For the past three seasons, through three different SLC divisional alignments, Cal-State Fullerton and Concordia have battled for the top spot among area Division II MCLA teams.
In 2010, Fullerton won the single-division SLC, with Concordia second. The next year, Concordia won the SLC’s West division, with Fullerton second. Last year, Grand Canyon joined the conference, and the new Pacific Division saw a three-way tie for first place between the Jackalopes, Fullerton and Concordia.
This year, Grand Canyon is gone, having moved up to Division I, and Concordia and Fullerton once again are battling for the top spot in what is now the South Division. The difference now, though, is that another new rival has risen up — Cal-State San Marcos.
In only their second year of MCLA play, the Cougars (5-0, 1-0) are making noise. Sunday, they beat Cal-State Long Beach 19-6, their third consecutive lopsided win. San Marcos has scored more than 13 goals in every game this season and 19 or more four times. To be certain, they haven’t faced the stiffest of competition just yet, with their combined scoring differential of 104-22 somewhat understandable given their five opponents have a combined record of 6-19.
That all changes this weekend, when the Cougars face No. 17 Fullerton (6-3, 0-0) at Great Oak HS in Temecula on Saturday (5 p.m.). A week later they travel to Irvine to face No. 4-ranked Concordia (6-1, 3-0).
“Fullerton has been a D2 powerhouse for a number of years, and they continue to hold true to that reputation this year,” San Marcos coach Teddy Hicks wrote in an email to Southland this week. “We know they have a really solid and physical defensive unit and some really quick and shifty offensive players. We’re making the necessary adjustments this week in preparation for that.”
The Cougars tuned up over the weekend by beating Cal Lutheran 26-1 and Long Beach 19-6. Eleven different players scored for San Marcos in the two games, from a roster of only 15. The bulk of the offense continues to come from attackmen Kyle Peterson (12.8 points per game) and Dylan Perry (8.8 ppg). Attackman Ian Hooks (11 goals, 13 assists) and midfielder Adam Webber (12 goals, 14 assists) round out the offense.
Saturday will be a test for San Marcos, though, facing a Fullerton team that has won four in a row and has faced top competition in its three losses — D-I San Diego State, No. 1 (D-II) St. Thomas and No. 2 (D-II) Westminster.
“We’ve circled this game on our calendars since last fall and have been training and prepping for this game all season,” Hicks wrote in the email. “We’re in the exact position we wanted to be this year heading into this game (5-0). We’re really looking forward to the matchup with them this coming weekend in front of a large crowd under the lights at Great Oak.”
I have a hunch the Titans are looking forward to it, as well. Senior defender and co-captain Paul Morgan has been actively talking up his team on Twitter, celebrating the balance and camaraderie of the roster. Given that Fullerton lost a huge chunk of its offense when Cameron Cole and Chris Cole decided not to return this season, Morgan probably has a right to feel good.
Morgan also wants to see how the high-scoring San Marcos attackmen fare against a veteran defense. Alongside Morgan (Fallbrook HS) in the back are senior co-captain Austin Ray (Corona del Mar HS) and junior Jackson Wyatt (El Toro HS), plus senior co-captain Kody Kareta (Foothill HS) at LSM. In goal is Trevor Wada (El Dorado HS), a junior in his first year on the club. Wada is averaging 7.3 goals-against through nine games and has a .635 save percentage.
Concordia, meanwhile, doesn’t play again until March 23, when San Marcos visits. The Cougars either will be riding high or bracing for their second wake-up call in as many weeks.
In the SLC North, Pepperdine (3-2, 3-0) leads the division but is off until March 24. Channel Islands (3-5, 2-1) is second but also is off for an extended break, as are Occidental (4-2, 1-1) and Marymount College (0-6, 0-4). Cal Lutheran (1-2, 1-1) and Biola (1-7, 1-1) meet Saturday in La Mirada.