While the MCLA’s weekly polls are highly subjective and often debatable, they give at least a semi-clear picture of the landscape in the entire league. Quick reactions from the season’s first poll are mainly the rise of Boston College (from No. 10 to No. 5, after wins over BYU and Chapman), the fall of Chapman (from No. 5 to No. 8, after losses to Colorado and Boston College).
Don’t look now, but here come the Gauchos
UC Santa Barbara may just be taking the spotlight in the SLC North this year, after a 6-0 start to the season. The Gauchos climbed from No. 6 in the preseason polls to the No. 4 spot after wins over Stanford, Cal Poly, Sonoma State, and Cal, all of which are top 20 teams. However, seeing as they’ve won the majority of those games by slim margins, expect UCSB to run into some difficulty against GCU, BYU, and Chapman later in the season.
Colorado schools reign supreme
Colorado State and Colorado, who played each other in last year’s championship, are still first and second in the polls, respectively. They both came up 2-0 in the Lax Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Palm Desert, Calif. No. 3 ASU will get a chance to play both schools in less than a month.
What’s the story behind GCU?
Coaches around the MCLA continue to struggle with Grand Canyon and the team’s unique box-lacrosse style of offense. GCU’s rise in talent has been fueled by a consistent Canadian recruiting pipeline. GCU nearly knocked off No. 1 CSU last weekend, losing by a final score of 8-6. The No. 9 ‘Lopes will play against No. 8 Chapman on Friday in a game that could signal a real changing of the guard in the SLC.
Can anyone outside the top 3 represent a real championship threat?
This is the real question of the season – is everyone outside of CSU, Colorado, and ASU just playing for a semifinal appearance? Or can anybody top these giants? UCSB has a lot of early season momentum but the fact that they’ve come close with inferior competition doesn’t bode well for their ability to compete with the elites. BYU is sneakily skating by at 5-1, but the once-powerhouse Cougars have struggled to beat teams like UNLV and San Diego State. They can keep close with anyone, but beating a top three team might be out of reach.
Games to watch this weekend:
No. 9 GCU @ No. 8 Chapman, Feb 28, 7:00 p.m. (The Lacrosse Network – Grand Canyon at Chapman)
Chapman needs to prove to the world that they’re not in a down season, and there’s no quicker way to make a statement than to toss aside a team that everyone’s got an eye on. GCU has held the MCLA world’s attention since ending last year’s regular season with a win over ASU, and then with a nail-biting overtime loss to UCSB in the SLC playoffs. They’ll once again seize the spotlight if they can defeat Chapman in Orange, Calif. where the Panthers have been nearly perfect over the last five seasons.
No. 12 Oregon @ No. 14 Simon Fraser, March 1, 1:00 p.m.
Simon Fraser hasn’t been a tournament team since 2010, when they snuck into the Final Four as a 10-seed. If the Clan wants to find their way back into the national spotlight again, they’re going to have to make a statement this weekend, against an Oregon team that’s currently the favorite to win the PNCLL. For Oregon, it’s a matter of getting back into the top 10. After a second round exit in last year’s tournament, the Ducks are looking to make another splash, but they’ll need to recover from early-season losses to BYU and Colorado State.
No. 3 ASU @ No. 8 Chapman, March 2, 1:00 p.m.
In a clash of the SLC’s titans, ASU will look to snap a recent rough patch versus Chapman. The Sun Devils still have the Panthers’ number in the postseason, but Chapman’s back-to-back regular-season wins over ASU might be the start of a trend. Also, depending on the result of Friday’s game versus GCU, the Panthers may be in desperation mode to return to relevance against the Sun Devils.
You can reach Trey Lanthier by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TreyLanthier.