MEQUON, Wis. – Will Concordia University Wisconsin continue its winning streak? Can the Falcons capture their first Midwest Lacrosse Conference title this season? Why does this year's team look so fluid and dominate against the opposition so often?
Those are just a few questions that will be answered as the season progresses. CUW (9-2, 4-0) can answer the first question on Wednesday evening in a highly anticipated matchup at Aurora University. Both teams enter with identical 4-0 MLC records and one will walk away as the only undefeated team remaining in the league.
CUW's Department of Athletic Communications makes an attempt to answer the questions above by looking at the numbers in depth.
Will Concordia University Wisconsin continue its winning streak?
Yes, the Falcons can push their winning streak to nine games and beyond. However, the Spartans are the next opponent standing in their way from another statement victory. AU has won each of the three previous meetings against CUW by a combined margin of 46-25. If CUW is going to topple the defending MLC Tournament Champions, who also won a game during last year's NCAA Division III Championship, it will need to win the faceoff and capitalize when playing a man-up.
The Falcons are winning the most faceoffs per game in program history and are doing so because of sophomore Danny Bundra's growth. Last year the Lake Zurich, Ill., native showed flashes of controlling the faceoff circle, but is playing at a much higher level this season. The 5-foot-10 specialist ranks 35th nationally, winning 63 percent of his opportunities. Because of his efforts, CUW is getting more opportunities than ever to score.
Can the Falcons win their first Midwest Lacrosse Conference title this season?
They can, but need to take down two more of their nemesis in Aurora and Carthage College over the next three weeks. More importantly, they need to take care of business against teams lower in the conference standings. CUW has already knocked off Augustana College, 14-13 in overtime, and Hanover College, 24-10 at home. Both of those squads are in the top half of the MLC standings and posed a threat, at one point, to the Falcons during their current winning streak.
If CUW is to debunk its fourth place selection from the MLC Preseason Coaches' Poll, the all-important road contests at Aurora and Carthage will go a long way in crowning them the kings of the MLC regular season. Once that goal is checked off, the MLC Tournament title will be within a fingertips reach.
Why does this year's team look so fluid and dominate the opposition so often?
There are multitudes of reasons why the Falcons have dominated the opposition and made it look so easy at times during the past eight games. CUW's ability to share the ball is evident, taking advantage of opponent's penalties has gotten better and the men between the pipes have shut down opposing offenses.
The Falcons rank third in the nation in assists per game (10.73), which has allowed them embarrass opposing goaltenders on occassion. In six different games they have recorded double-figure assist totals and are registering an assist on 69 percent of their goals this season. In all, 18 different players have at least one assist, with junior Derek Brueske (Hopkins, Minn.) leading the team with 22 helpers.
Fans will always say scoring goals is fun to watch, but when assists are involved it brings another level of excitement into the equation.
CUW is the third-most efficient team in the country regarding man-up offense. They have marked a goal on 55.8 percent of their opportunities when playing with a man advantage. In eight different games, they have tallied multiple man-up scores, including a program record seven during a home 14-4 win over Alma College on March 29. Senior Danny Dahms (Calgary, Alberta) leads the MLC with 10 man-up tallies, while senior Sam Wladyka (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and freshman Colin Raley (Inverness, Ill.) each have five man-up goals.
Finally, the men between the pipes have been solid more times than not. Senior Zack Davis (LaPorte, Ind.) began the season as the incumbent starter, but gave way to junior Emmet O'Malley (Elk Grove Village, Ill.) who was then replaced by sophomore Thomas Mueller (Prior Lake, Minn.). Freshmen Nick Hepting (Kingwood, Texas) and Matthew Erickson (Antioch, Ill.) have also received playing time.
The combination of goaltenders have stopped 59.6 percent of the shots they faced and recorded 118 saves to date. Lately, it has been Mueller who controls the area between the pipes and has posted a 5-0 record entering Wednesday's contest. As of April 6, the Falcons ranked 46th in the nation with a 7.27 goals against average, while Mueller's 67.2 save percentage and 4.50 goals against average lead the MLC. Of course CUW can score points in bunches, but its defense in the crease will be an important key to earning victories.
There a numerous reasons why CUW is in the midst of building of a banner season and a victory on Wednesday at Aurora would begin to solidify its goal of a MLC regular season title.