Quotes from the staff.
Colorado Assistant Coach Marty Taffet
Along the way to the 2015 national tournament, Colorado lost four of five regular season games including three games in a row. The Buffs had to replace their top 4 point scorers responsible for 258 points and during that losing streak, Colorado only scored 14 goals in losses to Michigan State and Chapman.
412: Given that stretch and your graduation losses from the 2014 National Championship team, are you surprised to have reached the semifinals again or did you get the sense that the next wave could get you back to the Final Four?
MT: It’s hard to make the final four regardless of your circumstances. We felt pretty confident in the beginning of the fall with the pieces we had returning and the freshmen we knew we had coming in. But, the guys have put in the work to get to this point.
Colorado has won their first two tournament games by a combined total of 20-12. In the regular season, they defeated Texas State 18-6. On Monday, they beat the Bobcats 8-5. We’ve regularly discussed the importance of being a top 4 seed in order to rest starters against easier opponents in the first round. Colorado went a step further and rotated a lot of bodies against Georgia Tech as well.
412: You’ve liberally subbed the last two games. Is getting the starters extra rest more important than trying to get them into rhythm?
MT: I think we’ve been able to execute our game plan pretty effectively throughout the first two rounds playing time wise. The national tournament is a grind with the goal being to play four games in six days. We’ll see how the guys are feeling today at walkthrough and make adjustments from there.
In any post season run, someone unexpected chips in a big goal, scoops up a critical ground ball, or knocks down a pass man down.
412: Who is an under the radar Buff that we should pay attention to against Virginia Tech?
MT: Some guys to look for would be our transition middie group. Griffin Bohm, Zane O’Brien, Aaron Isaacson, Jay Snell and Kian Reno all need to have big games for us. They kickstart our offense and play great match up D.
Virginia Tech Head Coach Matthew Schroeder
The Hokies are 33-4 under head ball coach Matthew Schroeder, one of the few coaches in the MCLA with NCAA playing experience. (He went to high school at Loyola Blakefield and matriculated to Muhlenberg.)
After manhandling Arizona State to the tune of 7-2 lead, the Hokies hung on to defeat the Sun Devils 10-9 and reach their first ever semifinals. We’ve been pumping up their defense for the last few weeks and even picked them as our team to most likely secure an upset in the quarterfinals, but we were still impressed they pulled off the victory.
Perhaps no one should be surprised by this Hokie’s squad. Last year they took BYU to task in the first round before falling to UCSB. This year, they’ve taken one more step forward with the victory over ASU.
412: After last year’s experience, what was the expectation heading into this year’s event?
MS: When you get to the national tournament, all bets are off. We had a great two weeks of practice leading up to the tournament, so I think we were confident. Last year certainly helped in our preparation for this year. With this being our final exam and graduation week, it is always easier to deal with the second time around. The seniors prepared the team on what to expect, so we were excited about the opportunity to compete again this year.
For years, the league has been dominated by western based squads, thus the nervous breakdowns when Greenville, South Carolina was selected as a tournament site. A couple of non western schools have of course captured titles. Call them midwest or upper midwest school. St. Thomas and Grand Valley State rosters were mostly local kids. Michigan had the benefit of being an elite institution, receiving ample school support, and having a great staff, more the exception to the rule.
When you think about MCLA powers, you think about Colorado, Colorado State, BYU, and Chapman first. You don’t mention anyone from the SELC. But when you look at Virginia Tech’s roster, you invariably find athletes who are from the more traditional lacrosse hotbeds. If you had to build a lacrosse team, would you prefer athletes from Maryland or California?
412: Given that the majority of your roster is from Maryland and Virginia, have you found the boys to be less intimidated by west coast teams, especially now that you’ve taken down two SLC teams in two days? Not many people picked you to beat ASU and all of sudden you had a 5 goal lead in the first half.
MS: Not necessarily. Everyone that is in the national tournament is a quality team, regardless of the part of the country where they are from. The west coast teams tend to be extremely athletic and hard working, which is exactly what we saw in both SDSU and ASU. We did have a fast start against ASU, which is was a key for us, but we knew that they wouldn’t go away. They continued to fight and we had to make some key plays at the end of that game to get the win. Now, we get another west coast team in Colorado in the semis and we are excited about the opportunity to play the defending national champions.
412: Who is someone we don’t know about, but will likely stand out against Colorado?
MS: I would pay attention to Thomas Westfall, our long stick middie. He was a first team all conference LSM. He is extremely solid between the lines and is great on groundballs. In order for us to be successful against Colorado, Thomas needs to have a good game picking up loose balls and covering the ball.
Chapman Head Coach Dallas Hartley
412: With losing guys like Timmy Andrews, Tyler Ankarlo, and Warren Nielsen to graduation, are you surprised to be back in the semifinals?
DH: I think early on in the spring we knew we had a team that competed hard and that we had some talent. It took a little time to get personnel in the right positions, but once we found some chemistry we had a feeling we could be as good or better than last year.
Does familiarity breed contempt? Chapman was the only elite team that Grand Canyon didn’t play in the regular season. Will that aid Chapman’s offense, because GCU hasn’t seen their looks in person? Will Chapman’s defense be a little bit anxious to cover the Canadians? Depending upon the result of this hypothetical regular season game, Chapman might be excited or nervous to see Grand Canyon again. Chapman has defeated Grand Canyon twice (9-8 in 2014, 11-10 in 2013).
412: You haven’t played GCU this year. Is that an advantage or disadvantage?
DH: We’ve played them the last two years in close games. We know their personnel relatively well, but it all comes down to how we play tomorrow. I’m not sure it is either an advantage or disadvantage.
Arizona State doesn’t have to worry about hearing the phrase, “always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” for another year thanks to their quarterfinal exit. Unfortunately like ASU, Chapman has failed to win the big one despite ample regular season success and producing a certain MLL player with long hair.
412: You’ve won an average of 15 games every season at Chapman. Are you at the title or bust stage of your coaching career?
DH: Every season is title or bust. That’s why we coach and that’s why we play. Chasing wins! We have a lot to be proud of at Chapman. Not many other programs in the MCLA, the West Coast, or California can match the success we’ve had in the last decade. A title would be great! I’ll let others judge my career.
412: Who is an under the radar player we should keep an eye out for tonight?
DH: I think our entire second line is an under the radar group. They have been the difference in the last two tournament games and we’ve been able to win with our depth. If they can keep that consistency, we will be able to use our depth to our advantage.
We were unable to get in touch with Grand Canyon in time for this post.