The Final Four in Salt Lake City is set and it’s been electric. If you’re not a club guy, or maybe not into watching non-NCAA lacrosse, first off, welcome to this site, but more importantly, you need to give the MCLA a shot. After tonight’s play-in game, you have to wait until Saturday for the NCAA to start back up. Open your hearts and let postseason club lacrosse fill the void.
Things got crazy right off the bat in Monday’s first-round action. 13th-ranked Cal came out firing and went up 8-3 at halftime over #4 Colorado. They rode strong play by goalie Nick Beattie the rest of the way to a 15-11 upset. #6 Virginia Tech survived a 7-6 thriller against #11 Boston College to advance. Liberty posted a mini upset in the 9 vs. 8 game, dropping Concordia-Irvine 11-7. Other than that, the favorites rolled.
Then in yesterday’s quarterfinals, things really got crazy. BYU-Utah and Liberty-Chapman went down to the wire simultaneously. Like a good off-ball defender, you had to keep your head on a swivel between both streams at the risk of missing something.
Liberty, down 6-0 at one point, came roaring back in the second half and scored with only seconds left to force OT. Chapman secured possession and called timeout. In a bold display of gamesmanship, Liberty came out in a zone for the first time all game to thwart whatever Chapman had drawn up. But Chapman worked the ball methodically until Wiley Bonham netted the game-winner on a near-side rip.
Utah got up early thanks to a first half hat trick by Josh Stout but saw their early lead melt away in similar fashion against in-state rival BYU. The Cougars picked apart the Utes’ defense with their trademark ball movement to tie the game up. Then, with 6 seconds to go, they found the Utah native Chris Severson on the doorstep for the game-winner.
“This may be one of the best wins, happiest moments from a coaching standpoint,” Coach Matt Schneck told the press after the game. This brings an end to Utah’s run as an MCLA program, as they will move on to NCAA D-I next year.
The later games were less chaotic. #5 South Carolina rolled Cal to end their Cinderella campaign. #3 Michigan State looked incredibly solid as they took down #6 Virginia Tech 9-3.
This sets up a couple of great semifinal matchups on Thursday. At 6:30 EDT, South Carolina will take on Chapman. The theme in this tournament so far has been experience. The old guard of the MCLA — BYU, MSU and Chapman — have reigned supreme over the new kids on the block, a category South Carolina falls into. But South Carolina was dominant in the SELC, the nation’s strongest conference, up until their title game loss to VT. The Gamecocks also twice topped the same Liberty team that just gave Chapman a scare, winning 10-8 in the regular season and 16-8 in the SELC Tourament. This one could go either way.
At 9:15 EDT Thursday, a surging Michigan State will face BYU. The Cougars will have to prove that beating the closest the league has to a varsity team wasn’t just a fluke. Michigan State’s combination of a methodical, possession-controlling offense and a stout defense makes them virtually upset-proof. To pull off a second straight upset, BYU will have to maintain the offensive efficiency they found in the second half against Utah for the entire game.
In the D-II bracket, we almost got to see a repeat of the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference semifinals. Seriously, we were a 2-goal win by Grand Valley State over St. Johns from seeing the same four teams in the national semis as in their conference tourney. It’s crazy how dominant this conference is. On Thursday, GVSU will take on St. Thomas at 1pm Eastern and Minnesota-Duluth will face North Dakota State at 3:45.
Today is a day off for the boys in Salt Lake City. It has an eye of the storm feel, with a large front of exciting lax bearing down on us in the next couple days. You have to tune in.
All games will be streaming on mcla.us