(Photo by Kevin Schoonover)
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – The opening of the 2023 campaign is just a scant few days away and perhaps the biggest storyline of the upcoming season is South Carolina’s quest to win three championships in a row.
The Gamecocks joined five other schools that have gone back-to-back a combined six times – St. Thomas did it twice – and will now look to join Michigan (2008-10) as the only program in either division to go three straight.
One could easily argue that South Carolina’s repeat championship was the most impressive one to date.
The Gamecocks are the only team to do it while under the leadership of different head coaches. James Harkey posted the first title in Salt Lake City followed by Peter Candela last spring in Round Rock.
Furthermore, USC had to bridge the disruption of a “global pandemic.” It was a significant challenge for all of the MCLA programs, but South Carolina was one of the programs that didn’t play an official game in two years.
Neither of these obstacles is particular helpful in keeping championship continuity.
But here they are, likely heading into the season as the top team in Division I when the New Balance Preseason Coaches Poll comes out in a couple of weeks.
If South Carolina is able to pull off the feat, it will go down as the more impressive three-peat in MCLA history.
Unlike Michigan, which was well on its way towards its transition to an NCAA Division I outfit, the Gamecocks don’t have the access to institutional assistance that the Wolverines benefited from during their run.
In addition, whereas Michigan slept-walked its way to the then-CCLA championship, South Carolina has had to navigate one of the deepest conferences in the country. The SELC will be a minefield in 2023, as well.
Regardless of the sport or team, complacency is one of the biggest dangers facing a championship team. Fortunately, Candela has put together a schedule that won’t allow the Gamecocks to take any weeks off. They'll have to be razor-sharp from start to finish if they want to join Michigan.
We’ll get our first glimpse of South Carolina's quest for three on Feb. 10, when James Madison comes to Columbia.
THE OTHER SIDE
While Division I flirts with a three-peat, Division II will have a new champion this spring.
Defending D-II king Utah is taking its talents to the RMLC’s senior circuit, throwing in with the likes of Brigham Young, Colorado State and Utah Valley.
Rhode Island will likely get plenty of votes to fill the Utes’ empty seat atop the preseason poll after rolling to the finals, but there should be numerous teams in the hunt for a title.
Despite breaking in new head coaches at North Dakota State and St. John’s, the UMLC could potentially lay claim to half of the Top 10 slots despite a relatively down year in ‘22.
Montana, UNC-Charlotte, Missouri State College of Idaho and Cal State San Marcos will undoubtedly be near the top of the charts with Montana State, Kennesaw State, UC San Diego hovering around.
The D-II campaign kicks off Jan. 21 when Florida Poly visits Georgia Southern.
SLIDES & RIDES
Take the time and effort to double-check on Arbiter to ensure that the dates and times of your home games – and those neutral site games when your team is listed as home – are correct so that officials are ready to roll…if it’s not marked already on your calendar, the 2023 MCLA National Championships presented by New Balance occur from May 8-13 at the Round Rock (Texas) Multipurpose Complex…the brackets and field locations have been released for both Division I and Division II…have someone you’d like to nominate for the MCLA Hall of Fame? Send it to [email protected] with credentials.