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posted 03.26.2012 at 10.00 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Monday Notebook: MCLA Division II

Even heading into the last three national championship games, St. Thomas head coach Pete Moosbrugger typically kept a pretty even keel. There may have been something stirring inside, but on the surface, the Tommies coach kept it together. What was Moosbrugger like before UST's game with then-No. 1 Davenport last Friday?

"Brian Gross, my assistant coach, said it best," said Moosbrugger. "He said he hadn't seen me this nervous in a long time."

Much of the angst came from the fact that Moosbrugger felt like this was really his first challenge of the season despite playing a pair of conference games.

"The first two games we played we weren't really tested, so it's always nerve-racking going up against a great team like Davenport, and we know each other so well," he said. "Even so, the timing was right for the game. The two weeks going into that game we were starting to get after each other and there was a lot of complaining and yelling and screaming at each other. We were sick and tired of practicing with each other. That's a good sign when your guys get surly after a while. They are no longer content with what's going on and need good competition."

The game went as expected, with the two teams needing overtime to settle it. St. Thomas got the game-winner, and the No. 1 ranking in the poll. In that game, the UST defense seemed to be the difference. Could the high-flying Tommies be altering their model, winning big contests with their defense instead of offense?

"Nope," said Moosbrugger, curtly. "Right now, we've already shown that we're executing on defense. In my opinion, that always happens. Early on in our season, good defenses are going to shine. You're really going to see the good offenses toward the end of the year. It just takes that much longer to progress. You have to stop our first line of attack and stop our first three lines of midfield and that's going to be difficult. I don't think there is any team in MCLA Division II that can boast three lines of midfield that are equally as good."

Up next for St. Thomas is a trip to Salt Lake City where they'll play No. 20 Northern Colorado, No. 4 Westminster and No. 10 Concordia. The competition speaks for itself, but this game is a repayment to Westminster for making the trip out to Minnesota last year.

"I have ton of respect for Mason [Goodhand] and the Westminster program," Moosbrugger said. "They are a fun team to play. We made a decision last year that we wanted to play during the regular season and we'll trade trips every year. They came last year and I promised we'd come this year, and I'm hoping that Mason will come back next year. Just kind of keep this rivalry going. It's a great rivalry between coaches that get along great."

If UST can navigate its way through that weekend, it'll be just St. Thomas and North Dakota State standing between the Tommies and the No. 1 seed in the tournament. That's down the road a bit, but Moosbrugger feels pretty good about his team.

"I like where we're at for this time in the season, but in no way am I satisfied," he said. "With the talent we have, we have a few more levels to get too."

- With the RMLC and the PNCLL looking like one-bid leagues this year, the beneficiary will probably be the SLC. After No. 16 Fullerton knocked No. 7 Grand Canyon from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday thanks to seven goals from rookie Cameron Cole, the SLC is almost certainly a two-bid league, and possibly three.

Concordia will make the trip to Salt Lake City this weekend for games against No. 1 St. Thomas and No. 4 Westminster, along with No. 20 Northern Colorado. A victory against the first two almost assures the Eagles a ticket to Greenville, but just playing those teams will show nicely with the selection committee.

Even though all three of these squads are stuck in the same division of the SLC, they're all near-locks to earn a bid to the conference tourney, meaning the two teams that go the furthest will be in great shape, and the third will be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

- Quite a weekend for Palm Beach Atlantic. The Sailfish traveled to No. 8 SCAD and pounded the Bees, 21-14, in a key divisional game and then squeezed past the College of Charleston, 10-9...Dayton better figure out how to score quickly, or they could get run off the field by Grand Valley State this weekend...Briarcliffe giving up double-digits to both Stonehill and Coast Guard does not bode well for an extended stay in Greenville...St. John's picks up a key conference win over North Dakota State. The Bison stunned the Johnnies in the regular season last year...all eyes are on Salt Lake City this weekend.