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posted 04.18.2011 at 10.01 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Monday Notebook: MCLA Division I

- Saturday's game between Minnesota and Minn.-Duluth cleared up one question and created another. The Golden Gophers' 8-7 overtime victory over the Bulldogs locks the winner of the UMLL automatic qualifier into the No. 16 seed and a first round date with Michigan. The question created -- how should we evaluate Duluth? -- is slightly more complicated.

Boiled down to its core, the perception of UMD this year has been skewed by expectations. Past performances have been driving the evaluation instead of objective analysis. I fell into this trap, as well. When I spoke with Frank Clark at the beginning of the season, he talked convincingly about how there was plenty of talent to replace the key contributors they lost off the 2011 team. "I hope teams underestimate us," said Clark at the time.

While Clark did a good sell-job -- and that's what good coaches do -- the reality was there was no easy fix for the departure of All-Americans Dan Pitzl and Charlie Nesser, among others. Combined with this is the fact that Clark's wish didn't come true. Because of the Dawgs reputation, no team underestimated them. Thus, the 5-7 record we see this spring.

Reality bites, so to speak, but a lot of teams would kill for UMD's rebuilding year. The Bulldogs are still favorites to win the UMLL despite Saturday's setback, and will likely return to Denver. They'll run into a buzz saw there, but at least we'll know what to expect instead of being jaded by past expectations.

- That collective sigh you heard from Orlando was from the Central Florida players. The Knights have sat around all week waiting for the Florida-Florida State game that would ultimately determine whether they made the SELC tournament field. Even though they defeated the Gators earlier in the year, if UF managed to beat FSU (and allow less than 19 goals), the tie-breaker would eliminate UCF.

The Seminoles 22-11 victory put that notion to bed, sending the Knights into the eight-team field. Led by David Drehoff, the MCLA's leading scorer (60g, 43a), Central Florida still needs to win the SELCs to make the MCLA tourney, but it's a great achievement for a program attempting to break through in a division dominated by Florida and Florida State.

- The two biggest surprises for me this weekend was Lindenwood beating Illinois, 17-16, in overtime and Arizona knocking off Simon Fraser, 11-10. Illinois losing isn't that big of a deal -- the Illini still have the GRLC tournament to prove they're the team to beat (although they have cost themselves a seed or two in Denver). I was just stunned to see some signs of life out of Lindenwood this year. The Lions have been quiet.

Fraser's done now. With a win, I thought they still might come up into the at-large discussion, but that's over. The Clan needs the PNCLL AQ or it's bedtime. Fraser's dive impacts Utah, whose record is looking more and more suspect. The Utes two "signature" wins have come against Duluth (see above) and Fraser. Utah's best win actually might be Westminster.

- Michigan won the first installment of what could potentially be three meetings between the Wolverines and Michigan State this spring, defeating the Spartans, 14-10. Trevor Yealy scored six goals and State had a rash of turnovers, allowing UM to walk away with the victory. The two will meet again in the CCLA championship game and then potentially again in the national tournament in Denver, depending on the seeds.

- USC forfeited its game with UC Santa Barbara two hours before game time? Amateur hour...Colorado State's 9-8 victory over Colorado at Invesco Field was what a rivalry game should look like...Duluth managed to beat Sonoma State on Sunday, 8-2, meaning there is one team that has more question marks than the Bulldogs...Cal Poly rebounded with a solid win over Stanford. It's tough envisioning the Mustangs losing the WCLL.