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Wild, Wild West

There has been a wild shift of power in the West. Most of the big headlines are coming from the mountain states, for a handful of reasons. Last week, #7 Utah lost to former #17, Boise State. Boise State followed up with a unfathomable pair of PNCLL losses, but we’ll get to that later. Utah turned around and avenged the shortcoming by knocking off conference powerhouses #4 Colorado and #10 Colorado State in one-weekend, followed by an absolute dismantling of Utah Valley to claim the RMLC regular season. Texas will come to Salt Lake for another out of conference workout, before closing the season with rival #6 BYU. The pair of highly-ranked wins and smackdown on UVU sent the Utes climbing six spots into the top ten. Based on the off-season coaching upgrades, it is hard to say we didn’t see this coming, but it’s still impressive what Coach Holman and company have achieved in a few short months.

Colorado State got to maintain their poll position by topping BYU, 11-10, the afternoon before the Buffs got the best of the Cougars as well, 9-7. A loss to Utah only cost Colorado a single spot in the rankings, thanks to win over BYU. Luckily for them, BYU’s pair of losses were to top ten teams moving them down one place in the poll. This conference is scary good, with more and more parity coming every year.

Gophers Can Jump

Talk about progress. This week in the poll, #18 Minnesota sprung seven spots forward after a pair of weekend wins over Pittsburgh and #25 Boston College. The Golden Gophers are buying more and more respect from coaches around the country with quality wins, in contrast to their only losses coming to #17 Michigan State, #4 Colorado, and #10 Colorado State. Although they’re unranked, the Panthers are 9-3, with their only other losses to Michigan State and Northeastern. Beating Pitt is a win that will catch any coach’s attention. Then they got by Boston College, but we’ve talked plenty about BC’s unorthodox season. The ranked win does nothing but help Minnesota, while the loss sends the Eagle to the bottom. Despite the loss, and 2-4 record, Boston College still hangs on to a ranking, filling the bottom spot previously held by Minnesota.

Collecting some attention, a pair of attackman are leading the charge for Coach Limpert’s offense. Senior Bodhi Engum racked up 12 of his 48 points last weekend, while freshman Amar Batra collected 12 points to add to his impressive total of 69. The young star is tied for 2nd in MCLA in points, and third overall in points per game with 5.75. They have one conference game left in the CCLA to try to claim the 2nd seed. If they get lucky enough to watch Michigan State fall in their two conference games next week, they can actually steal the top spot. The Gophers will have to keep the momentum against DII’s top-ranked St. Thomas to close things out before the postseason dance.

Deciding SELC’s Four Corners

Six teams are undefeated in the SELC, at least one in each section. Surprisingly, #22 South Carolina is not one of those squads. NC State came out of the high grass to bite the Gamecocks where it hurts, 14-10. The loss puts South Carolina even with NC State and a game behind Clemson. SC still has a shot at claiming the SELC North East, getting a crack at Clemson on Friday to close the season.

Three other games this weekend have major implications for how things are going to shake out in the rest of the conference. It starts with Florida (12-2) at Florida State (10-1) on Friday night. Both teams are 3-0 and the winner gets the top spot in the South East. Not only is this a big rivalry, the conference implications and tight records make this a game the whole country will be keeping tabs on. To win the North West, #19 Liberty and #12 Virginia Tech will go after it on Saturday night in another battle of the 3-0s. Another in-state rivalry, both teams have maintained a place in the Coaches Poll all season long and get a chance to make some noise to close the regular season campaign. The last game that has a chance to really shake things up before the postseason is #3 Georgia Tech’s trip to Athens to meet their rival, the Georgia Bulldogs. Tech is 4-0 in the South West, while the Dawgs are 3-1. Unranked Georgia could deliver a major blow to the ego of the Rambling Wreck before the season’s close, although it likely won’t mean the top seed.

Painting the PNCLL Picture

The biggest surprise movement of the week is Boise State’s plummet from the polls, from #17 to out of the playoffs in one road trip. At 5-2, and hot off a monumental win at #7 Utah, the Broncos were looking like they were about to roll through the rest of 2017. Then a road trip, starting in Canada, would blow their house of straw right over. Only those in Burnaby on Friday can start to wrap their minds around what happened. Simon Fraser, a perennial solid, came out of virtually nowhere to dismantle everything Boise State had built. 11-0. That was the final on the mountain. Goaltender Jeremy Lashar is credited with 16 saves for the Clan, which is a great night for any goalie. Blanking the #17 team in the country is downright mind-blowing.

But the Broncos’ woes didn’t stay at the border. The following afternoon, they continued PNCLL play at unranked Washington. Taking their foot off the gas, Boise State allowed the Huskies to build late momentum in front of a full sideline of fans. Unable to find twine with a handful of late opportunities, UW pulled away and served up the second BSU loss of the weekend, 12-10.

Just like that, the PNCLL playoffs were now out of the picture for the Broncos, along with a trip to Nationals. Although it’s still a couple weeks away, the postseason picture is now a little more clear. #16 Oregon, #13 Oregon State, Simon Fraser, and Washington will meet in a four-way dance in Burnaby, British Columbia to decide who heads to SoCal in May.

The Quest for Perfect

Things were just as odd in Division II. #1 St. Thomas only played, and beat, ranked opponents this year, including wins over each of the top seven teams. Until former #13, now #8, Minnesota-Duluth came down from the lake and stunned the Tommies, 10-9, in St. Paul. Nine games deep, this was their first loss of the season. The noon start seem like a bad idea after taking down rival #7 St. John’s, 13-11, the previous night beginning at 8 p.m. The first hiccup of the season did nothing to hurt the Tommies in the polls, but was impressive enough to rocket the Bulldogs up five spots this week.

Another perfect season was wrecked when #10 Cal State Fullerton got held up in Flagstaff by #14 Northern Arizona, 13-10. The loss handed the SLC North top seed over to the Lumberjacks, matching #2 Concordia-Irvine atop the South. Speaking of the Eagles, they turned around a laid a smackdown on the Titans, serving up loss number two, 14-5, to close out Fullerton’s season. Irvine will now meet cross-town rival UC Irvine for a Thursday night showdown to round things up. The last remaining unbeaten is #17 College of Idaho, actually dropping a spot despite continuing to roll over their competition. The Yotes are still two conference games and a DI battle with Washington State away from a flawless run. If they pull it off and don’t achieve a top ten position, it will be an absolute shame.

Powell Weekly Awards

MVP of the Week: Amar Batra, Minnesota

At 5’8’’, 200 pounds, freshman sensation Amar Batra has been tanking his way through defenses. Over his past three games, Batra has racked up 19 points. This included 1 goal and 4 assists over #25 Boston College and 4 goals and 3 assists over Pittsburgh last weekend. The young gun has pushed the Golden Gophers to a 9-3 record, with the season’s only blemishes coming to to top-ranked opposition. Batra’s 12 point weekend helped #18 Minnesota capture much deserved attention, jumping an entire seven spots up the poll. Taking over third in PPG and tied for 2nd in points, Batra is left with a game more than those ahead of him to try to capture the MCLA’s regular season scoring crown.

Goalie of the Week: Jeremy Lashar, Simon Fraser

When we talked about Simon Fraser’s dismantling of Boise State, we just hit nicked the tip of the iceberg with Lashar. Fraser goalies typically don’t get a lot of initial attention, as British Columbia isn’t synonymous with producing top-notch field lacrosse goalies. The local product has been the main backstop for the Clan for three seasons now, but the icing on his cake has to be the 11-0 shutout of Boise State. Repeat, this kid stopped the former #17 team in their tracks, 11 to nothing. It seems this kid plays his best when facing PNCLL rivals and brought it all together to gobble up 16 of the Bronco’s shots on goal. Literally everything they threw at him. Does it get any better for a goaltender? No doubt Lashar deserves Goalie of the Week. Heck, he should be carried around on a throne by the rest of his team for solidifying their playoff spot.

Coach of the Week: Brian Holman, Utah

Talk about a response to losing at home to Boise State. It takes real coach to bounce a team back from loss to prior #17 to back-to-back wins over prior #3 and #10. We talked about the Utes knocking off RMLC powerhouses Colorado and Colorado State earlier, and the dismantling of Utah Valley, but we really need to slow down and appreciate what Coach Holman has going on. The Utes were 5-9 last year and were trounced by each of the teams that they just took down over the past week. He has maintained a national ranking for the club throughout the season and currently owns the #7 spot. Holman has trusted his son Marcus, and fellow MLL stars Will Manny and Adam Ghitelman, with the keys and they’ve all driven without looking in the rearview. Utah now owns the regular-season title in the RMLC and have the tools to tear apart the National Tournament before bringing the whole event to their backyard for the next few years. Could Coach Holman go from NCAA National Champion to MCLA National Champion in just twelve months? At the rate he’s going, don’t count him out.


Photo by Robert White

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