Blogs and Commentary

posted 04.08.2013 at 10.03 a.m. by Jac Coyne

MCLA Division II Notebook

North Dakota State has always been a tough position. It's stuck in the same division as St. Thomas and St. John's — two of the stalwarts in Division II — and without any kind of youth or prep lacrosse presence in the state, it relies on players hopping the border from Minnesota. In some ways, it's a minor miracle that the Bison are even talked about.

But here they are at 5-2, ranked nationally and looking pretty good to once again qualify for the MCLA tournament. And they're doing it without the services of their best player — and one of the top guns in the division — Peter Flock. Flock has a leg injury, which has hampered him for the last couple of weeks, and may keep him sidelined until the postseason rolls around. His absence was certainly felt in the Bison's 12-4 loss to No. 18 Grand Valley State on Sunday.

With Flock's production out of the lineup, NDSU head coach Zach Bosh is trying to get his team to buy into the concept of a nameless, faceless group that churns out wins.

"It is more or less a group effort," Bosh said. "We're trying to let them know that one person isn't responsible for making up what [Flock] does. We're trying to play more as a team. The way we're looking at it, if we can start playing better as a team, and then we get Peter back at the end of the year, it's like adding an All-American player at a key time."

Bosh has been pleased with the play of grad student Andy Madsen, who is running near 70 percent at the faceoff X this spring, but other than that, it's been underclassmen fueling the Bison's success. It's a familiar theme.

"It's nice to be young, but it would be better to have more experience," conceded Bosh. "We only have two seniors contributing minutes this year. It's the same issue we've had for the last three years."

Kyle Sturgeon is one of the more experienced players on the team despite being a junior, and Bosh has labeled him the MVP to this point in the season. Sturgeon had nine goals and eight assists heading into this past weekend's action.

"He's been consistent and he understands the game well," said Bosh of Sturgeon, an Eagen, Minn., product. "He's always been a good player, but he doesn't seem to get any recognition because Peter is playing on the team, as well. He's the second attackman on the team. That's the way it's been. He's always been a solid contributor."

As much as Bosh likes his team and what the individual players bring to the table, he knows there are plenty of things to work on, and some of them were exposed against GVSU.

"We just want to put together four solid quarters," Bosh said. "That was our problem against Western Oregon. We were up 9-5 with two or three minutes left in the game and we gave up two goals to make it 9-7. We probably had 35 turnovers. Not beating ourselves is our biggest problem. It's the little things. A lot of our guys have a huge issue with wanting to be the guy to make the assist. None of them are selfish, but they want to be part of the scoring play instead of making the play in front of them. That's kind of our issue."

There are only two games of note left on NDSU's schedule, and you can probably guess who they are. The Bison travel to No. 3 St. John's this Thursday and then host top-ranked St. Thomas on April 20 (conference lightweights Carleton and St. Olaf are interspersed). It'll be a struggle down the stretch, but then again, if things came easy for North Dakota State it would feel kind of odd.

- There were plenty of sighs of relief in the SELC when the score of the GVSU-NDSU game came across the wire. The entire legitimacy of the SELC is currently being propped up by the reputation of the Lakers, and if GVSU tanked out the rest of the season, it'd be taking an entire conference with it.

No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast, No. 9 Palm Beach Atlantic and No. 5 Liberty are fine teams, and would probably put forth a good showing if they were put on a national stage, but without a win over Grand Valley State, they wouldn't have the complementary victories to merit much of a look from the committee. And they certainly wouldn't be worthy of the Top 12 rankings they currently possess. Seriously, go back and look at their schedules and see what they'd be without GVSU.

What's bizarre about the weekly rankings — and just one of the many reasons that the committee will undoubtedly ignore the polls during the selection process — is FGCU, PBA and Liberty are in the Top 12 thanks to GVSU, but yet the Lakers are No. 18. Anyone who has been following the MCLA knows that Grand Valley is a Top 10 team, regardless of the record, and the fact that the SELC is dining out on the Lakers makes GVSU's current station even more absurd.

Those three SELC teams beat GVSU fair and square, and they should certainly be recognized for having done so, both by the committee and the pollsters. But both of those entities should remember how the Lakers earned the reputation that the SELC is now working off of. It was by traveling and taking on all comers, no matter which division, and winning a whole lot more than they lost. To transitively hand FGCU, PBA and Liberty legitimacy because of the groundwork laid by GVSU over the last five years just because they happen to catch the Lakers early in the season is ill-conceived.

The pollsters may not be catching onto this fact, but I'm guessing the committee will when it makes its selections and seedings.

- There might be a couple of SELC teams that still need to prove themselves, but Elon is not one of them. The No. 11 Phoenix made the trip to Boston — a journey that will certainly make the committee smile — and dumped both No. 13 Briarcliffe (11-4) and No. 21 Stonehille (11-7), essentially locking up a tourney bid regardless of whether they win the conference AQ or not. Sean Augustine had four goals and an assist over the weekend for Elon, which will now prepare itself to tangle with No. 5 Liberty on Friday night.

- St. Thomas' 9-6 victory over No. 3 St. John's is the nail in the coffin for me in regards to the plausibility of someone actually challenging the Tommies in Greenville. We can all cling to the "Any given Saturday" maxim in desperate hope that UST won't further cement its dynasty, but even if they won't openly express it, the rest of D-II knows that it's just a fantasy. Let me be the first to congratulate St. Thomas...Elon's success may help Sam Houston State's case for inclusion at nationals, especially with the LSA not having an AQ this spring...No. 15 Grove City knocked off No. 6 Dayton for the first time in program history. It's going to be tough to keep the Wolverines out of the tourney at this point.