Archive for Lacrosse
Last night’s national semifinals in the NCAA Division I semifinal match were a tale of two results which had divergent paths of how they arrived at their destinations. A few thoughts:
1. Northwestern left its scoring back at home. After an absolutely magical performance a week ago against Penn State in the national quarterfinals, the Wildcats went 1-for-11 on the 8-meter, which is not the best way to try to win the game.
2. Kara Cannizzaro was not ready to let her team go gently into that good night. The heart and soul of the Tar Heels pumped in four goals and made just about every key hustle play imaginable.
3. Megan Ward, the freshman goalie from Annapolis St. Mary’s (Md.) has seemingly won the hearts of her teammates after getting the starts over Lauren Maksym.
4. Northwestern’s power outage on attack came from a lack of quality shots; Northwestern usually can be counted on for up to 60 shots a game, but UNC allowed just 16 attempts at goal.
5. The Wildcats had a surprising lack of discipline, picking up six yellow cards, all in the second half. Two very important players, Gabriella Flibotte and Alyssa Leonard, each received two and were disqualified.
6. Syracuse had a lack of discipline late in its match with Maryland. In the last 13 minutes, Syracuse picked up four consecutive yellow cards. If you’re going to be even only five minutes late in a game, there’s not much way you’re going to win.
7. The Orangewomen had scored four straight goals to to take a 10-9 lead, but committed a cardinal sin: they forgot what got them there. They had more turnovers in the final 18:31 of regulation than shots on goal. Remarkable.
8. On the biggest stage, freshman Taylor Cummings came up with big draw controls, especially the one after the game-winning goal. She was hammered by three Orange players in the midfield; and Alyssa Murray was shown to the sin bin.
9. For about two hours, there were three teams eligible for the NCAA Tournament title. All three are going to be in the same conference in 2014.
10. Maryland and North Carolina have met twice this year, with the Terps winning both. Will the Jim Davis First Law of Field Hockey apply here?
11. It’s befuddling why the playing surface at Villanova Stadium was shortened to about 110 yards with the blue lines used on the turf. Under the old rules, the effective playing area was much, much bigger. I find it interesting that only one of the Final Four teams plays its home matches on something other than a football or a soccer field. That team is Maryland, which plays at The Lacrosse & Field Hockey Complex (yep, that’s what we’re calling it), with a playing area of only about 115 by 60 yards.
Records: Northwestern 19-2, North Carolina 16-3.
Against the rest of the Final Four: Northwestern 1-1, North Carolina 1-2.
When Northwestern has the ball: Despite injuries to Christina Esposito and Kara Mupo, the Northwestern attack is still its usual high-octane self. The execution last weekend against Penn State was nothing short of relentless. Erin Fitzgerald, Alyssa Leonard, Amanda Macaluso, and Taylor Thornton can go off at any time. UNC will have to counter with Margaret Corzel, Sloane Serpe, Caileigh Sindall, and Mallory Frysinger.
When North Carolina has the ball: Kara Canizzarro and Abbey Friend are an awesome scoring tandem, but need another option. Aly Messinger had an awesome outing in the regular-season confrontation with Maryland. Northwestern’s defense will primarily come from Thornton, but Gabriella Flibotte makes all the right plays. Christy Turner and Kerri Harrington will also have to step up.
The skinny: The last three times these two teams met, Northwestern won by a goal each time. Carolina has not beaten the Wildcats since April 2010. And it is not a stretch to believe that UNC is snakebitten when it comes to NCAA Tournament play. But the Heels have more than enough talent to pull this off.
But will Northwestern let them? A month ago, many pundits thought that the Wildcats were going to be “just another team” in the NCAA race after they lost 22-4 at Florida. And many (including your Founder) thought this was going to be a sign of things to come in Division I as more and more high-dollar athletics programs such as USC, Michigan, and Colorado adopt the sport.
Instead, Northwestern controlled the clock and Florida’s attack on the way to an 8-3 victory in the American Lacrosse Conference final. If this turnaround, plus last weekend’s performance, are any indication, the rest of the Final Four teams aren’t going to know what hit them.
Records: Maryland 21-0, Syracuse 18-3.
Against the rest of the Final Four: Maryland 2-0, Syracuse 0-2.
When Maryland has the ball: With top guns Alex Aust, Brooke Griffin, and your Tewaaraton Trophy-winner Katie Schwartzmann, the Terp attack is one of the most formidable since the simultaneous graduation of Jen Adams, Quinn Carney, and Allison Comito. Syracuse has good defenders in Becca Block, Kasey Mock, and Erica Glanell, but covering the Terrapin attack is a different assignment altogether.
When Syracuse has the ball: Alyssa Murray and Katie Treanor each have more than 60 goals this season, but Michelle Tumolo has been injured the second half of the season. Tumolo got about a minute’s worth of action last weekend in the defeat of Florida, but it’s hard to envision her having a role when there are so many talented players on the Orange roster. The defense for Maryland includes Iliana Sanza, Megan Douty, Alice Mercer, Shanna Brady, and Melissa Diepold.
The skinny: The game is a confrontation between two branches of the Cindy Timchal coaching tree. Cathy Reese learned a lot of lacrosse from Gary Gait as a player, and it will be interesting who breaks out what new wrinkle for this game.
Each will try to find a weakness to exploit. For Maryland, I think it will be trying to press out on any Syracuse player not named Murray and Treanor and let someone else beat them. I think the Terrapins also sense uncertainty in the goal cage with the recent platooning of Kelsey Richardson and Alyssa Constantino.
Syracuse will try to exploit matchups on draw controls. Maryland freshman Taylor Cummings has been the main draw-taker, but Reese has been quick to try other people on the circle if the Terrapins lose consecutive draws. If Syracuse has the right matchups, they can control the midfield and the clock. I think the play of Kailah Kempney and Madison Huegel will determine who wins this semifinal.
Yesterday evening in Manassas, Va., a lacrosse player who had helped her teammates finish goals more than 130 times this season was given the opportunity to carry her team’s offense on her shoulders.
Corinne Wessels, the fiery junior for Manassas Osbourn Park (Va.), scored 10 goals to lead the Yellowjackets to a 15-14 overtime victory over Ashburn Broad Run (Va.) in the semifinal round of the VHSL Class AAA Tournament.
As befits the semifinal round of a VHSL championship, the win not only sends Osbourn Park into the Northwest Regional championship Thursday against Haymarket Battlefield (Va.), but sends the team to the four-team state tournament.
And, as befits “tipping-point” games, players and coaches are liable to take as many tactical and personnel chances in this one game than in the sum total of the entire season.
Broad Run did what it needed to do: force Wessels to take the ball to goal more, which she has done splendidly in her high-school career thus far. Her output last night gave her 94 goals and 136 assists for the 2013 season.
Last weekend, the NCAA Division II and III women’s lacrosse championships were held on a tight schedule, with a Saturday quadrupleheader and a Sunday doubleheader at Mustang Stadium.
I find it interesting that the winners of the Sunday games (i.e., the national champions) came from the games that were played earlier in the day. Salisbury, the Division III champion, had a full 24 hours between the end of its semifinal against Middlebury and the start of the final against Trinity. Trinity was afforded only about 22 hours of recuperation.
The disparity was a bit more severe in the final. C.W. Post had about 21 hours after its Division II semifinal win against Adelphi. On the other hand, Limestone had maybe 17 hours to recuperate after its thrilling overtime win against Rollins.
In a sport when any edge, any advantage can multiply, I think all might have been better served by having the Friday-Sunday schedule that is found in Division I.
But in looking at a list of future NCAA championship sites, the Division II and III Final Fours are decoupled next year; the Division II title matches will be held in Salem, Va., while the Division III title will be settled in Gettysburg, Pa. With games held on consecutive days.
Not the way I would have done it.
There is a segment of The Guinness Book of World Records that almost nobody reads. That segment is the foreword, which is usually titled, “Is It A Record?”
Quite simply, to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records, the record has to be (1) measurable, (2) based on a single variable, (3) verifiable, and (4) open to being challenged by a greater achievement.
What Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) and its remarkable senior class did over the last eight days wasn’t just win six games. It wasn’t just the fact that the team won two championships. It wasn’t even the fact that the team won 29 games on the season.
Instead, two of the seniors on the team — Besser Dyson and Carly Reed — who are believed to have set respective high marks for assists in a single season (149) and for goals in a four-year varsity career (475).
If you’ve read the verbiage on this site or talked to me on a lacrosse sideline, I marvel at the numbers that these players are putting up, and try to give them due praise.
At the same time, I will also say that there is a very important caveat.
Because the National Federation only started compiling girls’ high school national records only a few years ago, it is entirely possible that the enormous accomplishments of current players may have already been attained sometime in the previous 87 years.
But, like in our field hockey recordkeeping, a few factors make it likelier than not that last weekend’s records are likely to be the ones that will stand out the most:
1. Technology. Today’s ultralight shafts and molded plastic heads are much more accurate in their passing and shooting than the wooden sticks that were de rigeur until about 1995.
2. Advances in fitness and nutrition. It used to be that soccer and field hockey players used to be the fittest female athletes in field invasion sports. But many lacrosse players are now trained to run virtually all day and are often just as fresh in the 50th minute as they are the first.
3. Space. Limiting the attack zone to 7-on-7 has opened up offenses, and restrictions on defenders have opened it up even more. At the same time, offenses are now limited to a defined area around the goals instead of being able to play an infinite sideline.
4. Tactics. Skilled players are a product of good coaching as well as their own conditioning. Many of the best scholastic coaches have been taping college games and showing them to their kids in order to get them to see the game in a different way.
5. Etiquette. Time was, if your team was up five goals, as a coach, you would tell your team to relax. A player with a hat trick would sit out the rest of the game. But, as last year’s MPSSAA championship between Westminster (Md.) and Edgewater South River (Md.) showed, not even a seven-goal lead is safe anymore. Dominant lacrosse teams have not only breached the 20- and 30-goal barriers during some games, but have even shut out their opponents in the process.
More on this to come in the next few weeks.
With a goal 4:29 in into the first half of a 19-6 VISAA Class AA championship victory Richmond (Va.) Collegiate, Carly Reed, the UNC-bound attacker for Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) set what is believed to be a new national record for lacrosse goals in a four-year high-school career. She had five goals in the win which gives the Saints a mark of 29-1, and gives Reed 475 career goals.
The crafty senior had broken the existing National Federation mark of 443 goals, set by Shair Masun of Clarkstown (N.Y.) North on May 7 with a hat trick against Oakton Flint Hill (Va.). A number of published records, however, showed that at least three other high-school players had exceeded that mark.
Reed tied the highest known four-year career mark yesterday of 470 goals with a six-goal outburst, again with Flint Hill the opponent. The holder of the previously known mark was Kate Ferris of Carthage (N.Y.), who is now with the University of Massachusetts.
Given the fact that the National Federation of State High School Associations has only started publishing records recently, there is a chance that other numbers may be unearthed.
But if there is, Reed’s run to the record was pretty remarkable. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes had to play six games in eight days in order to win the ISL/VISAA double, all the while knowing that a team loss would mean the end of the season.
Reed’s running mate, Besser Dyson, had eight assists for the second straight game to extend her own record to 149.
Today’s Game of the Day
Eden Prairie (Minn.) at St. Paul Cretin-Derham Hall (Minn.)
Eden Prairie has been skimming along with a 9-1 record, with its only loss to Willamette Loyola Academy (Ill.). The Eagles, however, have a week to go before its regular-season show down with last year’s nemesis, Minneapolis Blake School (Minn.). Today’s game against Cretin-Derham Hall will show how far the Eagles have progressed.
This weekend, the NCAA crowns its Division II and III women’s lacrosse champions.
Eight teams from vastly different backgrounds will come to Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Md. Two will prove their mettle and come home with a gold, glass, and wood plaque emblematic of their endeavor, will, teamwork, and effort.
Here’s a look at the Division III semifinals, which, if you remember last year, should be familiar to you: it’s the exact same matchup as a year ago:
SALISBURY vs. MIDDLEBURY
In 1999, when these two teams first met up, Middlebury soundly beat the Sea Gulls 16-2. It’s not going to be like that this time around. It will be a classic battle between Salisbury’s offense (which has been averaging more than 16 goals per game) against the Middlebury defense, which is one of the nation’s best thanks to Hall of Fame coach Missy Foote’s vaunted zone defense.
TRINITY vs. CORTLAND
Cortland has had the most NCAA Tournament appearances without making a national final, having qualified 17 times. The last two years, Cortland has been ousted by two goals, and they hope to make it a closer finish this time against your defending national champions.
In Division II, there is destined to be a Long Island team in the final. But everything else is, as usual, hard to predict:
LIU-POST vs. ADELPHI
These two teams have won six out of the last NCAA titles. They normally meet in the regular season, given the fact that their campuses are located about 11 miles apart out on Long Island. But Adelphi has beaten Post four out of the five times they have met in the NCAA Tournament, and it should be a very contentious battle.
ROLLINS vs. STONEHILL
Stonehill is back to the national semifinal, trying to win its first national championship since 2005. Rollins is in only in its sixth season as a varsity program, yet could very well be the first Florida college to win an NCAA national championship. The Tars are looking to show last year’s season wasn’t a fluke.
Today’s Game of the Day
Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) at Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.)
Something always seems to happen when these two teams get together, either on the hockey or on the lacrosse pitch. This is the reverse of a 16-15 Episcopal Academy victory on April 23rd.
Before the spring of 2013, there was only one recorded instance of a high-school lacrosse player breaking the 100-assist barrier for a single season.
This year, there are two.
And their seasons aren’t even over yet.
Besser Dyson is a senior at Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.), and her team plays tomorrow against Potomac Flint Hill (Va.) in the semifinals of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Tournament, being staged this year at Richmond (Va.) Collegiate. Dyson, who is going to the University of Virginia, has recorded 133 assists in the Saints’ 28 games this season.
Corinne Wessels is a junior at Manassas Osbourn Park (Va.), and the Yellowjackets start the Virginia High School League’s Northwest Regional Tournament next Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Ashburn Broad Run (Va.). Wessels, who is headed to Northwestern after her senior year, has 135 assists this season.
Eight times this season, Wessels has recorded double-digits in assists, including two instances of her getting 13 assists in one game. That’s assists, people.
These are two truly special players in an era of undeniably talented athletes playing lacrosse. Go see them if you can.
Today’s Game of the Day
Brighton (Mich) at Okemos (Mich.)
Two of Michigan’s better programs have come on hard times recently. Michigan is 3-3 in its last six games, while Brighton is 4-5 in its last nine. Both of these teams could use a win here in order to get a good seed for the state tournament.
With a quarter-hour to go in the Independent Athletic Association of Maryland’s Class A girls’ lacrosse championship game, Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) had Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) where they wanted them.
St. Paul’s had an 8-4 lead in the final, thanks to a pregame talk from the recently-retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who has a daughter at the school. St. Paul’s also had a head coach in Brooke Kuhl-McClelland who knew just about everything McDonogh coach Chris Robinson was going to do, since she was his assistant at Ellicott City Mount Hebron (Md.) in an era when the Vikings won 103 games in a row and 15 public-school state championships.
But McDonogh, having won 90 games in a row coming into this match, turned up the wick, especially on draw controls, allowing the Eagles to control the ball and the clock. McDonogh won six out of seven draws and scored the last seven goals in their 11-8 win over St. Paul’s.
McDonogh got three goals each from Sammi Burgess and Elizabeth George. More importantly, they got the goals in bunches after winning draws. It’s something into which the Eagles put an inordinate amount of practice time, and the relentlessness in the midfield paid off big yesterday.
The first burst came when Casey Black and George scored goals 24 seconds apart. Then, Burgess’ natural hat trick staked McDonogh to a 9-8 lead with under seven minutes remaining. Twenty-five seconds later, Megan Whittle scored to give McDonogh a two-goal lead.
“It was amazing persistence for our kids, because they really could have crumbled under the pressure,” Robinson told The Baltimore Sun. “We were not getting any 50-50 balls, any breaks going our way. It seemed like a lot of the flow was against us and St. Paul’s was playing great, but we got that little ray of light and just exposed it. A big part of it was our depth. Towards the last 15 minutes of the game we were fresh. We could get to the ground balls and the draw controls and I think that wore on St. Paul’s a little bit.”
While the major offseason question for this program is going to be about how the team will replace 17 seniors, or whether the team will be able to break the 104-game unbeaten streak of Towson Loch Raven (Md.), there may also be a question as to whether the team will match or exceed the strength of schedule exhibited in 2013. While this Eagles team played the likes of Vero Beach (Fla.), Milton (Ga.) and Canandaigua (N.Y.) Academy, it didn’t have Moorestown (N.J.), Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.), or South Huntington St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) on the schedule.
Of course, that may change for 2014. Until then, the Eagles are likely to be the consensus No. 1 girls’ lacrosse team in the U.S., but not by the wide margin that it was last year when it won almost every game on its schedule by at least eight goals.