April 18, 2014 — Growth at the cost of control

The single most improved geographical area in the game of field hockey is going to have a change in the way the game is administered beginning this fall.

Three days ago, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) announced that it was going to sanction the sport in the state of Kentucky. The sport, despite having a high level of competitiveness since the 1960s, was run by a volunteer council of athletic directors.

Given what KHSAA director Julian Tackett told the Louisville Courier-Journal this week, the move makes sense from a growth standpoint.

“We heard feedback from a pocket of six to eight schools whose sole reason for not having it was because an official group wasn’t sponsoring it,” Tackett said.

The Courier-Journal story said that perhaps up to 15 more schools could add the sport in the next two years.

That is an impressive growth curve in a short period of time.

Yet, I have a bit of a concern about the long-term effects. There are three that come to my mind:

1. Public vs. Private. A rift has grown between public high schools and the rest of the pack — so much so that a second August tournament was contested during the same time that the long-time Apple Tournament was held. It does make you wonder if you’re going to have separate state championships for public and non-public high schools, similar to what New Jersey does now.

2. Length of season. A number of Kentucky-based teams that travel out of state for multiple games can wind up play up to 30 games a year, including the state tournament. A cursory look at the state tournament participants for soccer in Kentucky reveals that many teams get to play somewhere between 25 and 27 games on the way to the state final, so I don’t think there’s going to be many changes in the way that teams assemble their regular season. At least I hope not.

3. Loss of independence. In a sport which was controlled by coaches and athletic directors — many from all-girls’ schools — the move to KHSAA control might be a bit bumpy. What if the state governing body makes radical changes in the rules, such as going to four 15-minute quarters like FIH? What if the state decides that teams playing fewer than 80 percent of its schedule in Kentucky are ineligible for the postseason?

These are issues which need to be addressed before the season begins in August. Let’s hope the KHSAA lets the sport grow rather than try to bend it to its will.

 

BULLETIN: Apr. 17, 2014 — The all-time girls’ lacrosse winning streak has fallen

Today in Owings Mills, Md., the McDonogh School beat St. Paul School for Girls 18-10 in a varsity girls’ lacrosse game.

The win breaks a three-way tie for the longest winning streak in U.S. scholastic lacrosse history. McDonogh has now won 104 straight games dating back to April 2009. That also ties Towson Loch Raven (Md.) for the longest unbeaten streak in the known history of scholastic girls’ lacrosse.

Saturday, the Eagles have a chance to stand alone in history with their participation in this year’s Mount Hebron Invitational.

April 17, 2014 — A perspective on McDonogh’s streak

This afternoon, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) plays Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) in a Flight A girls’ lacrosse game in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM).

For context and perspective on the impending national record and the McDonogh role in history, I can’t add anything to Katherine Dunn’s story today. It’s an excellent read showing how McDonogh coach Chris Robinson is at the crux of this entire episode.

April 16, 2014 — Lessons learned from the WNBA draft

Monday night, the draft for the WNBA’s 18th season was held, and there were a handful of trends that evinced themselves over the course of the evening.

1. The Seattle Storm needs help. With Lauren Jackson missing the entire WNBA season with injury and with the retirement of Tina Thompson, the Storm went big. They traded for 6-foot-2 Crystal Langhorne, then drafted 6-foot-4 forward Michelle Plouffe and hot-and-cold shooter Mikaela Ruef. And let’s face it: Brian Agler never met a trade he didn’t like.

2. The Washington Mystics got help. The franchise once known for having two “attendance champions” banners in the rafters have made a number of moves to fill seats. After acquiring Kara Lawson from Connecticut, the Mystics drafted Stefanie Dolson from the University of Connecticut, then traded for her former UConn teammate Bria Hartley as well as forward Tianna Hawkins. But what allowed Washington to improve to last year’s 17-17 mark was rebounding; the team was fifth in the league in team rebounds. And with Australian center Carley Mijovic possibly joining with Belgian Emma Meesseman and Dolson in what could be a loaded center-forward position, I somehow think rebounding isn’t going to be a problem.

3. Pocket centers. Speaking of Mijovic, she’s not the only draft pick that was made with a long-term goal in mind, even though the players selected may not play immediately. Mijovic, currently playing in the Australian women’s pro league and currently training with the Opals (the Australian national team) for this summer’s World Cup, is not expected to join her team this fall. Neither is Jennifer Hamson, the 6-foot-7 part-time volleyball player who is staying a fifth season at Brigham Young University. A wild card in this is Indiana Fever draftee Natalie Ochunwa, who was injured in the national quarterfinals for Notre Dame. Ochunwa may be the best female basketball player that Canada has ever produced, but we’ll know a lot more about her grit and dedication. She goes in for surgery this Friday and will be out from six to nine months.

4. Stars in the backcourt. The San Antonio Stars went with a pair of aggressive shooters in Notre Dame star Kayla McBride and Bri Kulas. Will that allow 15-year veteran Becky Hammon to retire gracefully?

5. Tina Charles is back in the city. With Charles, a former No. 1 overall pick, unhappy with playing for the Connecticut Sun, the team traded her back to the New York Liberty. Aside from the obvious expectations for the team, especially now they’re back at Madison Square Garden after a two-year exile to Newark, the episode raises a question about how the WNBA structures its contracts with its players. Charles may play at “home” for the Liberty (she is a native of Queens), but she also plays basketball for Galatasaray Medical Park in Turkey, and makes more in salary overseas than she does here, despite being one of the best at her craft.

It should be a transformational season for the league.

April 14, 2014 — An achievement ladder

Starting today, the girls’ lacrosse team from Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) makes its final assault on some all-time team records. Every game this week represents a particular step in the Eagles’ program’s march to a very elusive place — and, much like the way that Austyn Cuneo ran roughshod over the record books through most of the 2013 field hockey season, this week represents a time during which McDonogh can set some sort of record every game.

Today, against a very good Ellicott City Marriott’s Ridge (Md.) team, McDonogh looks to become the third team in recorded scholastic lacrosse history to win 103 games in a row. To do so, Chris Robinson would tie a record co-held by his former school, Ellicott City Mount Hebron (Md.). Robinson coached the first five games of that streak, which Brooke Kuhl-McClelland took to 103 before it ended in 2007. The record would also tie a mark set between 1973 and 1982 by Towson Loch Raven (Md.).

Later this week, McDonogh is scheduled to play against Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.), which throttled McDonogh to within an inch of its lacrosse life in the IAAM Flight “A” championship last spring. Since then, the program has taken on Courtney (Martinez) Connor as head coach, but St. Paul’s has not been on a good run of form lately. The Gators have lost three of four coming into this week, but with the pressure of breaking the existing national best for girls’ lacrosse wins and tying Loch Raven’s 104-game unbeaten streak (which had begun with a tie back in 1973), this should make this a compelling contest.

After that, the Eagles participate in the Fight for Five lacrosse tournament at Mount Hebron, where Robinson once coached. Between 1996 and 2001, Robinson’s Vikings had won 107 games, drew one, and lost eight. A win in the opening game at 11 a.m. against Pylesville North Harford (Md.) would allow the current McDonogh team to stand alone in terms of both winning and unbeaten streaks. The afternoon game would see the winner of that game playing against either the hosts or Edgewater South River (Md.).

Saturday’s match is no less notable than the games occurring this week, especially since McDonogh hasn’t had to play two games in a day except for last year’s Hebron tournament.

There isn’t much time for the Eagles to celebrate; after this weekend, they take on the oldest girls’ lacrosse program in the country, Baltimore Bryn Mawr (Md.) in their next game.

April 12, 2014 — Reverse travel

For much of the last decade, the state of Florida has become the single most improved region for the sport of lacrosse.

Much of it is because Florida has become a destination spot for cold-weather teams to start their practices or to scrimmage teams in mid-season form, since high-school teams in the state start their seasons earlier than just about everywhere else in the Union.

Few, however, have taken advantage of their destination status like Vero Beach (Fla.). Over the last decade, the Indians have taken on all c0mers, including playing Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) the last three seasons. The team has improved through its competition and a few years ago made a good case for being the finest team in the country.

But aside from an occasional trip over the border to Milton (Ga.), they haven’t taken their act on the road.

Today, however, Vero Beach finishes a two-game road trip at Moorestown (N.J.) after yesterday’s 11-9 loss to South Huntington St. Anthony’s (N.Y.). It’s a game which finishes Vero Beach’s regular season, but it is only the Quakers’ sixth game of the season.

There is a lot on the line for Moorestown in this match. The team is currently the No. 1 team in the LaxPower.com computer rankings (albeit it takes about 10 games to calculate a ranking), and it’s one of only a few opportunities for the team to remain in the upper echelon because of its Burlington County Scholastic League schedule. Moorestown, over the next few weeks, takes on Suffern (N.Y.) and Wallingford Strath Haven (Pa.), teams which will aid in the computer rankings when it comes to strength of schedule.

But for Moorestown, this game is big because it is a rare trip for their opponent. It should be a great match.

April 10, 2014 — A closure that leaves more questions

Last weekend, the manager of a bar who accused the Penn women’s lacrosse team of theft and property damage was on full backtrack mode, according to statements made by head women’s lacrosse coach Karin Brower Corbett.

“The general manager of the bar sent an e-mail retraction to me and some officials on campus saying that he cannot say that our girls did anything.” she said after last weekend’s loss to Northwestern. “They were there but it was a packed bar and he can’t attribute any of it to us.”

And herein is the problem: nobody was able to put an identification on any of the alleged acts which were detailed in the April 1 email to the Penn athletic department and the news media.

The problem: the story spread like wildfire last week, even making British tabloid media.

And, regrettably, any retraction won’t get the same level of coverage.

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