MCLA Division I Notebook
When sophomore Greg Kelsic scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Oregon to preserve a 2-0 weekend for Colorado, it encapsulated what the Buffs are going to be like this year. It'll be about young players filling key roles, correcting mistakes and grinding out key wins against quality opponents.
"The funny thing is [Kelsic] had just thrown the ball away a couple of possessions before that and we threw him back out there and gave him a chance to redeem himself, and he did," said Colorado head coach John Galvin. "We're trusting guys who are young, and that's good. We are putting a lot of weight on them."
There are only five seniors eligibility-wise on this year's CU team, although it's tough to call them young. Not when Brad Macnee, the best goalie in the MCLA, is back between the pipes and taking up the role as universal leader.
"Brad almost grounds the entire team, whether it's on offense or defense," Galvin said. "He's always right there and he is a good backbone type guy. He is a culture foundation guy. After he graduates, we'll be looking to the things he has done off the field and on the field, regardless of whether they are goalies or not. He's just a solid leader for us."
Macnee had another superb game against Oregon, and he is a huge reason why opponents are only averaging 4.3 goals per game against the Buffaloes after four games. He's not the only reason, however. CU is a gritty defensive team that is able to shape the course of games, even when playing from behind like the Buffs did against the Ducks in the 7-6 win.
"Oregon tried to push the ball on us in the fourth quarter, but our seniors made some plays and got the ball back," Galvin said. "We had some untimely turnovers, but at the end we pulled through. The guys grinded it out and that's what we're going to have to deal with going forward. It's good a feeling for us to know that we can be down a couple of goals to a very good team and work our way back up."
The entire team is working back up to Galvin's standards. In the second year of his second stint with Colorado after departing at the conclusion of the '09 season that saw the Buffs advance to the national semifinals, CU hasn't completely returned to the way Galvin wants it, but it's getting closer.
"The culture is getting back to where we want it," he said. "The foundation is getting built, but we're still building. We've got some very good upperclassmen who have really bought into the systems and that the offseason work that you put in will help you in the long run. We're preparing the guys for every game and the guys appreciate that. They appreciate the work that our staff does. The assistants that I have are doing a great job. The entire staff is there helping out with whatever they can and I give a lot of credit to them."
The staff better be ready because the Buffs are past the warm-up stage. The Oregon game signaled the start of a brutal stretch of games. After playing Loyola Marymount — a team that handed the Buffs a 6-2 loss last year — Colorado will play six of its next seven games against teams that are currently ranked. It will be during this string of contests when we'll find out just how good this team is.
"Every team on our schedule right now is a team we're really going to have to work to beat," Galvin said. "As a coach, I'm happy about that. It makes it fun, and it makes it a little stressful, too, but I think our guys appreciate it. They appreciate the fact that they have to work every game, and that's the kind of mentality we're trying to create. We have no cupcakes on our schedule, so everyone is going to have to put in the work. There is going to be some great games coming down the stretch and we'll have to play well in every single game."
- Georgia Tech is 7-2 and coming off a weekend where they beat No. 23 Clemson in triple overtime, 8-7, and knocked off No. 10 Pittsburgh, 5-4. One-goal, single-digit contests are the norm for the Yellow Jackets, but it's not Ken Lovic's favorite model.
"It's never the plan, but it just works out that way," the Georgia Tech head coach said. "We've always had a lot confidence in our defense; we've always been one of the best defensive teams out there with the kids we get. If you look at the stats from the last couple of games, we're out-shooting the heck out of those teams, but we're just not a very good shooting team."
Poor shooting seems like a correctable part of the game. Lovic has been around the Yellow Jacket program long enough to know that it's just a constant at Tech.
"It's not like we don't work on it. We work on shooting a lot," Lovic said. "With the kind of school we are, we just don't get offensive talent. If you look at us, we've only had two attackmen who scored a goal this year. Tech kids are defensive-minded kids. It fits their genre. They do something and do it well. To be a good offensive player, you have to be creative. Tech kids just aren't creative, that's just not what they do well. They're engineers. They want to know how to get from A to B. If you throw something in between A and B, it takes a whole new evaluation period. I've learned that over my 17 years here."
Fortunately, what Georgia Tech kids do well is play defense. It's linear enough for them to quickly grasp, and no one has done it quite as well as they have this spring. Through nine games, the Wreck hasn't allowed more than seven goals. It has provided them with a confidence that will likely result in a Top 25 ranking this week.
"The hard work will pay off," Lovic said. "Getting that confidence and believing that you can be successful is a big step for our program. We've teetered on the edge for a long time. Having such a young team, we've got to have that. Youth has never been an excuse for me. We've got to be able to perform. At the same time, we've got to keep them grounded and let them know they need to keep grinding. We can't take a day off. We've got to put the hard hats on. We have to have that performance every game."
- Mark it down: this past weekend was the best in the history of MCLA Division I during the regular season. Not only did it feature three Top 9 matchups, but every single one of them went to overtime. Having a bunch of quality games on the same weekend is nothing new in the association — there are high-end contests pretty much every weekend — but having them all require extra time puts this weekend over the top.
It started on Friday night with No. 9 Chapman's win over No. 2 Arizona State, and was followed on Saturday when a couple of higher-ranked teams need to rally in regulation before winning in overtime. No. 5 Colorado trailed No. 8 Oregon in the fourth before winning, 7-6, while No. 1 Colorado State was down by as many as four goals to No. 7 UC Santa Barbara before staging a miraculous comeback for the 11-10 triumph in extra time.
Did the MCLA just catch lightning in a bottle this weekend, or is this a preview of what we can expect in Greenville? Maybe a little of both, if that makes sense. Colorado State will be the clear favorite all season, even though Rams coach Alex Smith admits that he doesn't view his team in the same way as we viewed Michigan during the Wolverines' reign. It just means that there are more teams in the elite category than in the past. Whether that produces a new national champion is one thing, but the tournament field will be stacked with at least 10 outfits who could beat anyone on any given Saturday.
- So far so good on No. 16 Boston College's road trip to Texas. The Eagles have already knocked off Southern Methodist and No. 25 Texas State. All that awaits is a showdown with No. 15 Texas tonight (Monday)...No. 11 Virginia Tech held off Richmond in an SELC Northwest clash, 8-6, thanks to four goals and two assists from Matt Giannelli...nifty little swing to the Pacific Northeast for Arizona. The Wildcats stunned No. 19 Simon Fraser, 14-12, on Friday night before dispatching with Washington on Sunday, 19-10...Sonoma's win over Cal not only gave them a critical WCLL win, but also the Seawolves some confidence heading into a rough stretch of games...UNLV is obviously a good team, but the window for the Rebels to grab a signature win to send them to nationals just closed...Georgia is going to be 13-0 when it faces Colorado State on April 12.