Kennesaw Utilizing (and Flirting With) MCLA-I

January 14, 2013

This article is originally from Lacrosse Magazine.

By Jac Coyne

Why would Kennesaw State, an MCLA Division II school located in Atlanta, play its first three games of the season against MCLA Division I foes Georgia Tech, Auburn and Georgia, and burn nearly a third of its schedule playing D-I teams that will prove no benefit on Selection Sunday?

Sometimes recruiting comes down to more than just the name of your own school.

Coaching at KSU, which has an enrollment of 24,000 students, Anthony Grizanti has found that playing games against his traditional SELC-II rivals doesn't always sell the soap.

"There are some kids I talk to down here in Georgia who don't even know who SCAD is," Grizanti said. "'Do you know Tennessee Wesleyan?' They're like, 'Huh?' If I say, 'Do you know Georgia Tech, Auburn, Georgia? Oh, yeah. Cool.' It's just an easier sell. Plus, for kids out of state it's an easier sell because they see those schools on TV."

It ended up being a double bonus for Grizanti last year when his young Owls team knocked off Georgia Tech, 9-2, in the season opener. Although KSU was forced to forfeit the Yellow Jackets game by the SELC because its registrar-approved roster arrived a day late at the league office, there were other highlights. The Owls beat a pair of eventual tourney teams (Washington U., North Dakota State) during the regular season, made it to the finals of the conference tournament and finished 8-3 against D-II opponents.

Still, for the third straight year, Kennesaw found itself at home in May.

"It's kind of like it has always has been," lamented Grizanti. "We play a hard schedule. We go to Missouri and beat a couple of good teams, including beating the team that just beat the defending national champions. We play a real strong SELC tournament and fall short by a couple of goals, and then we see a team [SCAD] that doesn't even make the SELC tournament get a bid to nationals after they got routed at home by an unranked team, 21-14. That didn't sit well with some of the kids."

KSU certainly had a case for griping about last year, but using two games (Georgia Tech, Georgia) for recruiting purposes as opposed to résumé building probably didn't help. Now that the Owls are adding Auburn, South Florida and Central Florida from the D-I ranks, they'll likely need the SELC auto-bid in order to head to Greenville. They know this, and are comfortable with it.

The peace of mind is aided by the program's decision to eventually move to the MCLA Division I level. There is no timeline set for the move, and it may be moot if either KSU adds an FBS football team (which is currently in limbo) or the MCLA adopts a tentative proposal for three divisions (which could happen as early as '14).

KSU certainly has the talent to make another run at the SELC title against the likes of SCAD and Elon this spring. Brad Jones (11g, 11a) returns as the top gun on attack while Tyler Matthews (13g, 5a) leads a deep midfield unit. All the pieces of KSU's zone defense are back in place with the exception of goalie Andrew Flood (63.9 sv%), who will admittedly leave tough shoes to fill. "Overall, we didn't lose a ton of people, however," Grizanti said.

That should be helpful when Kennesaw kicks off its season on Jan. 26 against cross-town rival Georgia Tech – assuming the Owls can get their paperwork in order. For postseason purposes, it's a meaningless game (inter-divisional contests are not considered during the selection process), but it could have repercussions on the recruiting trail as well as setting the stage for the Kennesaw State to finally break through to nationals.