April 29, 2014

Four Squads Punch Tickets to National Tournament

By Tim Haslam | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Virginia Tech celebrates its victory in the SELC finals over Liberty. (Dave Adams)

The UMLC, LSA and SELC conferences completed their playoffs last weekend while other conferences played their first rounds.

Minnesota-Duluth beat Minnesota 7-3 in the D-I UMLC Championship to claim a spot in the National Tournament that begins on May 12 in Irvine, California.

"Always an honor to represent the UMLC and to be a part of the MCLA national tournament," said Minnesota-Duluth coach Sam Litman, who is no stranger to the national tournament field, playing in four and coaching in nine. "It's an experience I still vividly remember to this day as a player stepping onto the field in my first national tournament. I'm glad my seniors will get one more opportunity to compete for a national championship before their collegiate lacrosse careers are complete."

Minnesota-Duluth is led by Justin Vossen (S, M, 2.545ppg), Jacob Heppner (So, A, 2.545ppg) and Matt Murphy (S, M, 2ppg).

"[The players] are excited for the opportunity to be back at the national tournament," said Litman. "Not having an AQ and not performing the way we needed to out of conference last year left us on the outside looking in. This team has fought hard to get back in to the tournament and are excited to put their hard work to the test."

The Bulldogs are also anxious to get to Southern California, away from snow, sleet, rain and winds.

"I'm hoping the tournament weather curse is gone and the playing conditions are ideal," said Litman.

St. John's won the UMLC D-II Championship with a 12-10 victory over St. Thomas on Sunday. The UMLC D-II does not have an automatic qualifier so the Johnnies will have to hope for an at-large bid which should be a no brainer for the selection committee since they've been in the Top 5 all season.

On Sunday, Texas beat Texas State in the LSA Championship in overtime, 9-8. Elliot Chang-Tung scored the game-winning goal for the Longhorns.

"I felt confident going into overtime," said Texas coach Andy Garrigan. "Our faceoff guy has been working hard and Chang-Tung scoring the goal, finishing the game for us was great."

The Longhorns bolstered their schedule this year facing Colorado, Colorado State, Oregon, Chapman, Georgia Tech, Central Flordia and Simon Fraser in out-of-conference play.

"After losing to Colorado last year in the first round, the officers and coaches got together and said, 'In order to prepare ourselves for nationals, we need to play a tougher schedule,'" said Garrigan. "That schedule helped prepare us for this championship game and hopefully we're able to get past the first round at nationals."

Like the Bulldogs, the Longhorns are eager to get to Southern California for the weather, but for different reasons.

"The turf was hot yesterday," said Garrigan. "Somewhere around 105 degrees. Needless to say it was toasty."

In D-II, Sam Houston State beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 11-9, but, like the UMLC, the LSA D-II doesn't have an automatic qualifier. The Bearcats haven't been ranked since Week 2 so it's likely the LSA won't be represented in the D-II National Tournament.

In the SELC D-I Championship game on Sunday, Virginia Tech defeated Liberty, 13-9.

"Liberty is a great team," said Virginia Tech coach Matt Schroeder. "They are well-disciplined, well-coached, and obviously very talented. We were hopeful we would get another shot at them and luckily it turned out that way. We changed a few things from the first time we played them and I think that helped a lot. My assistants [Brent Sikora and Matt Giannelli] also did a great job figuring out their zone, making adjustments and executing our game plan. It was a complete team effort."

The Hokies will be returning to the national tournament after missing the 2013 edition and getting bounced in the first round of the 2012 Tournament by BYU.

"The guys are obviously very excited," said Schroeder. "The weather is much nicer in Orange County than Blacksburg most of the year. Though it is a tough time of year for us academically since the tournament is during our finals week, they are just thrilled to have the opportunity to compete against the best teams in the country."

In the SELC D-II Championship game, Reinhardt dominated Kennesaw State in a 17-6 blowout and will hope to get a high seed in the national tournament. The Eagles have been a Top 20 team for the last few weeks of the coaches poll.

Around The League

In the CCLA D-I Semifinals, Davenport will face Ohio while Michigan State takes on Pitt on Friday with the winners squaring off for the championship and AQ slot on Saturday. In D-II, Dayton and Grove City advanced to play each other while Siena Heights and Grand Valley State advanced on the other side of the bracket.

The GRLC will begin their conference tournament on Friday with Illinois facing Kansas and Iowa taking on Illinois State in the quarterfinals. Missouri and Indiana received first round byes. The champion will be crowned on Sunday. In D-II, four quarterfinals games will be on Friday with the championship game on Sunday.

The PCLL quarterfinals will be begin on Thursday, semifinals on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday. The D-I bracket won't be set until Tuesday with New Hampshire and Northeastern squaring off at 6:30pm. In D-II, one game remains with Stonehill taking on Framingham today.

In the PNCLL, Simon Fraser will face Montana while Oregon and Oregon State will have a rematch of their game last Saturday where Oregon State won 12-9. In D-II, Gonzaga beat Portland and will face Western Oregon. Southern Oregon defeated Puget Sound and will face Western Washington.

Colorado State beat Utah State, 20-9, and will take on rival BYU in the semifinals on Friday. Westminster beat Utah, 23-7, and will face Colorado. In D-II, Colorado Mines will take on Northern Colorado while Fort Lewis and Montana State go head-to-head.

UCSB edged Arizona 7-6 the quarterfinals of the SLC Playoffs. The loss could really hurt the at-large chances of Arizona. The Gauchos will face Arizona State on Friday. On the other side of the bracket, UNLV upset Grand Canyon and will take on Chapman. The winners of the semifinal games will get a day's rest and will battle on Sunday for the automatic qualifier. In D-II, Concordia will face Northern Arizona and UC San Diego will take on Cal State Fullerton.

One of the most evenly matched conferences - the WCLL - will crown a champion this week as well with Cal Poly taking on Stanford and Cal playing Sonoma State. Each team has been in the Top 25 at one point or another all season. In D-II, St. Mary's will face San Jose State while Nevada takes on UC Santa Cruz.

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