Huge news came out of the Linfield camp yesterday as the ‘Cats and defending SCIAC champion, Occidental, have agreed to a 1-year deal for the 2009 season. The game will be played at Oxy on September 19th. As a result, Linfield and Western Oregon have parted ways and will not be playing next season or anytime in the foreseeable future. That means that Linfield will have 8 Division III games in 2009 (Southern Oregon will remain the only non-DIII game for a total of 9 regular season games).
While this is great news for Linfield and its fan base, it also means a brutal travel schedule for the ‘Cats next season. The ‘Cats will open the year at home on September 12th vs Hardin-Simmons, and then have a brutal one-month stretch were the ‘Cats will be at Occidental, at Southern Oregon, at Menlo, and then wrap the extended roadie at Whitworth.
So the ‘Cats open up with two teams coming off playoff qualifying seasons (where they both dropped close games), an NAIA team that have battled the ‘Cats tooth and nail the past three years, visit an improving Menlo program, and then at Whitworth. That’s a hell of a way to start the season and if the ‘Cats want to get back to the playoffs, then Linfield is going to earn it.
Overall, I love this move and I’m excited we are moving closer to a pure DIII schedule. If the ‘Cats can start the season by overcoming two talented teams in HSU and Oxy then that will be a great boost in building a case for a post season bid. Of course, the ‘Cats will want to leave no doubt and capture the NWC crown but these non-conference games will be marquee match-ups in the Division III landscape.
I have to applaud the great work that AD Carnahan and Coach Joe Smith have put in with regards to getting this done and for the changes coming in 2010-2011.
2009 is shaping up to be another challenging but exciting season.