February 15, 2012

Schooling Schooler: Nick's Bittersweet Weekend

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

There's no telling where the Gauchos would have been with out senior middie Oisin Lewis (above). Lewis went 12-for-17 on faceoffs, which was critical in the Gauchos narrow, 7-6 win over Stanford.
© Nick Schooler

Well, I wasn't able to put it away in Week One.

Our boy Nick rode Boston College's double-overtime victory over Florida State to a 4-1 week, creating a push in our first go around. He missed the Eagles' win against Clemson on Friday night, but managed to stay on pace heading into a more enticing Week Two. Congrats to him.

Still, the good vibes were tempered a little bit by the happenings in Santa Barbara. Yes, the Gauchos managed to beat Stanford in Mike Allan's first game back as the head coach. But by a score of 7-6? That has to be well below the expectations of many tortilla-throwing backers.

I'm guessing our resident UCSB apologist will regale us with stories of "lucky" 25-yard shots from the Cardinal and how Allan is tinkering with his top two midifield lines. Schooler might even hint that the Gauchos took the second half off after building a comfortable lead after 30 minutes. All of these talking points may have a modicum of truth, but are those really legitimate excuses for barely fending off an inferior team at home?

Alas, this is not really a question for me to answer. As an objective writer looking down on the MCLA from on high, I see a win, and the Gauchos at 1-0. Whether the nature of this victory is acceptable to the Gauchos or not is best left for someone who bleeds blue and yellow.

What's the word, Nick? Is it panic time in Isla Vista?

SCHOOLER: I am not panicking. While the game wasn't pretty, the season is still young and the Gauchos have plenty of opportunities to show the MCLA that they can beat the best, and be the best.

BYU did not look crisp in their first few games, and they will need to sharpen up their game this weekend against Chaptown. Are you worried about the Cougars? I'm not, as will be clear by the pick for that game.

One point is clear: the person who needs to be worried is you. I went out on a limb picking Clemson over Boston College. I should never gone with that. Stupid me! It's lucky for you that it did not pan out like the Cal win over Oregon last year that sprung my early season lead. You, however, took the safe upset in the 'Noles over BC, and it backfired on you. It was a hell of a game, though. I almost broke my computer tapping the refresh button throughout both overtimes.

Things must be really tough for you in Wisconsin. You seem to be trolling Facebook more than usual these days. It must be tough for you to see all my photos of the beautiful 70 degree beach days we are experiencing in this Southern California winter. I can tell with all of the California games you picked for us this week. So I thought I'd send a cold one your way with the Midwest matchup between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

California (1-1) vs. No. 17 Utah (1-0) – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. PT (at Los Angeles)

COYNE: Are you ready for the Pac-12 Shootout?! Yes, it's that time of year again when various members of the traditional varsity conference descend on the UCLA campus for a round robin of sorts. The Cal game against Utah is the most compelling game of the bunch, which makes the 9:30 a.m. faceoff somewhat curious.

The Bears are coming off a 1-1 weekend in the Beaver State, with a loss to No. 8 Oregon, 13-9, before bouncing back with a 9-7 victory over an improving Oregon State program. The Utes rode three different players with three goals to a 14-8 over UNLV. In theory, the Bears are returning enough to be a contender for second place in the WCLL and, conversely, the Utes graduated a lot of good players off last year's team, including Mark Manning.

I'm going to go against the grain with this pick and take Utah, especially on a neutral field (if the game was in Berkeley, it would have been the Bears). It'll be the Utes, 10-9.

SCHOOLER: We all know I have a soft spot in my heart for the hippie-ridden land known as Berkeley. I'm not sure I would call it "going against the grain" by picking the higher ranked Utah team, but you can spin it however you want. The truth is, this will be a great game. Alex Watanawaken was amazing in goal last season, but will he be enough to hold off the Bears after the Utes look to fill the void left by Mark Manning? I think the goalie play will be the difference in this game. The edge goes to Utah. The Utes win, 7-4.

No. 8 Oregon (1-0) vs. No. 7 Cal Poly (1-0) – Saturday, 2:30 p.m. PT (at Novato, Calif.)

COYNE: The Ducks are heading to California over the weekend, but Oregon will not be participating in the Pac-12 shootout. No, Joe Kerwin and his mallards aren't thumbing their noses at the event; it was just wasn't doable from a scheduling standpoint. So it'll be Cal Poly on Saturday followed by Sonoma State on Sunday.

This game would be an easy pick for Poly if it was being played in San Luis Obispo, as the 'Stangs are the better team. But this tilt is actually a neutral field contest in Novato, Calif. (North Bay), so this is a plus for the Ducks. In addition, the Mustangs have the contest against BYU looming on Monday – something that will be a huge distraction for Poly. The Mustangs have shown a propensity in the past to get easily distracted away from home (see last year's Oregon trip, for one example), and I think they will be victimized by this trait again. I like the Ducks, 12-10.

SCHOOLER: As I said last week, the Ducks have a very solid group of young players. This team is almost identical to last year's team. They have maintained the core and looked strong in their win over Cal last weekend. With Simon Fraser falling to Boise State on Sunday, the PNCLL crown looks like a gimme for the Ducks. It makes these out of conference games that more important for gauging the Ducks against the rest of the MCLA. Coach Kerwin understands this, and he will have the boys fired up and ready for the game.

It would be easy for me to pick the higher ranked Cal Poly team, but they seem to be off to a slow start. No one knows what happened to Second Team All-American Scott Heberer. Is he injured? He makes everyone around him better. Without him, the Mustangs will need to rely on solid defense and goalie play. With Heberer in the lineup, this could go either way. However, without knowing his status, I see Oregon stealing the win, 10-7.

No. 1 Brigham Young (3-0) at No. 4 Chapman (1-0) – Saturday, 7 p.m. PT

COYNE: I remember back to 2008 when I first started covering the MCLA and one of my first stories (posted, coincidentally, on Feb. 18) was about an upstart Chapman team upsetting BYU, which was fresh off the '07 national championship, 16-15 in SoCal. That Panther team was somewhat underappreciated, but it ended up making the finals that year, starting a magnificent three-year run that, unfortunately, coincided with Michigan's dominant years.

Four seasons later, history is repeating itself as the defending champion Cougars travels to Orange County for an early season clash. Unlike '08, when Chapman had the luxury of playing four games leading up to the contest and BYU only two, the Cougars have three games under their belts as opposed to just one for the Panthers. With that said, BYU hasn't been particular impressive in its first trio of contests and Chapman is still searching for a signature win under Dallas Hartley's reign. Will it be Saturday? I think it will. Chapman with the upset, 14-13.

SCHOOLER: You could look at the way BYU has opened their season and say something about how they do not look like the defending national champs. But look who they have played. I can see how it would be tough to get fired up over a game against UNLV or Boise State. Like any national champion, the Cougars have a target on their backs, and no team will take them lightly.

This will be the first big test for BYU. Are they the same team that made an impressive run at the end of the season? I think so. Not to take anything away from the boys living the OC life, but I think the Cougars will show us who they really are this weekend. BYU takes this one, 15-13.

Coyne's Pick

Washington (1-1) vs. No. 22 Arizona (0-0) – Saturday, 1:30 p.m. PT (at Los Angeles)

COYNE: This type of game wouldn't make the cut in March or April, but in mid-February it's on the docket, if only because it should be a relatively competitive game. While both programs have solid schedules, they'll be also-rans in their respective conferences, and probable outliers in the MCLA tournament discussion.

Arizona is the slightly better team, but the Huskies have a pair of live games under their belt while 'Zona has had one scrimmage (and lost to MCLA-II Grand Canyon). This disparity will make the game closer, but it won't get Washington the win. I like the 'Cats by a deuce, 7-5.

SCHOOLER: The Huskies have not had a great track record of building strong teams. Conversely, Mickey-Miles Felton and the LaxCats have a long, celebrated tradition of winning in Tucson, the WCLL, and now the SLC. To be honest, I do not know much about either team. Washington does not even have their act together enough to submit a roster to the MCLA. So I am going with Arizona, 13-6.

Schooler's Pick

Wisconsin (0-1) at Minnesota (0-0) – Saturday, 12 p.m. CT

SCHOOLER: The Badgers have looked pretty good for a relative newcomer to the MCLA. This is their third season in the league and I have been impressed. On the other hand, the Gophers have been overshadowed by Minnesota-Duluth in the UMLL, but no team should overlook them. They used to field some strong teams and have the potential to put together a quality season.

Both teams return their goalies and a solid portion of their points. So for me, this is a toss up, and I am hoping that Jac goes with his home state and picks the Badgers in this one. I am going with Minnesota, 9-7.

COYNE: Nick must be suffering from sunstroke if he thinks I have any allegiance to the Badgers, other than sharing the same state. And he clearly didn't see the score from Friday night, when Iowa stunned Wisconsin in double overtime. It's going to be very difficult to find a reason to take Wisky in this one.

Which is strange. When the GRLC re-did the divisions this offseason, it sure looked like everything was falling into place for the Badgers. Three of the five teams in the West division were I-AA programs the year before, along with a solid Missouri squad. Now, barring an epic run by the Hawkeyes, this subset appears to be Mizzou's for the taking. Anyway, that's a long-winded way of saying I'll take the Gophers, 13-10.

Schooling Schooler Archive
- Week One: Time to Feed the Ego

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