Fullerton returns from Full House Faceoff still searching for offense

CSU Fullerton

Not to be overlooked with all the attention given the Pac-12 Shootout and Chapman’s opening-weekend split and subsequent drop in the rankings is the performance of MCLA Division II Concordia and Cal-State Fullerton at the Full House Faceoff in Las Vegas over the weekend.

No. 8 Concordia split two games, losing 14-7 to No. 1 St. Thomas and beating Portland 16-7, and No. 18 Fullerton went 1-2 on the weekend, losing 15-1 to No. 3 Westminster on Friday, rallying to beat UC Santa Cruz on Saturday, then hanging tough with No. 1 St. Thomas in a 6-3 loss.

Concordia is bracing for an important stretch on its schedule. Beginning this weekend, the Eagles play three Southwestern Lacrosse Conference games in eight days — facing UC San Diego at home Saturday, then playing at UC Irvine on Feb. 27 and at Cal State Long Beach on March 2.

Nick Lioi
Junior Nick Lioi leads Fullerton with five goals this season.

Photo courtesy Tim Haslam/Utah Lacrosse News

Fullerton, on the other hand, doesn’t face a conference opponent for a while, which gives the Titans a chance to figure out what kind of team they are. Are they the team that hung tough with St. Thomas on Sunday? Or are they the team that trailed Westminster 10-1 at halftime and found the net only once against three different Griffins goalies?

The Titans have been solid in recent years, advancing to the MCLA national tournament in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before narrowly missing a bid last spring. At this point, it appears the Titans could go either way this season.

Fullerton’s offense took a hit when Cameron Cole transferred. Per Jack Coyne of Lacrosse Magazine, Cole is attending Lane CC in Oregon but practicing with the Oregon Ducks and planning to play there in 2014. Last year as a freshman, the Foothill HS product led the Titans with 77 goals and 44 assists and was named SLC Offensive Player of the Year. Also missing from the 2013 roster is Cameron’s brother Chris Cole, who scored 52 goals and had 43 assists as a junior in 2012 and was named third-team MCLA All-America.

That’s a lot of offense to replace, and it might explain why the Titans are averaging only a little better than five goals per game this season. They’ve had losses of 14-2, 15-1 and 6-3, with wins of 10-9 and 11-9.

So far, it appears attacks Gabe Alamillo out of Mater Dei HS (27 G, 8 A in 2012) and Nick Lioi out of El Toro HS (8 G, 10 A in 2012) and middie Jeff Lyon (21 G, 23 A in 2012), also from El Toro, are beginning to step up. The three lead the Titans in points through five games — Alamillo has 3 goals, 4 assists; Lioi has 5 goals, 1 assist; and Lyon has 3 goals, 3 assists. Freshman middie Braden Goebel out of Temecula Valley HS scored three goals against UC Santa Cruz and has four on the season.

Comparing scores is a tremendously inexact method of gauging a team’s quality, but perhaps the Las Vegas trip can be read as good step in the development of a team that came into the season with a lot of questions. I say that only because a complete blowout followed by a gritty win followed by a tough loss to the No. 1 team in the country could indicate progress.

Of course, the Friday blowout could have been due to a long pregame drive from Orange County; and it could be argued the Titans should not have struggled to beat UC Santa Cruz; and perhaps St. Thomas let up a bit Sunday after wins over Concordia and Westminster the previous two days.

See? Comparing scores and results is a ridiculous way to judge. There are too many variables.

I hope to see Fullerton this weekend. The Titans play host to USC — another team still trying to find its identity — at home on Saturday (1 p.m.), then travel to Camarillo to play Channel Islands on Sunday (3 p.m.). Hopefully a first-hand look provides more insight than comparing scores.