May 19, 2011

Familiar Foes Meet in MCLA Semifinals

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Davenport is going to need a big day from Shawn Beer, as well as a cohesive defensive effort against Grand Valley State's Cam Holding, if the Panthers want to avoid flaming out in the national semifinals for the third-straight year.

The MCLA national semifinals, which will take place at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., on Friday, have been set, and the match-ups feature storylines bred on familiarity.

The most prominent subplot takes place in the final game on Friday when No. 1 Michigan and No. 5 Arizona State stage a rematch of the 2010 national championship game at 7 p.m. MDT (and broadcast live on Fox College Sports).

The Wolverines have navigated their way through another unblemished regular season, including a 12-10 win over Arizona State in Ann Arbor, and run into an ASU team that appears to be peaking. The Sun Devils manhandled No. 4 Chapman -- a team they lost to in the SLC finals -- in the quarters, winning 8-3.

"I think all the teams who made it to the semifinals are peaking. You have to be," said Michigan head coach John Paul. "Arizona State, BYU and Colorado State are all playing very well right now, and I think we're playing pretty well, too."

The two top contenders for the player of the year award get to display their bonafides in this contest, as well. Michigan attackman Trevor Yealy (49g, 5a) and ASU's midfielder Ryan Westfall (35g, 30a) perform on the big stage once again.

The other Division I semifinal, which starts at 4 p.m., features a pair of conference rivals that know each other about as well as you can. No. 2 Colorado State faces No. 3 Brigham Young for the third time this season after playing in the regular season (won by BYU, 8-5) and in the RMLC championship (won by CSU, 8-5).

"They were both similar games," said Rams coach Alex Smith. "They were close in the first half and then the winning team took over in the second. They play us really well on their defensive end and we play them really well on our defensive end, so it comes down to riding, faceoffs and goaltending. There's not a whole lot of game-planning to do. We know each other so well, it's just going to be a dogfight."

Despite having high-powered offenses led by player of the year candidates Ted Ferrin (BYU) and Cooper Kehoe (CSU), the defenses have ruled the day. With a shot at the national title on the line, this one could be a grinder.

In the junior circuit, the 1 p.m. semifinal will also feature the third installment of a conference rivalry. No. 1 Grand Valley will be looking for a clean sweep of No. 5 Davenport, with the Lakers winning 16-5 in mid-March and then again in the CCLA title game, 12-9. Although 0-2 in the series so far, the Panthers looked impressive in a rout of No. 4 Briarcliffe in the quarterfinals, 23-10.

Davenport head coach Bob Clarkson wasn't in a very talkative mood when his team raced out to a 11-0 lead to start the game.

"I looked at my assistant and said, 'Don't say anything. We can only screw this up,'" said Clarkson when Briarcliffe called a timeout. "We have to play 60 minutes, which is important for us, against Grand Valley and we have to stop Cam Holding. Those are the two keys."

The first one will be a lot easier than the second. Holding has 14 goals and five assists in the first two games for the Lakers – both routs – and has a staggering 101 goals and 28 assists so far this season. Davenport did manage to keep Holding to just a pair of goals in the last meeting. Grand Valley enters the game as the only undefeated (19-0) team in MCLA Division II.

In the first semifinal of the day, which commences at 10 a.m., St. Thomas and Dayton will renew acquaintances. These two battled in the 2009 national championship game, which was won by the Tommies and started the current domination by the St. Paul, Minn., school. They also met on Feb. 25 of this year in Charlotte in a game won by the Tommies, 13-11.

Flyers head coach Charlie Mark wants nothing more than another crack at the two-time defending champs, especially after Dayton trounced St. John's – a team that beat St. Thomas in the UMLL championship game – in the quarterfinals, 15-8.

"I was depressed when Westminster was winning," said Mark, referring to the time in the quarterfinals when the Griffins were leading St. Thomas (the Tommies won, 9-7). "That is the team we want to play."

The Flyers will get their chance, along with the rest of the teams, on Friday.

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