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WCLA National Tournament Preview

The WCLA National Tournament plays out this week and Utah has two (yes, two!) teams in the D-II bracket — No. 2 University of Utah and No. 9 Utah State. The WCLA D-II postseason is set up differently from all other lacrosse brackets: there are four pools of three teams each, and whoever does the best in each pool advances to the semifinals. This means that each team will play a minimum of two games at the tournament, and will have a chance to advance even if they lose their first game. Let’s see how the Utes and Aggies stack up in their respective pools.
Pool B
No. 2 Utah (11-2)
The Utes have had a spectacular season; their only losses coming to No. 1 Denver to open the season (which they avenged in the RMLL championship game) and to D-I BYU. Aside from defeating the number one team in the country, Utah has defeated fellow tournament team Utah State and is on an eight-game win streak. At number two, the Utes are the favorite in their pool, but they’ll have some stiff competition.
WCLA Championship 2016No. 7 Salisbury (10-0)
The Sea Gulls are undefeated this season including a win in their regional tournament against No. 3 Loyola, but six of their ten wins have come against teams with a combined record of 6-18 (three of those coming by forfeiture). The Sea Gulls are formidable on both sides of the field, averaging over 14 goals per game and giving up just 5 a game to opponents. Salisbury is obviously a dangerous team that is hard to measure based on their schedule, but Laxpower’s computer rankings have them as the #2 in the country.
No. 11 Bethel (9-3)
While the Royals have three losses on their resume, all three come against good tournament teams (Loyola, and St. Thomas x2). Bethel also boasts a win against tournament-bound No. 4 Oakland, so they’ve proven they can be dangerous. Bethel relies on a dangerous offense, scoring in the high teens in half their games this season and failing to reach ten goals just twice. Laxpower’s computer ranking also ranks the Royals as #4 in the nation, making Pool B a veritable “group of death.”
Pool D
No. 4 Oakland (14-3)
The Grizzlies have played a lot of lacrosse this season, including losses to tournament teams Loyola and Bethel (and D-I Michigan) and wins against tournament teams Iowa State and St. Thomas. Oakland can play with the best of them when they’re on their game, but they’ve been a Jekyll & Hyde team this season and could be in for an early exit if they don’t hit their stride.
No. 5 Grand Canyon (11-0)
The Lopes haven’t had the toughest schedule, but they have beaten tourney-bound Cal State San Marcos twice. While they can put up video-game numbers on offense, GCU’s strength lies in their defense, having held teams to seven goals or less all season long. The computers also like the Lopes — Laxpower’s got them at #7.
No. 9 Utah State (6-5)
The Aggies have a lot to prove, bringing the worst record of any team into the tournament. USU has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, having taken on D-I BYU and tournament teams Cal State San Marcos, Utah, and Denver (x2). While they haven’t beaten a team that’s in the tourney, the Aggies’ controlled their last game against Denver and led the whole way, but they let Denver hang around and eventually lost in overtime. Utah State has an uphill battle in front of them, but their good ride, team defense, and great one-on-one offense give them a good fighting chance to emerge from Pool D.
Both pools will play their games on Thursday, May 5 to determine who’s still fighting for the ‘ship and who’s going home.

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