March 21, 2013

Schooling Schooler: Handicapping the Player of Year Race

by Jac Coyne and Nick Schooler | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

After leading Colorado to a 9-0 start to the season and a No. 3 ranking in the latest poll, senior goalie Brad Macnee is one of the top contenders for MCLA Player of the Year at this point.
© Cecil Copeland

The MCLA season has been going on for the better part of two months, so it's time to figure out who are the frontrunners for the Player of the Year award. As with any postseason award, be it the Heisman to MLB's Most Valuable Player, there are always different interpretations about what satisfies the requirements of the honor. Some awards have vaguely-worded parameters for selection while most don't have any stipulations at all.

Before we get to my frontrunners, let me clarify what I believe qualifies someone for the Player of the Year honor.

- Must be a player on team in contention for the national tournament.
- If said player was removed from the team, the chances of that program having success at nationals would dramatically decrease, if not ruin the possibility of making the postseason altogether.
- Produces against the top competition on the schedule.

Here's my short list at this point.

Brad Macnee – Sr., Goalie, Colorado
The Buffs have raced out to a 9-0 start to the season and are a lead-pipe lock to make Greenville, thanks to Macnee's 68.6 save percentage (the formula that MCLA.us uses for goals against average is incorrect, but we can safely assume it's probably below 7.00). Without Macnee, Colorado is probably 6-3, and maybe in 5-4. They'd still be looking good to earn a berth, but possibly as a double-digit seed. Macnee delivered against UCSB (14 saves), Cal Poly (15), Simon Fraser (18), Oregon (10) and Virginia Tech (10). He's in the lead right now.

Jack Farr – Sr., Attack, Stanford
Like Macnee, Farr has been operating at a high level for the past three season, but this year he's reached new heights. Farr is the leading scorer — 23 goals, 20 assists — for the third-ranked Cardinal, which have come out of nowhere to hijack the top story in the MCLA so far. Stanford would still be decent without Farr and likely in the hunt for the WCLL crown, but they'd have at least two losses, and possibly three, without him. He put the Cardinal on his back in the win over Oregon with eight goals and two assists and was the catalyst (1g, 3a) in the one-goal triumph over Northeastern.

Austin Fisher – Sr., Attack, Colorado State
Fisher's excellence was overshadowed last year by the dominant defensive performance by the Rams (and the fact that CSU mustered just over nine goals per game in Greenville), but he's rolling this year, averaging a hat trick a game and a career-high 4.56 ppg. Without Fisher's six-goal, two-assist performance against UCSB, the Rams would have at least one loss. In the last four games, all against ranked opponents (at the time), Fisher has 10 goals and three assists.

This is obviously an early list. As some of the top teams in some of the northern conferences get going — teams like Michigan State — and we get into the all-important conference races, new faces are going to emerge. But with just over a month remaining before we find out who's heading to Greenville, these are three are at the top of the heap.

Nick, what are your requirements for Player of the Year consideration, what have been some of the characteristics of winners of this award in the past, and who has caught your eye to this point?

SCHOOLER: I think you hit the nail on the head for the requirements of Player of the Year. However, I find your second point about the effects of the loss of the said player to be inconsequential. The best teams in this league are deep. One player does not make a difference, even if he is the Player of the Year.

What I think you are getting at are players like Calvin Craig, David Drehoff, and Nick Dean. These are players on teams that make the tournament, but are long shots at winning it. These are players who, on a deep team, would be without question the Player of the Year. They are so good that without them, their teams would not be above .500. These types of players are a long shot for POY, but they should be considered if the league has never seen someone like it before.

While the season is young and I do not think any team has risen above the rest, I will throw out some names that have not been mentioned yet.

Carson Barton - Jr., Attack, Grand Canyon
Why has this guy caught my eye? His team broke my rule that no Division II team could experience any high level of success in Division I in its first season. Barton has played a large role in this. GCU put together a very tough schedule and has paid dearly for that. But out of those tough games, the 'Lopes have managed to play BYU and Chapman to one goal. In those games, Barton led the team in points with eight (5g, 3a) and five (3g, 2a) points, respectively. He also leads the MCLA in points with 53 (32g, 21a). Barton has GCU poised to compete in, and possibly win, the SLC south while making a run at the nationals.

Payson Clark - Sr., Attack, Arizona State
Clark is probably the best player on a national championship contender. He leads the league in goals with 36 and he shows up with big performances in big games. He scored four goals against Cal, four more against against Cal Poly, and three against Chapman in their lone loss. He added five goals and an assist against BYU. It can be argued that without him, the Sun Devils would not be getting that lone first place vote in the polls.

Porter, Sullivan, and Zabor - Srs., Defense, Colorado State
How do I pick one? This defense is the same group that won the national championship last season. They have held every opponent to under double digits except for the Gauchos, of course, but that is no easy feat. These guys smother offenses and shut down players like Clark and Barton. While the goalies split time for the Rams, the defense stays the same. Could goalie play be the difference between the first and second half for the Rams?

On to the games, where Schooler has narrowed his deficit after a 4-1 week, but Coyne is sill well out ahead, 24-11 to 19-16.

No. 5 Chapman (7-2) at No. 3 Colorado (9-0) - Saturday, 7 p.m. MT

COYNE: Chapman was having trouble closing the deal earlier this season against Oregon and BYU, but the Panthers appear to have corrected that problem, rattling off six straight wins, including two one-goal triumphs against Arizona State and Grand Canyon and a two-goal victory over Richmond. That's a big mental hurdle to have conquered, and should be a huge benefit once Greenville rolls around.

Speaking of nationals, depending on how the seeds play out, this could very well be a semifinal preview. Chapman's speed out of the midfield will be where it has to make its money against Colorado, but the Buffs have been excellent at matching up well with talented middies and has been equally consistent quashing transition opportunities – always a Chapman staple. It's going to be close and low-scoring, but I'll be the Buffs at home, 7-6.

SCHOOLER: Coming off a fresh viewing on the Buffs, I think they are a good team, but not the third best team in the league. That position lies with ASU or Chapman. Call it SLC bias, but the Panthers will shut down the Buff's offense. Colorado has scored seven, eight, and six goals against Oregon, LMU, and UCSB, respectively. One of those teams is not even ranked. So unless Colorado can turn things around, I think Chaptown takes this one home, 8-5.

No. 12 Sonoma State (4-2) at No. 17 Virginia Tech (6-3) - Saturday, 5 p.m.

Averaging a hat trick per outing for top ranked Colorado State, Austin Fisher has made a name for himself on a team known more for its defense.
© Cecil Copeland

COYNE: The jury is still out on these two teams. Both came into the season with a lot of promise and both have underwhelmed to this point in the season, so it's appropriate that they square off on the Seawolves' trip to Virginia. Both of these teams have struggled on big trips this year — 'Noma couldn't handle their sojourn to Oregon and the Hokies were humbled in Colorado.

Both teams will get a chance to scout each other out — Sonoma plays Richmond on Wednesday and VT faces George Washington on Friday night — so there won't be any surprises. With a pair of decent defenses, this one will come down to who can find a way to score. So far this year, both have been weak in that department, but the Hokies have more untapped offensive resources. Tech, 8-7.

SCHOOLER: I commend the Seawolves (still hard to call them this) for making a trip to the east coast in March. Not many teams would do that. While it is a bit chilly right now, it is supposed to warm up for the weekend to temperatures similar to that of Northern California. So I do not think weather will be an issue.

The key for Doug Carl will be shutting down the high powered Hokies attack. So far this has not been an issue for many of the top teams and I put Sonoma in that category. Seawolves win, 11-8.

No. 6 Brigham Young (8-1) vs. No. 8 Oregon (7-2) - Monday, 7 p.m. PT (at Berkeley, Calif.)

COYNE: BYU brings some traditional family values to the bacchanalia of Nick's hometown with the hopes of getting the ship back on course after stumbling against Arizona State over the weekend. Meanwhile, Oregon is trying to build on its modest, three-game winning streak with games against Cal on Saturday and then the Cougars on Monday.

Both of these teams have jelled a lot quicker to this point than I thought they would and now they are both in midseason form. Mike Fabrizio (5.1 ppg) has filled the shoes of the departed Ted Ferrin for BYU while the Ducks have kept their usual balance between midfield and attack scoring. As such, this game will come down to the little things. The biggest little thing is going to be faceoffs. The Cougars struggled against ASU in that department and it showed on the scoreboard while Oregon boasts one of the top draw-men around in Trey Norris. Extra possessions will be the key as the Ducks win, 10-8.

SCHOOLER: I don't know what is going on with these two teams. Both have some consistency problems, so I guess this will make for an interesting game. BYU has been slipping recently with the loss to ASU and near loss to GCU. That must have been a tough trip to Arizona. Oregon has similar problems with a crushing defeat early in the season to Stanford and a close win over Simon Fraser.

So I like this game as the game of the week. This is a defining game for both teams. The winner moves up and the loser moves down. Senior Matt Johnson has been solid for the Ducks while Mike Fabrizio and Jake Ferrin have been a solid attack/mid combo for the Cougars. This is a coin flip, but my gut tells me that BYU will pull this off, 11-10.

Schooler's Pick

Loyola Marymount (2-7) at San Diego State (7-2) - Saturday, 2 p.m.

SCHOOLER: The Aztecs made a major change in the off-season by replacing Matt Holman with Charlie Jackson. SDSU has the ability to be a powerhouse team. They are located in a hotbed of California lacrosse, have relatively low admission standards, have a fun campus within 20 minutes of the beach, and have some of the most beautiful women I have seen on a college campus. They should be able to attract top talent and only time will tell if Jackson can do that.

SDSU looks solid right now with their only losses coming to ASU and GCU. The Lions have not put together a great resume, but if you count close losses, they have one against Colorado. But that has to be a fluke. Aztecs take this win, 13-9.

COYNE: This is a nice trap pick by our boy Nick, but it's not going to work. San Diego State isn't as good as its record would indicate and LMU is much better than its mark would lead one to believe. The Lions have played one of the better schedules in the country to date, including contests against No. 1 Colorado State, No. 3 Colorado and No. 5 Chapman and No. 6 BYU, and while they haven't won any of those games, they've been competitive enough to make believe they can beat the Aztecs on the road. Fighting Gvozdens, 9-6.

Coyne's Pick

Buffalo (2-2) at No. 23 Davenport (3-2) - Sunday, 12 p.m.

COYNE: Buffalo is need of a key non-conference win in the worst way, and if the Bulls don't at least split this weekend against Michigan State and Davenport, it'll be the PCLL auto-qualifier or bust. The Panthers could also use this win to bolster its at-large cred, although they do have some upcoming games that will allow them to get back in the mix.

I know Davenport can score goals, but the same can't be said for Buffalo, which has yet to crack double-digits. Unless the Bulls find some offense in a hurry, this one won't end well. Panthers, 11-6.

SCHOOLER: I think it is clear that Buffalo is done for. They lost almost every one of their top players from last season. Davenport put on a great performance against their former D-II counterpart, GCU last weekend. So I do not have any doubts about this game. Davenport wins handily, 14-7.


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