The Wildcats probably would’ve been the favorite in four or five conferences last year. Of course, nothing is gained easily in the SLC. Arizona returns plenty of talent for 2017, but will again face a very difficult schedule. Luckily for the Laxcats, they return a ton of scoring talent. They’ll need it, as they’ll be forced to break in a new goalie after the graduation of stud keeper Tanner Knego.
Arizona has always had a solid defense, but will need the offense to take the next step to compete for the SLC title. I would expect seniors Christian Turri and Jerome Rigor to take this offense to the next level in their final years, and help propel Arizona back into SLC contention for 2017.
11. Arizona State
The Sun Devils are a powerhouse program, but one that doesn’t have a national championship to its name. ASU has had plenty of top five seeds at nationals recently, but also has had more than a few early exits. ASU won’t begin this season as a favorite in their conference, and that might be just what Arizona State needs to take the next step.
With the pressure off, Arizona State can perhaps calm down and gel a little more this season before having to battle it out in the SLC. Last year, Arizona State played a difficult slate, but also finished at .500. They’ll need to do better to get the benefit of the doubt two years straight. With all three attackmen returning, they might have the firepower to do just that.
10. Oregon State
At some point, we have to give credit where credit is due. In three of the last four seasons, the Beavers have finished the season hoisting the PNCLL trophy and taking their talents to nationals. All of that despite the fact that nobody seems to ever pick them to finish better than second in the conference, and often considered the third team in their own conference.
The Beavers start this season the preseason favorite in the PNCLL coaches poll. It’s time to see how the Beavers handle things at the top, rather than as underdogs. Laced with returners and featuring a potential breakout star in sophomore attackman Kyle Baldes, the Beavers can aim higher than just a third straight PNCLL title. This program is making nationals into an expectation, and should be aiming for a deeper run in 2017.