Each week, one of our NAIA writers will give us a run down of which teams are on the rise and which teams took a step back. Take a look at why the Columbia Cougars lead this week’s stock report:
Columbia Cougars Cruise Through KCAC – NAIA Weekly Stock Report
The Columbia College Cougars will finish their regular season undefeated without a doubt in my mind.
They have played their toughest opponents thus far in No. 6 St. Ambrose and No. 7 Madonna, with a notable upcoming matchup against No. 10 Ottawa. Although this team is relatively new, only having played two completed full seasons at this point, it is playing like an experienced side who has been in the situation to compete for a title before.
Head coach Ian Wolfe understands what it’s like to build a program from the ground up, and it has shown. Wolfe served as the assistant coach for the Lourdes University Gray Wolves in their inaugural season where they finished with a 11-3 record. At this point in the season, it’s safe to say that the Cougars aren’t just looking at the KCAC title but potentially a national one. The Cougars have the coaching and talent to compete at this level, but Columbia’s lack of experience in big-time games may serve as an issue once playoffs hit.
Although No. 7 Madonna currently sits with two losses on its season, it has all of the pieces to compete for a WHAC championship. Both of the team’s losses come from top-three opponents in No. 1 Reinhardt and No. 3 Columbia. The Crusaders game against Reinhardt was evenly matched up until the fourth quarter when Reinhardt put up five goals to secure the win. Even though this game was inevitably a loss, it showed that Madonna has no problem competing with top-tier programs, unlike other WHAC schools this season.
Madonna’s offense is really going to have to find a consistent rhythm in order to beat the remaining schools on its schedule, as some quarters it will put up five goals and others it will get completely shut out. This is a relatively young team consisting of three seniors who would have experienced the program’s run at a national title back in 2018. Conference play is really going to make or break this team, and based on what we have seen from the conference thus far, Indiana Tech seems like the only true matchup for this Crusaders squad. But Madonna should have little to no issues with their other WHAC opponents as the season progresses.
Having watched every Lourdes game this season, it has become increasingly obvious that this team has only been on the decline since its WHAC Tournament Championship back in 2017. The Gray Wolves have a track record of competing against top-tier programs all four quarters just to fall short in the closing minutes of the game. Since 2018, the Gray Wolves have a record of 2-9 versus ranked opponents, losing their games by an average of 2.7 goals against some of the best teams in the country.
Their 2021 season has been lackluster to say the least, with wins over Mount Vernon Nazarene and Montreat, who have a combined record of 4-10. Their loses come against a falling Cumberlands team and a rising Concordia team, with Concordia typically being considered an “easy win” on the Lourdes schedule in years past.
Now that conference games are in full swing, it is difficult to have faith that the Gray Wolves will compete against top programs like they have in the past considering they can barely compete against mid-tier programs this year. Lourdes will definitely sneak by with a few more wins on its record this season, but it does not appear the Lourdes University Gray Wolves are heading in the right direction moving forward.
The Vikings currently sit at 0-4 with very little hope left in this season. A job posting was found last week in search of a new head coach, which is never a good sign considering the lacrosse season is in full swing. Former head coach Nathan Young lead the program to two regular-season conference championships and kept the team nationally ranked within the top 10 during his time at Missouri Valley. Without Young at the helm, the program appears to be at a point of disarray.
The Vikings have never experienced a losing season in program history. Missouri Valley’s losses thus far have come against notable opponents, but the Vikings showed no signs of life in any of these games, falling by an average of 10 points a game. The KCAC is the most competitive it has ever been with multiple teams having been nationally ranked at some point this season. The Vikings are seemingly going to have to build this program from the ground up yet again as this team has taken on an entirely new image than what was seen from it in the past.
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Don’t forget to keep up with the stock reports throughout the season to mark the rise and fall of teams, leagues and narratives in 2021: