SLC Preview: Aztecs Host Sun Devils in Top-20 Showdown

In a crucial game in SLC South play — and one of the top MCLA matchups of the weekend — No. 8 Arizona State pays a visit to No. 20 San Diego State, with SLC tournament hopes on the line. The game also will play a big role in deciding the MCLA tournament at-large race, as both teams could use another marquee win to bolster a tournament push.

No. 8 Arizona State at No. 20 SDSU — Sat., March 25, 1 p.m. PT

With both teams at 6-4, you wouldn’t know right off the bat that this is a meet-up between contenders in the SLC. But for ASU, eight of those 10 games have come against ranked opponents. In fact, the Sun Devils have played five of the current top 10 teams in the country.

While the strength of schedule does favor Arizona State, you can’t overlook the Aztecs, whose four losses also all have come against ranked teams. However, in head coach Jesse Foss’s first season, quality wins are at a premium, with only one win over a ranked team (Oregon State).

The Aztecs’ offense has been paced by sophomore attackman Adrian Jeffries (Lafayette, Calif.), who has been on a tear. He has been held under three points only once all season. Now at 38 points, he already is coming close to his point total of last season (46). On the other side of the ball, it’s goalie Steven O’Sullivan (Frisco, Texas) who has been raising eyebrows. He hasn’t allowed double-digit goals in a game since February, and he is averaging 13.11 saves per game.

Sun Devil goalie Johnny Perlite (De la Salle) is one-upping him, though, with 13.78 saves per game. He has recorded double-digit saves in all but one of the games in which he has appeared this season. On the offensive side, former role-player Tommy Carrasco (Novato) has emerged as a go-to threat. He’s on pace to shatter his seasonal career-highs and currently has 26 points on the year.

Grand Canyon pays a visit to Northern California

No. 3 Grand Canyon at No. 25 Sonoma State — Fri., March 24, 4 p.m. PT

No. 3 Grand Canyon at Stanford — Sat., March 25, 3 p.m. PT

Unfortunately this trip doesn’t feature a game between the Lopes and No. 2 California, which would have been an epic battle of Top-3 teams. However, that’s not to say there’s isn’t intrigue in this set of games. GCU is a heavy favorite in both, but don’t sleep on Sonoma State.

The Seawolves are on a three-game win streak. They’re ranked. And things are going their way. Senior attackman Connor Chenault (Torrey Pines) is rolling, with 12 goals and 12 assists after his four-point effort against Liberty. The next step is the toughest Sonoma has had to take this season, though: Knocking out a Top-5 team.

To do so, the Seawolves likely will have to limit the Lopes’ top two scoring options — attackmen Cam Wengreniuk (Edmonton, Alberta) and Joe Balestreri (Rancho Bernardo) have combined for 52 points. No one else on the team has more than 10. Newcomer goalie Alex Larson (Scottsdale, Ariz.) also has had a season to remember for GCU, with a .607 save percentage.

The Stanford game has some intrigue as well, as the Cardinal were ranked to open the season. These two games against WCLL teams mark Grand Canyon’s final non-divisional contests of the regular season.

D-II: San Diego looks to bounce back against Metro State

The Toreros were riding high with a fourth-quarter lead against Cal State Fullerton last weekend. Then, it all came crashing down, as the Titans ripped off a comeback and ran away with the win. Coming off of the loss won’t be easy, especially against a ranked team. It’s a home game for USD, though, and a win could fuel the Toreros heading into their conference slate.

No. 17 Metro State at No. 16 San Diego – Thurs., March 23, 8:30 p.m. PT

Freshman face-off man Salvatore Giovannotto (Palo Alto, Calif.) could be a key to this game for USD. If he gets enough reps, he’s deadly. He has won 68.5 percent of his 35 draws this year. No player for Metro State is over 50 percent.

The most important element of this game, though are the postseason implications. Both teams are in conferences dominated by front-runners — for Metro State and the RMLC, it’s Montana State; for USD and the SLC, it’s Concordia. So they have to build a résumé that can stand out to the tournament selection committee without a conference championship. This game will carry a lot of weight on those at-large bids.

Other News and Notes

UNLV takes on Montana as the Rebels try to snap a three-game losing skid. Points leader Blake Day (Henderson, Nev.) will be key to getting UNLV over the hump.

Chapman’s date with Loyola Marymount, originally set for a March 2, has been moved to this weekend. The Panthers play against LMU and USC in a set of divisional games on back-to-back days.

You can reach by email at treylanthier@gmail.com or on Twitter @TreyLanthier.