Monday Notebook: MCLA Division I
It just sounds weird. With the current lacrosse map seemingly filling form the borders inward, it just doesn't sound like we should be ready for the Jayhawks to make their appearance on the national scene. But here they are, the only undefeated team left in MCLA Division I.
Sure, the Jayhawks' biggest win came against Iowa (speaking of weird) and they are a year removed from playing in a rogue, I-AA league within the GRLC, but this isn't a team going through the motions.
At least they aren't talking like they're going through the motions.
"To be honest with you, we're definitely making plans for [Greenville]," said Kansas head coach Ryan Mattie. "We have a lot of confidence right now. The team is exactly where we need to be. That's why we're making plans. I know both Mizzou and Illinois don't look at us as much of a threat, but we're really looking forward to the rest of the season. Maybe we can win the GRLC this year and give a different look to the national tournament."
The program has been building toward this season, according to Mattie. While it was the GRLC that pulled Kansas up to the Division I level (the rest of the conference teams didn't like giving away two conference tourney seeds to I-AA programs), they were no pushover. The Jayhawks challenged Illinois – the presumptive favorite in the GRLC this year – in a 9-6 setback in last year's conference tourney.
"We've been developing a lot over the past few years," said Mattie, who was the starting goalie for KU last spring. "We've been on a weird rotation of coaches having a new one in each of the past four years, but we've had a lot of talent come in. We're strong at all of our main spots. Two years ago we had a good showing against Indiana in the playoffs and last year we kept it within three against Illinois, which nobody thought we'd be able to do. We have changed our mentality a lot. We are practicing five days a week now, often six days. We really stepped up our game this year and we're putting a lot of pressure on the guys. They've stepped up to the table."
It's not easy playing for Kansas. They had no home games this season, and there are very few players on the team who actually hail from the state. It's an amalgamation of Missouri and Illinois kids who have combined to create a Midwestern outpost. While it would be nice to have a local presence – something to form a connection with the Lawrence community that is currently lacking – it does pay off on the field.
"Every line we have in the midfield has guys who played together in high school, so we have at least two people who can create chemistry," said Mattie.
The Jayhawks big gun in Nick Troll, a Missouri native and a transfer from NCAA Division III Endicott (Mass.). He currently leads all of MCLA Division I with 7.0 points per game (34g, 15a in seven games). Troll is the attention-getter on attack, but Mattie believes it's the middies who run the show.
"What makes our attack dangerous is our midfield," he said. "We are a really fast and well conditioned team. All of the components of our offense work so well, and that's why we're able to produce the way that they do."
There are three games left on the regular season schedule (the Jayhawks have already clinched a spot in the GRLC playoffs), and the biggest one by far is against Missouri. Like many of the Midwestern football rivalries, it's a trophy game, with the winner keeping a Civil War-era sword emblazoned with all of the past scores. There is also the familiarity.
"With the kids we have from Missouri, we know each other and played with each other," said Mattie, who is a Kansas native. "It's the biggest game of the season no matter how the rest of the year plays out."
The biggest until Greenville, anyway.
- Want to know what program is hoping that the PCLL is a two-bid league this year? Pittsburgh.
Because if the that conference is getting a second bid, that means the Panthers will have the bus gassed up and pointing toward Greenville. Why? For one of two reasons.
It means either Pitt has won the CCLA automatic qualifier and one of the New England-based teams has out-kicked Michigan State for an at-large, or it means that the Panthers picked up one of the at-large slots because there appears no way the PCLL can get a second bid without standing in line behind Pitt.
This is true because of the weekend the Panthers put together, which included a win over No. 18 Northeastern, 10-6, along with a triumph against No. 12 Boston College, 9-8 in double overtime. With just an inconsequential road game against Division II Carnegie Mellon on Wednesday and the CCLA tourney, there is realistically only one loss remaining for Pitt, and it may not even matter.
- Clutch win for Illinois, which went up to Duluth and knocked off the Dawgs, 8-7, to insulate themselves from the No. 16 seed...Duluth can start getting ready for a rematch with Cal Poly (if it can win the UMLL)...Chapman over Loyola-Marymount, 21-3? Yikes...Alabama clinched an SELC tournament berth for the first time in program history after Georgia bounced Georgia Tech on Saturday...Florida punched its ticket to the SELC tourney at the expense of Central Florida, 17-15...Sonoma can beat Cal and UC Davis to finish the regular season 9-2, but without a win over Cal Poly in the WCLL tourney, the Seawolves will be on the outside looking in...Texas and Southern Methodist grabbed the top two seeds in the LSA playoffs...Arizona State is going to be a fascinating test case for the committee.