Blogs and Commentary

posted 03.18.2013 at 10.02 a.m. by Jac Coyne

MCLA Division I Notebook

So what did Pittsburgh learn on its trip down to Atlanta two weeks ago? It probably started with trying a little too hard to maximize the amount of games in one weekend.

"Three games in 25 hours. Good scheduling, right?" deadpanned Pitt head coach Sean Buzzard.

Cramming in games against Clemson, Auburn and Georgia Tech didn't seem too bad after the first two contests. The Panthers beat a then-ranked Clemson team, 8-6, and a one-loss Auburn team on Saturday, heading into a clash with the then-No. 22 Yellow Jackets on Sunday. After getting ground to a pulp by Tech, 5-4, the mood of the weekend quickly turned.

"We just didn't seem to have it offensively that day and I think part of that was the great defensive play by Georgia Tech," Buzzard said. "The guys even said they didn't feel fatigued or tired, but we were missing passes by a bit and I think that's from being a half a step slower."

Buzzard admitted that the big defensemen on the southern teams were something the Panthers weren't used to and the loss of first-line midfielder Matt Wolfe for the Georgia Tech eliminated one of Pitt's initiators. The fact that the Jackets had two chances to scout out the Panthers on Saturday probably didn't help the cause.

Instead of focusing on the excuses, Buzzard hopes that his kids can use the weekend as a learning scenario.

"We do have a lot of freshmen and sophomore players, and that was one of our key messages: when we get into the CCLA and hopefully the MCLA tournament, you are looking at this style of play and you've got play and move on to the next day," Buzzard said. "We just kind of take it as a bit of challenge, but our intensity has to be better and our conditioning has to be a little bit better. The practices that we've had since then, you can tell it was a wake-up call for the team."

Pitt better be wide awake, or they could be in trouble. The Panthers took a nosedive in the polls after the Georgia Tech loss and are now sitting at No. 19 after being as high as No. 10. And awaiting them this weekend are contests against a Richmond team that gave No. 5 Chapman all it could handle in an 8-6 loss and a Sonoma State team that is moving into desperation mode.

"The upperclassmen know that it is important to not drop these games," said Buzzard, who will be making the drive down to see the Richmond-Sonoma game on Wednesday. "I try to preach about not looking at the polls, but perception is reality in the MCLA a little bit. I've told these guys we lost on the road to a good team that is ranked ahead of us now and we just keep dropping, so now we've got to stop the bleeding and have a big win. In reality, the games are big for us, but we're still going to stick with our one game at a time approach. We've got to handle Richmond first."

The games against Richmond and Sonoma – and the contest with Northeastern the week after – are only important for at-large purposes. Pitt still has the luxury of an automatic qualifier, but that will be just as tough as last year with Michigan State looking like the favorite and Davenport not too far behind. The Panthers just need wins. The more the better.

"We're making big plans for next week and getting in a groove at practice."

- This was a statement weekend for Arizona State. Prior to the Devils three-game weekend with Minnesota, No. 2 BYU and No. 25 Davenport, I was concerned about ASU's dependence on the one-on-one abilities of Payson Clark and Justin Straker while lacking a true assist man. The selfishness that had sabotaged the Devils during the loss to Chapman, and even appeared during the Richmond game, was not apparent during ASU's sweep this weekend.

Clark and Straker got their goals, but other guys stepped in, notably Jackson Brown and Cooper Pickell, who had five goals and three assists, respectively, in the cozy, 12-7 win over BYU. The fact that the Sun Devils were able to breeze past Davenport, 15-9, in a trap game on Sunday reflects that this team has turned a corner.

ASU will have competitive games against Utah, Grand Canyon and Arizona, but UC Santa Barbara on March 28 is the only game standing between the Devils and a very comfortable seed in Greenville. This season had – and I suppose to some degree, still has – the danger of Arizona State being derailed by bad habits, but the team looks like it has figured things out, and at the perfect time.

- Congrats to Michigan State head coach Brandon Schwind for picking up his first win in the Spartans opener against Minnesota-Duluth. Sparty beat the Dawgs, 12-8. Sparty followed that up by hanging around for three quarters with No. 1 Colorado State...Davenport let one get away against Grand Canyon, as the 'Lopes outscored the Panthers, 8-1 in the final frame to force overtime and eventually grab a win, and went 1-2 in the desert, but they'll be a serious player in the its last four games, all of which came against ranked opponents, CSU has allowed 3.75 goals per game. That's exactly what they allowed in the four-game sweep at nationals last spring.

Solid bounce back weekend for Virginia Tech, especially the win over Buffalo, 11-4...things have been going great for Georgia Tech, but if they don't beat Auburn in two weeks, they could very well fall short of the SELC tourney...Colorado deserves to be the No. 3 team in the country, but they still haven't played the schedule that Stanford has. The Cardinal deserves to be at No. 2...Texas State went 0-2 in New England against a pair of ranked teams, but they showed me something by grinding with Northeastern...looking like it'll be Illinois and Wisconsin slugging it out for the GRLC auto-bid...don't worry too much about BYU. They'll be fine.