Cal Poly, Once A Dynasty, Could Be Dark Horse
by David Ely | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | WDIA Nationals Blog
D-I First Round - Wednesday (all times PDT)
No. 14 Oregon vs. No. 3 UCSB - 5 p.m.
When picking a dark horse, there are a few criteria one must
factor into one's choice.
The team needs to have a specific calling card. Maybe it’s a stingy defense. Maybe it’s a prolific offense. Or maybe it’s a knack for scooping up ground balls, and thus limiting the number of possessions for the opponent.
Another thing to consider is the pattern of success the team displayed throughout the season. Was the squad consistent? Did it have a long winning streak? Would it win a couple of games, but then lose a couple of games?
Then, one must look at the bracket itself. What would a path to the championship game possibly look like? Are the matchups favorable?
So given those terms, who looks to be the prime dark horse candidate in this week’s US Lacrosse WDIA National Championship, presented by Harrow Sports, in Scottsdale, Ariz.?
Signs point to No. 5 seed Cal Poly, which once won seven
straight WDIA national championships before falling the last two
The Mustangs have a potent offense that could wreck havoc throughout the tournament. Cal Poly scored 10 or more goals in 13 of its 16 games this year.
“We like to push the pace,” Cal Poly coach Robert Novorolsky said.
The Mustangs have won their fair share of games, including six of seven toward the end of the season before back-to-back losses in the WWLL tournament.
And perhaps most importantly, there’s a clear-cut path for Cal Poly to a potential semifinal showdown against No. 1 seed Santa Clara.
First up is an opening-round matchup against No. 12 seed Texas on Wednesday.
Texas (9-3) hasn’t faced the kind of competition the Mustangs saw day after day in the WWLL, and the Longhorns are 0-3 in their games against teams that made Nationals.
Should Cal Poly beat Texas, it should see No. 4 seed UC Davis in the second round for the third time this season.
The Mustangs beat the Aggies, 10-9, on March 7 and then lost to UC Davis, 8-7, in overtime in the WWLL tournament.
After that loss, Novorolsky said the two teams are so evenly matched because they both have a lot of team speed.
A contrarian might point out the Mustangs’ less than
desirable end to the season (back-to-back losses against UC Santa
Barbara and UC Davis).
But each loss was by just one goal, and Cal Poly had more than two weeks to work things out before Nationals.
Asked what his team needed to improve on to get ready for Nationals, Novorlsky replied, “Just coming together as a team. We went away at spring break and we had a good time. Find the passion… We got pushed around by two really good teams. Both of the games are right there next to each other.”
The main area that Cal Poly must fix is offense. The Mustangs scored just nine goals in their loss to the Gauchos and just seven against the Aggies.
That won’t cut it in Arizona, and Novorlsky said after those losses his club would work on its offensive efficiency before its game against Texas.
“We ran into two really good goalies [against UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis],” he said. “The girls will put in the work outside of the field on the shooting, and I think that’s a main focus of the next two weeks. Making sure that you don’t get laxed out and making sure that you stay aggressive.”
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