SLC Stands Tall in the Pac-12 Shootout

It wasn’t a perfect weekend for SLC teams in the Pac-12 Shootout, but it was pretty darn close. Only one of the conference’s top-tier teams was represented (Arizona State), but the middling teams combined with ASU for a 7-1 record in the event.

The strongest showing was from the No. 2 Sun Devils, who trounced both No. 23 Cal and Stanford by a combined score of 31-10. It was coming off of a tumultuous offseason for the team, whose losses had added up and culminated in a blowout scrimmage loss to Whittier on Feb. 8. All of that faded with the start of last weekend’s games in Los Angeles, though.

Attackman Dan Davis (West Hartford High School, CT) finished the weekend with 7 goals to keep up with his Player of the Year candidacy. In their two games played, the Sun Devils had 13 players record at least one point, carrying on a legacy of having a deep well of talent on the offensive side of the ball.

However, nothing should be taken away from the weekend that UCLA had. The Bruins were facing a couple of tough matchups in Stanford and Oregon, both teams only one year removed from runs to the MCLA Tournament. Neither game came easy, but UCLA was able to dispatch both teams, beating the Cardinal 11-7 and the Ducks 8-6.

The tournament’s host team was once again led by attackman Carleton Knisely (Lewisburg High School, PA), whose 9-point weekend brought his season total up to 20 points through five games. Fellow attackman Kevin Rowen (Northwood) had a hat trick in a solid effort against Oregon.

Both ASU and UCLA employed a risky defensive move during the weekend. Both teams decided to lock off star midfielder Peter Doyle (St. Ignatius), which proved to be an effective strategy as his impact on the games was severely limited. Doyle has posted 109 points through two seasons with the Cardinal, so this slow start is significant.

After a 2-9 season in Chris Boland’s inaugural year as head coach, the Trojans have looked much better in 2015. While they did start the year 0-2, holding No. 7 UC Santa Barbara to a one-goal game and a tough road loss to a sneaky UNLV team, the performances in the Pac-12 Shootout helped to wash the bad taste out. A convincing win against a low-end Washington team was expected, but defeating No. 23 Cal was a statement.

The Trojans got a 7-point weekend from attackman Kevin Cuellar (Briarwood High School, VA), and on the defensive side of things they had long pole Jack Medall (Charlotte Latin High School) locking up the opposition which proved to be crucial in the narrow 8-6 USC win over Cal matchup on Sunday.

The only SLC representative partaking in the event that suffered a loss was No .14 Arizona, who dropped a narrow 8-7 game to Oregon State after crushing Oregon only a day earlier. The Laxcats were trailing 8-3 toward the middle of the fourth quarter before a drastic comeback effort fell just short to the Beavers.

All of Arizona’s typical go-to options on offense, such as Ben Brehne (St. Paul’s School, MD), Foster Bundy (MICDS, MO), Tyler Doran (Tappanzee High School, NY), and Hunter Gore (Plano High School, TX), struggled to get going in this one. In fact, all four of them combined for only one point, coming courtesy of a Foster Bundy goal late in the comeback effort. To put that in perspective, in their 14-2 win over Oregon on Saturday, the same four players had a combined 12 points.

Goalie Tanner Knego (Tesor High School)  and freshman Ryan Falbo (Foothill High School) were two LaxCats who did not disappoint, however. He posted a .714 save percentage on the weekend and totaled 17 saves against Oregon State. Offenses around the SLC will need to keep an eye on Knego as he has the potential to be the best goalie in the conference this season – although with Brandon Suchand (St. Margaret’s Episcopal School) still in the SLC, Knego may have to settle for second-best.  Falbo finished the weekend with two goals and two assists, and fit in like a seasoned veteran.

What’s Coming Up In the SLC

The first games in SLC South play are coming up this weekend as the San Diego Toreros head out to Arizona for games against Grand Canyon and Arizona. USD has had a lot of struggles at the start of this season and will look to reverse that trend with those two games versus top-15 teams.

No. 3 Chapman kicks off its season, hosting the No. 15 Texas Longhorns for both teams’ season openers. The Panthers last played in a scrimmage against DII Concordia, which they lost in overtime, 9-8. Both teams have rich histories, but Chapman should be regarded as the favorite in this one. The Panthers will have to turn right around and play No. 16 Sonoma State the next day.

No. 7 UC Santa Barbara is looking to right the ship after totaling only seven combined goals in their first two games, as they take on middle-of-the-pack WCLL teams Stanford and No. 23 Cal.

In-conference clashes include San Diego State taking a trip to Loyola Marymount and UNLV hosting Claremont. No. 2 Arizona State will have the week off.