11 min read

2022 Round Rock Round One Preview Round 1

The bracket is out, the fuss has been made and now it’s time to dive into the bracket.

This is the first half of our tournament preview. If you want Round 2 delivered directly to your inbox, subscribe!

#1 Virginia Tech vs #16 Boise State

Boise State makes their tournament debut after a 4 OT win over Oregon in the PNCLL championship. Their reward is a bid to the tournament and date with the #1 Hokies.

It’s tough to overstate how impressive the last month has been for Virginia Tech, picking up wins over #5 seed Clemson (by 10), #2 Seed BYU (by 3), #6 seed Liberty (by 3) and Clemson again (by 7). Not only have they been beating some of the best teams, they have been doing it in pretty convincing fashion.

Senior goaltender Hunter LeClair has been good all year, but during the last month stretch he has been otherworldly. His save % the last 4 games has skyrocketed as he’s hit his stride.

BYU | 72.4%
Liberty | 80.8% (!!!)
Pittsburgh | 72.7%
Clemson | 64.5%

Two of the most important ingredients for a Championship run are elite goalie and face-off performance.

Senior Daniel Gafney had an elite day at the X against BYU, winning a wild 81% of his face-offs, but has slightly over 50% in the last 3 games, with Freshman Adam Greenfield taking most of the draws in their win over Clemson.

In some regards it makes the win over Clemson more impressive that they went sub 50% on face-offs and still won by 7.

Much of that credit is due to their potent offense paced by Sophomore Attackman Aidan Smith.

Smith’s 7 goals against Clemson in the ALC championship provided the entire margin of victory. He has 71 points on the year with 58 goals and 18 assists and is a match up nightmare for most defenses.

One player doesn’t make an offense, and Smith has been helped by a great surrounding cast. Against BYU when Smith was held to just 2 goals, Junior Attackman Jared Cole stepped up with a 6 point day.

On the Boise State side, frankly, they are going to have their hands full. Boise State played 3 ranked teams this year and lost by an average margin of 9, their closest being a 4 goal loss to UVU.

On attack they are led by the Senior duo of Ryan Henning (42g, 11a) and Jason Moreta (26g, 27a) who both have 53 points on the year. The challenge for the Broncos will be getting them enough opportunities to do damage.

Boise State may not be primed for a deep tournament run this year, but making the tournament is a great stepping stone in the right direction for any program.

#2 Brigham Young vs #15 TCU

The last time an LSA team won a DI tournament game was in 2003 when Texas A&M beat Chico State 12-10. In fact, Texas A&M is the ONLY LSA team to have ever won a tournament game. Combined the LSA is 2-23. A big part of the reason for that is having matchups like this in the first round.

TCU comes into the game on the heels of breezing through the LSA in relatively easy fashion. They won their 3 tournament games by a margin of 9.6 goals, the closest being their 7 goal championship game victory over A&M. They were also able to avenge two earlier losses in wins over SMU and A&M.

TCU avoided the 16 seed this year due in large part to beating Chapman AT Chapman. Maybe the biggest win in TCU history? Their reward isn’t much consolation though, as they have a date with last year’s Invitational winner, BYU.

There are only a handful of comparison points between these teams. Both teams have wins over Texas A&M. Both teams also played Concordia. BYU won by 1 and TCU lost by . . . 17.

TCU is paced by junior attackman #12 Hayden Lunde, who has 60 points on the year with a very balanced 29g and 31a, but you may want to keep your eyes on Freshman Attackman #6 Cade Ryskamp. He only has 38 points on the year, but 5 of his goals came on the biggest stage against Chapman.

On the BYU side of the ball we’ve talked about their depth before, but now that the RMLC tournament stats have been entered their attack unit production looks even more impressive.

Jr Seth Garff 40g | 36a | 76p
Jr Jake Halversen 41g | 28a | 69p
Fr Alton Taylor 46g | 21a | 67p

The 212 points for their starting attack leads the league for starting attack units, and Seth Garff is individually leading the league in points.

The only way to beat BYU is to keep the ball out of their hands. Face-offs, efficient clearing, and controlling time of possession are the key. It’s much easier said than done.

#3 South Carolina vs #14 Arizona

Outside of maybe Virginia Tech, there isn’t a team coming in to the tournament with more momentum than the Gamecocks.

Their last loss was on March 8th to Georgia Tech, a loss that they would avenge a month later in the SELC Championship game. They have won 10 straight games and have wins over #1 seed Virginia Tech (VT’s only loss), #12 Cal Poly, #5 Clemson, #13 Florida, and #8 Georgia Tech. After starting the season off slow, it seems like they certainly have their mojo back.

I’ve only had the chance to watch 2 of South Carolina’s games this year, but what has stood out to me in both games I’ve watched is the insane energy they play with. It reminds me of some of the great CSU teams of the past that have embraced their role as the league hooligans and thrive on emotion. They’re a lot of fun to watch.

The last time we had a proper National Tournament the Gamecocks walked away with the trophy and they have put themselves in a pretty good spot to mount a strong defense.

In fact, there are a lot of similarities between their 2019 run and their 2022 draw. In both they were a 3 seed after winning the SELC with wins over Georgia Tech. In both years they played the “last team” in, Santa Clara in 2019 and Arizona in 2022. Both years Liberty was the 6 seed and a potential Quarterfinal rematch of an earlier season loss for the Gamecocks. Will we see history repeat itself?

If we do Sophomore Face-off Specialist Will Firth will be a big reason why. On the year he’s won 68.36% of his face-offs and won 66% against Georgia Tech in the SELC Championship game. In 2019 the Gamecocks were led by one of the MCLA Greats at the X in Derek Isaac. They will need a similar performance from Frith.

In net, the stats look like the Gamecocks* (corrected) were trying to find the right answer earlier in the year with 3 different goalies starting in each of their 3 games. Sophomore Alex Petrush got the nod for each of the SELC games, and we may see him start for the Gamecocks in Round Rock. The 37.5% Save percentage against Georgia Tech was a season low. With 3 goalies each with big game experience we could see some shuffling throughout the tournament.

Again all of that just comes from reading the tea leaves of the stats, so there very well could be more to it that would dictate how they handle the week.

On Offense keep an eye on the Senior/Freshman combo Sam Weis (53g, 15a) and Johnny Stanton (24g, 22a). Together they combined for over 100 points on the year.

Arizona was the last team to snag an at-large bid from an extremely competitive bubble. They had an inconsistent start to the season, dropping a game to USC early before coming back and beating Colorado State and Chapman before February wrapped up. Since then the Wildcats only have a 1 ranked win, a 2 goal win over #11 seed Grand Canyon.

After Arizona State was declared ineligible and forced to vacate their final 2 games, the Wildcats had a 7 goal loss wiped off the record books, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have struggled with some of the better teams on their schedule. In addition the big loss to the Sun Devils, Virginia Tech and Minnesota both handed the Wildcats big losses (6 and 8 goals respectively). They are going to have to play their best game against one of the best teams they’ve faced this year to have a chance at seeing round 2.

The Wildcats are an attack heavy team with the balanced trio of Senior Peyton Boyd (15g, 36a), Senior Mason DePaola (39g, 10a) and Junior Max Bergamo (38g, 8a) providing the bulk of the scoring. This is also a Senior heavy team, with Senior goaltender Thomas Atella in between the pipes and the majority of points coming from their senior class.

In a normal world, this type of experience would bode well in the tournament, but the last two years have been anything but normal for this year’s seniors.

Arizona very well may reload next year and be right back in the tournament, but this class of 16 seniors will be looking to go out with a bang and an upset win over the Gamecocks. Who knows though, with Covid eligibility we may see a few of them back next year. Weird times!

#4 Minnesota vs #13 Florida

Now we start to get into the really intriguing matchups (in my humble opinion). One of the reasons I find this matchup compelling is because there is still a lot we don’t know about both these teams, especially Minnesota. Could they be a threat to win the whole thing? Maybe! They haven’t lost all year, so they may keep rolling.

Could they lose in the first round? It’s possible! Florida is probably the best team they’ve faced all year.

Both teams best wins feel like a long time ago at this point. Minnesota went on the road at the end of March and swept back to back to back games against Arizona, SDSU, and Arizona State. Florida’s best win was back on March 4th when they took down Georgia Tech on the road, a game that vaulted them into the top 10, where they stayed until the tournament selection.

Both teams share a common opponent in Michigan State. Minnesota played them twice, beating them by 4 in the regular seasons and edging them out for the UMLC Conference Championship in double OT. The Gators played the Spartans on a neutral field in Georgia and escaped with a 1 goal victory.

This might be an awesome game.

For the Gophers, we heard rumors (confirmed by a few tweeps on twitter as well as a quick glance at the stats) that they were down some key players due to injuries in their UMLC Championship game. What we haven’t heard is if they will be back in action in Round Rock. There is no question staying healthy is a key component to any deep tournament run, so it’s not expert analysis to say “this will be important”.

The Gophers come into the tournament with a bit of a chip on their shoulder feeling overlooked by everyone despite going undefeated. Just the fact that I’m calling a 4v13 matchup one of the more compelling matchups of Day 1 probably reinforces that.

They haven’t lost all year in a year of inconsistencies. They were rewarded with a Top 4 seed, but they have a lot to prove. An early exit to a lower seed would help all the skeptics feel justified, while advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history would go a long way to quiet those same people.

The Gophers are led by a potent attack unit with 4 different (rostered) attackmen accumulating more than 40 points each

Jr Nate Graslewicz 49g | 6a | 55p
Jr Connor Stoker 31g | 19a | 50p
Gr Will Harris 29g | 12a | 41p
So Jonas Waskosky 36g | 6a | 42p

Then you add 2 additional midfielders that crested the 40 point mark:

Sr Ian Obert 23g | 25a | 48p
Jr Kevin Kvaal 28g | 13a | 41p

This is a really deep offensive unit when everyone is healthy.

At the X the Gophers feature a duo that have almost an equal split of face-offs won this year. Max Breunig (61%) and Jacob Hageman (59%) may not have the highest win % in the MCLA, but few teams and bringing 2 players with near 60% win percentage over the course of the full year. That could prove valuable for matchups over the course of 4 games.

For Florida they have a lot to prove as well. They spent the majority of the season hovering around 5 in the Coaches Poll. After losing to South Carolina by 6 in the SELC tournament they suddenly became a bubble team and dropped all the way down to 13.

The Gators weren’t helped by the teams on their schedule. It was a tough year to predict who would end the season ranked, but it looked like early on the Georgia and New Hampshire wins would mean more than they ultimately did. After a 6 goal win over Florida State on April 9th, the Gators were idle until their April 23rd SELC tournament game against the Gamecocks. When they face-off against the Gophers on Monday it will be just their second game in a month. Tough scheduling.

The win over Georgia Tech likely was the reason the Gators slid into the tournament over a team like Cal, as their only other ranked win was over fringe Top 25 team Auburn. But their only losses were to top 6 tournament teams, and the game against Liberty was just a 2 goal difference.

Because of the way the schedule laid out for both these teams it still feels like we don’t really know how good either team is yet. Maybe that potential ceiling is a bit higher for Minnesota, but Florida still has a lot to prove as well, and winning this game would justify their season as a Top 10 MCLA team.

The last time Florida won a tournament game was in 2003 and the last time Florida MADE the tournament was in 2010. This is a year that has already seen the Gators take some big strides forward as a program. A win in Round Rock would be another big one.

Florida is one of the more balanced scoring teams, with nearly equal production from both their attack and midfield.

Similar to Minnesota, Florida has split face-off duties between Jr Garrett Pistiner (59%) and Thomas Madden (59%).

Junior James Dugan leads the Gators with 38 points on the year.

Senior defender Parker Beeson took home SELC Defensive Player of the Year and leads a unit with fellow 1st Team All-Conference Senior defender Tyler Schaffer. This is a stout defense with a big task ahead of them on Monday.

Part 2 of the tournament preview will be out in a few days. It turns out it takes a while to write these.

If we missed something, be sure to angrily tweet at us @vvlacrosse.

Also if you are still down here, just subscribe. It’s A LOT of fun.