September 9, 2011

Midsummer Night's Power Ranking: MCLA-II

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Junior Cody Cross (above) is just one of the many talented scorers who return for defending MCLA Division II champion Davenport. As we head into the fall, it appears the Panthers are destined for a repeat.

© Cecil Copeland

We have three Midsummer Night's Power Rankings in the books – NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and MCLA Division I – so it's time to put a cap on these seasonal lists with the MCLA Division II version of the MNPR. MCLA-II may fall last on the list, but it might be the most compelling of the four. It should be one of the most competitive of the bunch when things kick off next January with, by my count, seven teams holding reasonable aspirations to raise the trophy in Greenville, S.C., next spring.

As with MCLA-I, the non-varsity teams are tricky to rank because there is so much turnover from year to year, regardless of eligibility factors, and the primacy of tough scheduling. And since many of the conferences – the real engine of the MCLA – haven't had their fall meetings, we don't know whether entire teams are eligible for nationals this year or which teams will be new to the MCLA scene. In other words, there's plenty of "guesstimates" involved in compiling this ranking.

A quick reminder: these are not the Lacrosse Magazine preseason rankings, which will roll out in December. This is just a snapshot -- based on what is lost and what is coming back -- of what the division looks like heading into fall ball.

On to the MCLA Division II MNPR:

20. Indiana Tech (11-3)

This team was frightfully young in 2011 – no seniors and just one junior – but still managed to post a solid record in the hyper-competitive CCLA. Granted, the two top tier programs (GVSU, Davenport) in the league gave the Warriors a beatdown, but Tech should be able to battle for the fourth spot in the conference (which was good for a tourney berth in '11). The Warriors have two solid goalies along with sophomore attackman Josh Puckett (48g, 23a) and junior middie Brent Nichter (29, 16).

19. Sam Houston (9-2)

Once again, there will be nobody in the LSA approaching the Bearkats. With some improved numbers, a better schedule and a little coaching continuity, Sam Houston has the potential to grab a workable seed in Greenville. Junior attackman Michael Mann (38g, 29a) is a strong quarterback who has the luxury of having junior middie Zach Fry (24, 20) patrolling the midfield. The Bearkats have been building for a couple of years now; this is the year for them to make their move.

18. Concordia (13-3)

The Eagles didn't get much hype last year – probably because there are about 47 colleges with the name Concordia – but this version, from California, came within a goal of going to the tourney. They beat Cal State Fullerton during the regular season but couldn't win the rematch when it counted. There were no seniors on last year's team, which was led by sophomore attackman Destin Seguin (65g, 24a) and senior netminder G.M. Ciallela (68.0 sv%), so Greenville is certainly within range for this emerging program.

17. Cal State Fullerton (12-6)

The Titans have made three straight appearances in the championships and have lost all three by an average of 10+ goals, so Fullerton is still building. Junior middie Chris Cole (56g, 36a) returns to lead the midfield and he'll be joined by his talented younger brother, Cameron. Much of the Titans' tournament troubles have stemmed from unfortunate seeds, so if this team – which is rumored to be moving to MCLA-1 in 2013 – can improve the schedule, it could have more success in May.

16. Hope (10-4)

The 2012 campaign will be the Dutchmen's last in the MCLA, so even though there will be some gaps in past production with the graduation of the likes of Eric Weber (74g, 31a) and Allen Campbell (35, 34), there should be a ramp up to going varsity in 2013. Still, Hope is playing in the CCLA meat-grinder, which means there will be no going-away presents. Coach Mike Schanhals will likely find stiffer competition this year than he will in his first year playing with the "Big Boys."

15. Kennesaw State (12-4)

The Owls couldn't pick up the wins they needed in the SELC, and for the second straight year Kennesaw stayed home come tourney time. That challenge will be around again in 2012, and KSU may not have the firepower it did last year. Sophomore attackman Brad Jones (41g, 25a) is back, but the offensive supporting cast will have to be retooled. If the Owls are to be successful, it will have to start on the defensive end, where an experienced bunch returns. A tougher non-conference schedule is a must.

14. Missouri Baptist (9-7)

After several years searching for the GRLC automatic qualifier, the Spartans finally grabbed the brass ring. More importantly, they showed with their schedule a seriousness that had been lacking in the past. If Mo Bap can keep that strength of schedule, they should not only be conference favorites, but potentially more. Goaltending will be an issue to address, but senior attackman David Justvig (50g, 25a) and classmate Tyler Smith (18, 32) make the Spartans dangerous up front.

13. Northern Colorado (8-7)

With its big win over Utah Valley in the RMLC semifinals, the Bears reemerged on the national scene. If UNC can build on the young roster, led by sophomore attackman Garrett Luallen (39g, 14a) and junior goalie Ryan Elliot (63.8 sv%), they should once again be in the hunt for nationals. The defense is a little thin in front of Elliot, which is a concern, but if the Bears can put together another solid schedule like they did in '11, they'll be able to take a loss or two along the way and still be viable for Greenville.

12. Elon (7-6)

The 2011 season ended with the Phoenix opting out of the MCLA tourney. Whether they would have made it is up to debate, but if Elon is all-in this spring, they appear to have the horses to make a run at the SELC title. Senior middie Colin Madden (28g, 16a) is a game-changer and senior attackman Matt Love (30, 14) gives Elon some power up front. Junior goalie Mike Meglio (61.2 sv%) anchors a defense that should return the program to the SELC championship game. If the Phoenix's heart is in, big things could await.

11. North Dakota State (11-4)

On the strength of an experienced senior class, the Bison put themselves on the MCLA map in 2011 with several impressive victories. The proof for this program will come this year when it will be tasked with not only filling graduation holes, but remaining relevant against St. Thomas and St. John's. Sophomores Peter Flock (39g, 26a) and Kyle Sturgeon (19, 27) will give the attack enough punch, but there will be questions on the defensive end, even with the return of senior goalie Ryan Freeman (63.8 sv%).

10. Utah Valley (8-4)

After the Wolverines' run to the national championship game in 2010, there was a huge attrition rate for UVU – both through graduation and transfers. Even with a roster dominated by 19 freshmen, Kevin Perkins managed to guide his team back to the tournament – no small feat. Assuming the roster remains static, Utah Valley should reprise its past form and be a threat to win the RMLC. Sophomores Wesley LeFevre (66.7 sv%) and Jordan Gerber (27g, 12a) will be key assets for the Wolverines.

9. SCAD (15-5)

The SELC champs will have to find a way to replace outstanding long pole Dan Comite, but they have a troika of senior attackman – George McKay (32g, 24a), George McManus (54, 15) and Shelton Polka (39, 20) – that should be the top unit in the conference. The goalie platoon of Kreyton Polka (56.1 sv%) and Wade Winebrenner (55.8) returns again this spring, which should allow the defense to catch up to speed. The Bees will again be tested in the SELC, but enter the season as the favorites.

8. Western Oregon (14-2)

The Ian Bohince era is over for the Wolves, but the All-American middie is the only player on the 2011 roster who runs out of eligibility heading into this spring. Ian's younger brother, junior Jacob Bohince (41g, 21a), leads an offensive corps bolstered by senior Spenser Brock (52, 16) along with a deep midfield. If sophomore goalie Ronnie Rothstein (56.4 sv%) can improve the numbers from his rookie campaign, Western Oregon should easily clear the PNCLL again and return to the nationals as a decent seed.

7. Grand Valley State (19-1)

GVSU was a massive favorite last spring, led by Cam Holding – one of the best players in MCLA D-II history – but the Lakers were out-schemed in the third meeting with Davenport. They'll be operating as underdogs in the stacked CCLA this spring, but they will still be dangerous. Senior attackman Jack Dumsa (59g, 75a) is a player of the year candidate and junior attackman Jeremy Pouba (50, 18) should fill some of the scoring left by Holding. An unheralded defense should still be a strength.

6. Briarcliffe (12-1)

The wipeout at the hands of Davenport in the national quarterfinals doesn't look quite as bad now and the Bulldogs again return just about the entire roster. The upward trend should continue for this program. The schedule is stronger, meaning junior attackmen Matt Karp (35g, 15a) and Jon Bonacore (23, 30) will be more polished for the postseason. Briarcliffe needs to improve its roster numbers – they only had 19 non-goalie players on the roster – if it has real plans for a championship.

5. St. John's (15-4)

The Johnnies name has become synonymous with defense and that will once again be the case with the return of lockdown junior pole Steve Johnson, junior goalie Michael King (62.8 sv%) and many other returners and incoming players that give SJU depth in the back. Sophomore attackman Jacob Helmer (44g, 28a) will lead a competent offensive group. If the Johnnies can improve their production on faceoffs, they could very easily win the UMLL for a second straight season.

4. Westminster (13-7)

The Griffins say goodbye to goalie Dallas McLellan, but a good chunk of the team that peaked at the end of 2011 returns to Salt Lake City. Whoever assumes the starting netminder role will have an experienced group of poles in front of him. Senior middie Gian Sexsmith (38g, 10a), the leading scorer in '11, also returns with junior middie Jake Arthur (38, 4). Top attackman Josh Condas is gone, but there is a young group of frontliners who are ready for their chance.

3. St. Thomas (19-3)

There are two schools of thought. 1) The Tommies were derailed by 20 minutes of inspired lacrosse that was not to be denied. 2) The Davenport debacle was emblematic of the waning of UST's hegemony in MCLA-II. I can make a case for both scenarios, but either way, St. Thomas gassed out in the clutch – an eventuality every bit as monumental as Michigan faltering at the MCLA Division I level. St. Thomas will still have enough talent, but perhaps not enough to get back to the title game.

2. Dayton (12-5)

The attack is stacked with the return of seniors Christian Furbay (51g, 17a) and Gerry Jehling (24, 32) along with junior Will McCormick (47, 11), the midfield is deep and the defense is loaded with the return of senior All-American Matt Dowd. The only question is in goal, where two sophomores, two top recruits and senior Ben Domyancic (60.2 sv% in 2010) will try to fill the final piece of the puzzle. If the Flyers don't make it to the national championship game, it will be a big surprise.

1. Davenport (18-5)

Sure, Shawn Beer (71g, 35a) is out the door, but was he even the best player on the championship team? I'll take junior Jordan Richtsmeier (41, 67) for that title. Add in sophomore attackman Dominic Boggiano (53g, 40a) and junior middie Sam Carlson (29, 18) and there's plenty left for another title run. Throw in a pair of goalies – senior Zach Higgins (59.7 sv%) and Jose Buque (65.8) – who combined for a Minto Cup title, and the Panthers are the overwhelming favorites for a repeat.

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