6. Grand Canyon
I maintain the position that Grand Canyon finished last season as the hottest team in America. This was a team that was written off across the board early in the season, at least as a championship contender. Then came the winning streak, as the ‘Lopes rattled off eight straight wins, and ten of their final eleven, to roar back into the top five and head towards nationals.
The only thing that could slow them down was Cal Poly and their elite defense. The Lopes lose a stud in Dean Fairall, but return perhaps the best attackman in the nation in Joe Balestrerie (87 points, 1st team All-American). He’ll lead the attack, but for once I don’t see the attack as the true strength of this GCU squad. Rather, take a look at the midfield to see the scary part of this 2017 Grand Canyon squad.
They return a boatload of midfielders, including star freshman Cam Wengreniuk (2nd team All-American). Grand Canyon is a proven power since joining the MCLA, and they should be considered a contender in both the SLC and the MCLA as a whole.
Never count Colorado out. The program’s dynasty rolls on, though it’s now seceded two straight titles to the SLC. Colorado littered the 1st team All-RMLC in 2016, and brings back a minimum of four of those players for 2017.
Start with Jensen Makarov, who was the best goalie in the RMLC last season and who will have fellow 1st team All-RMLC defenseman Penn Lukens on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, Ben Wharton leads the attack, but will be joined by Jake Gonzales in the midfield as returning top teamers. Colorado might be top heavy, but they’ve got star power at every position on the field. The Buffs are always a contender, and they look every bit the part of a potential national title team again in 2017.
The scariest part about Colorado? They’re balanced. This is a team that can win shootouts and defensive battles, and that should frighten a lot of teams.
4. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets are an easy favorite for the SELC, which is nothing to scoff at considering the growing talent in that conference. But when you go 16-1 on your way to a spot in the national semifinals, you deserve respect.
This is a squad that didn’t lose a regular season game in 2016, and still hasn’t lost to a team east of the Rockies since 2015. This is a team that shows few flaws heading into 2017. It starts with attackman Brian Connolly (83 points), who followed up a 1st team All-SELC run in 2016 with a spot on the All-Tournament team at nationals.
On the defensive side of the ball, they return multiple members of one of the best defenses in the nation from last season, starting with returner Will Byars (1st team All-America) and heading on down the list. Georgia Tech is a program that is stacked at every position, and looks primed to head right back to nationals.
The only reason they aren’t higher on this list is based on the merit of other program. Don’t doubt the Yellow Jackets.