MCLA Division II Notebook
When word came down that the LSA would not have an automatic bid to nationals because of the inability to amass the MCLA-mandated six eligible teams, it looked like Sam Houston State might be in for a world of hurt.
The Bearkats typically played an insular schedule, rarely leaving the Lone Star State, knowing that they could crush their conference competition with a handful of superior athletes. With no AQ, Sam Houston would not only have to travel, but pick up a couple of wins to impress the committee. Well, mission accomplished.
During their trip to Palm Beach in mid-March, the Bearkats beat Elon — which is a lock to make the MCLA tournament — and also dispatched a SCAD team that just lost in the SELC tournament finals. Throw in a loss to Palm Beach Atlantic to help the strength of schedule, and Sam Houston is ticketed to Greenville.
"We should have not have any issues," confirmed Bearkats head coach Jim Perouty. "We need to win our LSA tournament [which they did], but the people who do the selection process — and I'm happy to be one them — normally get it pretty darn right. I think we should be in the Top 8, to be quite honest."
The presence of SHSU will rankle some because the Bearkats have been glorified seed-holders at nationals. In its appearances over the past the three seasons, Sam Houston has never been higher than a 13 seed and has lost by an average of 18.7 goals in the first round. In all three of those seasons, SHSU would not have qualified for nationals without the LSA auto-bid.
Now, without that bid, they have managed to find their way to Greenville once again. Should we expect anything different this year?
"I really think that we'll be respectable this year compared to how we've been in the past," countered Perouty. "We ran into good a Dayton team in the playoffs last year. That's probably the best team Charlie Mark has ever had Dayton and they were peaking at a time when we didn't have the toughest schedule at the end of the season. Before we even got out of the box, they were on top of us. They were just a far superior team last year."
Sam Houston still has a similar look to year's past. The Bearkats have a 20-man roster, includling goalies, and are relatively top-heavy on their scoring. Still, Perouty insists that this version of SHSU has evolved.
"When I first took over the team back in 2011, heck, it took me halfway through the season to even figure out everyone's name," Perouty said. "The talent level wasn't as good, so we relied on Zach [Fry] to take the meatball to the goal. But we run offensive sets now and everyone has their place. It's effective. Michael Mann and Travis Tabb, they put a ton of points on the board, but where we used to get the ball and go to the goal, now we run offenses and we put people in patterns. The thing we try to do is be more of a team."
Mann (45g, 42a), Tabb (46g, 23a) and Logan Holmes (33g, 14a) provide plenty of scoring punch for Sam Houston State, but they'll also be bolstered by key guys at positions that can be game-breakers in May. Sophomore Josh Evanski is running at 64.4 percent at the faceoff X while classmate Mikey Candler has a 65.6 save percentage in the cage. It was a big reason why SHSU was able to finish 4-0 against LSA Division I competition, including an overtime win over Texas State.
"The thing is that in the polls, D-I games don't count and you're not supposed to look at them, but I look at them when I talk to my guys," Perouty said. "I tell them that Texas State lost to Boston College by two goals. BC is undefeated and ranked about No. 9 in D-I. So I think I we're a nice team."
Nice doesn't get you anywhere in the MCLA, especially with St. Thomas running the show in Division II. And as much as Perouty thinks they deserve it, the Bearkats earning a Top 8 seed in Greenville is an ambitious goal. Alas, Sam Houston will be back in the tournament once again regardless, hoping to replace a tradition of futility with something more respectable.
- We're a week away from finding out the true answers, but here's what I've got right now.
No. 16 Lindenwood-Belleville (GRLC) vs. No. 1 St. Thomas
- Bridgewater State defeated No. 24 Stonehill, 16-15 in overtime, giving the Bears their first win over the Skyhawks in nine years. The victory also put BSC atop the PCLL North division, ensuring a first round bye and a likely match-up with Briarcliffe in the semifinals...it's been a rough season for Wabash in their first go-around as an MCLA team. The Little Giants started the season 0-8 and scored just 15 goals in those contests (1.9 goals per game). Wabash played its final game of the season this past Thursday against Butler and posted an 8-5 win. The nature of the beast demands that I talk a lot about the best teams and the biggest wins in the division, but sometimes it's important to highlight the smallest victories. They can be the most rewarding.
- Liberty posted the undefeated Division II season as they bested SCAD in the championship game of the SELC tournament. The Flames are a lock for Top 5 seed and could be the only team outside of Westmisnter with the ability to make this year interesting...with Missouri State's win over Washington U. on Sunday, Lindenwood-Belleville avoided the awkward situation of missing the GRLC conference tourney. Now that the Lynx are in, they are still the favorite...St. Thomas won the UMLL auto bid. Shocker...Grove City's 8-7 win over Michigan-Dearborn wasn't exactly the statement win you'd expect out of the No. 1 seed in the CCLA...GVSU's 17-8 whitewash of Dayton in the CCLA quarters was the Flyers' death rattle.