here for Lacrosse Magazine's live blog.

Six teams that sat out nationals last season will be part of the field this year as the top college club programs compete May 8-11 at the El Pomar Sports Complex in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the Division I bracket of the 2013 US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) National Championships, presented by Harrow Sports.

Top dog Colorado State capped an undefeated regular season and was the unanimous number one selection in the coaches poll throughout the year. Brigham Young earned the two seed with one of eight at-large bids.

No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Cal Poly, No. 8 Pittsburgh, No. 9 USC Club, No. 13 Maryland and No. 16 Northeastern are appearing in the field this year after not making nationals last season. The field of 16 is comprised of teams from 13 different states scattered from California to Massachusetts.

Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the bracket.

No. 1 Colorado State – RMWLL Champs – 2013 Regular Season: 18-0

The Rams averaged nearly 10 more goals per game (16.2) than they surrendered (6.6) during the regular season. Colorado State was challenged early in the season by No. 11 UC Santa Barbara and also faced tough tests against Colorado Club and No. 2 Brigham Young. Colorado State has already played half of the teams in the nationals field and kicks off their weekend on Saturday, May 8 against No. 16 Northeastern.

Rival’s Take: If there's a weakness we all hope it shows up sometime in the next four games but they return almost everyone who was stung by UC Davis last year and it is unlikely they will let up.  That means some team will have to play a ridiculous game to be close and then see if Colorado State falters at all, maybe shades of last year catching up to them in some brief moment of doubt that will affect them.

No. 2 Brigham Young – At Large – 2013 Regular Season: 16-5

BYU’s only losses this season are to teams in this tournament, including two losses to Colorado State, most recently in a tough 9-6 defeat on April 20 in the RMWLL championship game. The Cougars regularly field 12 starters and two substitutes from a trimmed-down roster of 17 players, something that coach Julie Smith said earlier is always a cause for concern in the tournament. Despite the small roster, BYU is a top contender this year at nationals. The Cougars had one of the toughest schedules in the country, according to LaxPower.com.  Brigham Young faces No. 15 Oregon on Saturday, May 8.

Rival’s Take: A strong team that is striving off of not having a place at nationals last year. This team has a lot of fight this year, and I see them being successful.

No. 3 Georgia – At Large – 2013 Regular Season: 15-3

The 2013 SWLL champs put together an impressive regular season in which their only losses were to the top two seeds in this tournament and Florida, a loss they avenged in the SWLL championship game on April 21. The Bulldogs were at the top of the coaches poll throughout the regular season and started off the year 10-0 before losing back to back games to Colorado State and BYU on March 30. Georgia takes on No. 14 Minnesota in the first round.

Rival’s Take: A solid team with a great support system in the defense starting with their incredible goalie. If they can win the draws and hold possession on attack then they have a very good chance of making it far in the tournament.

No. 4 Cal Poly – San Luis Opispo – At Large – 2013 Regular Season: 13-5

After starting the season 1-5 thanks to a brutal weekend in Santa Barbara, the Mustangs rattled off 11 straight wins to close the season. Most of those wins came against competition that did not make nationals this season, but Cal Poly SLO did post good wins against Santa Barbara, Texas and USC Club. The Mustangs take on No. 13 Maryland on Saturday.

Rival’s Take: Always my favorite team in the WCLA. I have a high respect for how they play. They have overcome not being invited to nationals and always have a very strong end to their season. I see them having a great tournament. Very sneaky team. This group might be the quickest team in the country.

No. 5 Texas – TWLL Champs – 2013 Regular Season: 14-5

Texas breezed through TWLL play this season but had mixed results against ranked opponents. The Longhorns were 2-2 in Santa Barbara and ended the season on a seven game winning streak. The question for Texas fans is which longhorns team will show up at nationals: The one that beat Santa Barbara 11-5 on April 7 or the one that lost to BYU 12-6 on March 1.

Rival’s Take: By far one of the nicest teams in the WCLA. Along with their great attitudes comes great lacrosse. They have a fairly solid defense which has helped them win quite a few games.

No. 6 Virginia Club – MAWLL Champs – 2013 Regular Season 14-3

Virginia has won every game it’s played outside of Santa Barbara this year. The Cavaliers lost to Texas, Georgia and Colorado in the annual tournament. Virginia posted a series of blowout wins against non-tournament teams so it’s unclear how the team has progressed since Santa Barbara. The Cavs face No. 12 UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.

Jude’s Take: The Virginia-UC Santa Barbara matchup is a compelling one. The Gauchos have had an up and down season themselves but Virginia remains largely untested. The Cavaliers could be a surprise team if they have developed since February.

No. 7 Florida Club – At Large – 2013 Regular Season 11-2

Florida lost to Georgia in the SWLL championship a few weeks after beating the Bulldogs 12-11. The Gators’ only other loss is to top seded Colorado State, a lopsided 21-9 affair on February 15. The only other tournament team that Florida has faced was UC Santa Barbara, a 9-8 victory on February 16. Florida has faced SWLL competition since that victory over the Gauchos. The Gators take on No. 10 Santa Clara in the first round.

Rival’s Take: They definitely have athleticism, but with that comes some overly aggressive play which is likely to draw lots of fouls.

No. 8 Pittsburgh – At Large – 2013 Regular Season 15-3

Pitt’s three losses are all to tournament teams. The Panthers were 1-3 against tournament teams this season. Pittsburgh needed overtime to beat Ohio State in both the regular season and conference tournament. Quality wins include Michigan, Penn State and Virginia Tech. The Panthers have won every game in which they’ve scored double digits and are 1-3 in games they failed to reach 10 goals. Pitt faces No. 9 USC in the first round.

Jude’s Take: Gary Neft will have his team fired up for this first round match-up against a USC Club that has had an impressive season. Pitt faced mostly regional competition in the second half of its season, so as with Virginia, question marks regarding their form will be quickly answered on the field.

No. 9 USC Club - At Large - 2013 Regular Season - 13-3

The Trojans rattled off 12 straight wins bookmarked by losses to UC Santa Barbara and Santa Clara. USC avenged that loss to Santa Clara later in the season and also defeated Cal Poly SLO. USC faces off against No. 8 Pittsburgh in an intriguing matchup of somewhat untested teams.

Jude's Take: USC and Pitt are two hungry teams that will likely fight each other to the end. Either team is capable of a win in the first round and whoever does will capitalize on that confidence to move along in the tournament.

No. 10 Santa Clara - At Large - 2013 Regular Season - 11-6

Jennifer Lee's Broncos faced some tough competition this year, culminating with a double-overtime thriller in which they defeated UC Santa Barbara. Santa Clara has played (and beaten) many of these tournament teams and could be a dangerous first-round match-up against Florida.

Rival's Take: A good background but can't seem to pull it together the past couple of years. They might be the big sneak, cinderlela story this year as most teams don't see them as a threat.

No. 11 UC Santa Barbara - At Large - 2013 Regular Season  - 13-7

UCSB was up and down all season. After a disappointing 1-3 showing at their own tournament, the Gauchos won five straight games. Santa Barbara closed out the season with two losses against teams in this tournament: Cal Poly SLO and Santa Clara. The Gauchos face off against Virginia in the first round.

Rival's Take: Yikes, rough year this year. They are a really good team, but I don't feel like they can ever pull it together, especially at this tournament. Maybe a low ranking will give them the umph they need to succeed this year.

No. 12 Michigan Club - At Large - 2013 Regular Season - 11-8

Michigan was 9-1 heading into a March 29 tilt against BYU. The Wolverines dropped five straight to top 25 teams and finished the season just 3-6. Michigan had quality wins against Cal Poly SLO and UC Santa Barbara in the regular season. They face Texas in the first round.

Rival's Take: Always a strong, fast, tough team. I'm not sure they come together as a team or keep their control if things don't start the right way. They're good and can be a hidden talent.

No. 13 Maryland Club - At Large - 2013 Regular Season - 11-4

Maryland's impressive regular season record includes a win against Pittsburgh but is otherwise untested. The Terrapins will face a tough test against a more experienced Cal Poly squad in the first round.

Jude's Take: Maryland will have to prove itself in a big way against Cal Poly. That win against Pittsburgh was big, but it was two months ago. Has the team improved since then?

No. 14 Minnesota - At Large - 2013 Regular Season - 9-2

Minnesota's small schedule included wins against Santa Clara and Westminster. The Gophers also impressed in a narrow 12-10 loss to Michigan. They face off against Georgia in the first round. 

Rival's Take: Most fun team in the nation. They are successful because they always have fun, but sometimes that's their downfall. I could see them winning the first round (maybe even two rounds) though. They can play strong if they have the will.

No. 15 Oregon Club - NWWLL Champs - 2013 Regular Season - 11-1

Oregon found the winning way against largely Northern Pacific competition this year. The Ducks' only loss was to Michigan State. Oregon faces BYU in the first round.

Rival's Take: A developing club that often dominates their league - draws from a big pool of PNW talent but can't seem to find that glue to pull the program together and boost them to that elite level for big wins against ranked teams.

No. 16 Northeastern - NEWLL Champs - 2013 Regular Season - 10-4

Rounding out this year's field are the Huskies, whose four losses were by a combined seven goals. Northeastern narrow lost to Oregon to open its season and captured the NEWLL Championship by defeating Boston College on april 21. They face top dog Colorado State in the opener.

discipline to hang with the big dogs. Tons of talent, but ultimately a young club that hasn't seen much action outside of their league, save a one-goal loss to Oregon early in the season.

 


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