(Photo: Jodi Vosika/ASU Lacrosse)
After an action-packed regular season, the MCLA Tournament is ready to kick into full gear.
Now, 16 teams will vie for the title of national champions starting Monday, May 9.
In the 2016 tournament, nine of the ten conferences in the MCLA received at least one bid while the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference is the only conference not represented.
The SLC, which is considered to have some of the most formidable teams in the MCLA, led all conferences with five bids (Chapman, Grand Canyon, Arizona State, Arizona, UC-Santa Barbara).
In the opening round, these are the matchups:
No. 1 Chapman vs No. 16 Purdue
No. 2 Cal Poly vs No. 15 SMU
No. 3 Grand Canyon vs No. 14 Michigan State
No. 4 Georgia Tech vs No. 13 California
No. 5 Brigham Young vs No. 12 Oregon State
No. 6 Boston College vs No. 11 Arizona
No. 7 Colorado vs No. 10 UC Santa Barbara
No. 8 Colorado State vs No. 9 Arizona State
Games to Watch
No. 11 Arizona vs No. 6 Boston College:
These teams met in Tucson on March 5 and the Wildcats won 16-5 behind a dominant performance from senior goalie Tanner Knego.
Arizona lost back-to-back games and missed the SLC Tournament. On the other hand, Boston College reeled off six straight wins to end the regular season and won the PCLL.
Boston College has shown its ability to score in wins against GCU and ASU this season. If the Golden Eagles can get to Knego early in the game, they should redeem themselves in a low-scoring affair.
No. 8 Colorado State vs No. 9 Arizona State:
Another regular season rematch between two teams that played each other very evenly in a 7-6 Rams victory on April 13.
Colorado State was on an eight-game winning streak before dropping its final two games coming into the national tournament. The Rams have shown they can win outside of Ft. Collins, picking up big victories over GCU and Cal, an important factor with the tournament being played in Irvine, Calif.
Arizona State hit their stride at the right time, winning five of seven down the stretch behind the stellar play of freshman goalie Johnny Perlite. Additionally, the offense has come to life and turnovers have been minimized during this run.
A one-goal loss always stings and the Sun Devils have not forgotten about this game. Expect dominance in ball possession and high-percentage shots by Arizona State in another close game.
Beyond the opening games, there are many interesting situations that could take place in later rounds. Here are the top possibilities.
No. 2 Cal Poly vs No. 3 Grand Canyon- Semifinals
Cal Poly suffered one loss this year and it was in triple overtime at GCU. A potential rematch with a National Championship Game berth on the line would be intense.
The Lopes use their artillery of attack to wear opponents down while the Mustangs arguably have the best defense in the country starting with junior goalie Sean Pihl.
The battle between an aggressive offense and dynamic defense would make for an exciting game.
No. 1 Chapman vs No. 5 BYU- Semifinals
In a season where they went 18-0, few teams challenged Chapman. One team that did was BYU.
The Panthers came back in the fourth quarter before winning in overtime against a talented Cougars team on March 4.
After a three game losing streak, BYU rebounded to win the RMLC and they are rolling with a favorable draw in the MCLA Tournament.
Chapman will have home-field advantage playing in California and are the favorites to win the championship; however, they would have their work cut out for them if they face BYU once more.
In a season full of upsets and surprise stories, there should be no exception in the national tournament. The next fifteen games will continue to turn heads as the MCLA Playoffs test the nation’s best teams.
If you want to contact Zach Pekale, you can reach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @zachpekale