The leaves are changing, the days are growing shorter, and fall has brought the MCLA back to us. With scrimmages happening across the country, it’s a fair time to start looking ahead to January and the official start of the club lacrosse season. With that in mind, let’s look at some fall predictions for the 2017 MCLA season:
1. The RMLC wins another national championship
Chapman took home last year’s trophy, and the SLC is always an intimidating conference. I would definitely not suggest overlooking Chapman or SLC competitor Grand Canyon, but I believe we’ll be looking towards the Rocky Mountains for our next national champion. The RMLC finished with three teams in the top ten of last year’s poll (Colorado, Colorado State, and BYU) and I think that any of those three are a threat to win a title this year.
My early bet? Colorado takes the title. They’ve got a dynasty building in Boulder, and I can easily see the Buffs returning to the top after “falling” to a 5th place finish in 2016.
2. The SLC will send two teams to the final four
C’mon, just because I picked the RMLC to win the natty doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how stacked the SLC is. They put 4 teams in the postseason top 10 last season, and none of them look primed to fall off too far in 2017. Chapman returns to the scene having not lost since 2015. Grand Canyon played the second half of 2016 like the hottest team in the country…until running into the best defense in the nation. Arizona State and Arizona are both powerhouse programs that deserve respect.
All four of those teams could take home the title next year and I wouldn’t bat an eye. I fully expect this stacked of a conference to send two teams to championship weekend. My money would be on a 2016 repeat: Chapman and Grand Canyon make the final four.
3. The PNCLL rivals the SLC for most chaotic conference slate
You can say a lot about the West in lacrosse, but you can’t say that the west doesn’t provide some incredibly entertaining conference battles. I discussed the difficulty of winning the SLC above, but don’t crown them the conference with the most parity too soon. The PNCLL has quietly become a very competitive league, and looks to have a thrilling conference slate in 2016. Start with Oregon State, who has won the league in 3 of the past 4 years and looks to capitalize on an offense that returns 4 of its 5 leading scorers in 2016. The Beavers should be considered the favorite, but don’t tell their rivals in Eugene. Oregon has had a hectic few years, and will enter 2017 with their 4th head coach in 5 years.
That said, Oregon won the regular season title in 2016, and they’ll once again have a strong group of attackmen. Throw in Simon Fraser, a rising Boise State program, and a surprisingly strong Washington team, and you’re looking at 5 teams battling for 4 conference playoff spots. Expect chaos out west.
4. The East returns to the final four
Unlike the NCAA, the MCLA is dominated by the west. Club lacrosse is huge out west, where it doesn’t have to compete as heavily with the NCAA for recruits. However, the East Coast has managed to put a team in the final four in the last two years (Georgia Tech in 2016, Boston College in 2015). Despite the western domination of the MCLA, at least since Michigan left for DI, I think that there’s a good chance that the East Coast manages to send another team to the final four. The obvious candidate is Georgia Tech, who made it last year, but top 20 finishes from Boston College, Liberty, Florida State, UConn, and Virginia Tech mean that the east has more power than it did in the past. The SELC champion should easily be a top 10 team this year, and expect competition in the PCLL to improve as well.
5. St. Thomas continues its DII domination
The Tommies are a legit powerhouse at the DII level. Last year, they didn’t lose a single game and won yet another national championship. They proved last season that not a single team could hang with them, despite an incredibly difficult strength of schedule. There might not be a team at either level in the MCLA as consistently dominant as St. Thomas, and I see no reason for that to slow down next season.
Yes, they must replace a lot of scoring talent from last season, but they always manage it, and the emergence of freshman attackman Alex Vijums should help. I’m predicting the Tommies as the 2017 national champions.