TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

June 27, 2022 — The 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship: the outsiders

Second in a series of stories about the 2022 Women’s World Lacrosse Championships in Towson, Md.

In the middle of the 2022 World Championships are teams which have done well just to make it to the tournament and aren’t expected to match up well against the likes of Australia, Canada, and the United States.

However, these teams, especially the four which played into the 2017 Championship Division, have so many reasons to keep your eye on them.

Israel finished eighth five years ago at the World Championship and finished second at the most recent European championship. With players like twin sisters Jessi Steinberg Stone and Ali Steinberg Burnard, along with former Franklin & Marshall star Saran Meisenberg, Israel could spring an upset in the knockout rounds.

Japan played in its first World Championship as hosts in 1997 and has made every tournament since. Watch for current Louisville attacker Kokoro Nakazawa and former Baltimore Brave Ai Hirose to give a good account for themselves and for the Cherry Blossoms.

New Zealand has been trying to get out from behind the considerable shadow of Oceania neighbor Australia for years. The Kiwis were undefeated in pool play five years ago and got into the quarterfinals where they ran smack into Canada. Sally Rutherford is a true throwback athlete, not only competing well for the New Zealand women’s lacrosse side, but she also made the 2012 and 2016 Olympics as a field hockey goalkeeper.

The Haudenosaunee team, representing the Six Nations, will be led by Jalyn Jimerson, late of Syracuse University. Allyson Trice, a close defender from the University of Pittsburgh, could be a breakout star of these championships

June 26, 2022 — The 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship: the newcomers

First in a series of stories about the 2022 Women’s World Lacrosse Championships in Towson, Md.

Wednesday night, the opening draw of the 11th world championship of women’s lacrosse under the aegis of the governing body now known as World Lacrosse. Aside from a name change from World Cup to World Championship, there’s not going to be a lot different except for the addition of new teams to this tournament.

The newcomers for this tournament are Latvia, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Puerto Rico, Uganda, Jamaica, and Argentina.

It’s not expected that any of these teams will be able to make it into the Round of 16, but this group could very have some of the best stories.

Puerto Rico, for example, has three sisters from Haymarket, Va. Antonella, Isabella, and Gabriella Henson-Vendrill. They played for the ascendant Chantilly Paul VI (Va.) team before making their collegiate choices.

Uganda, the first African team at this championship, is led by Dorothy Nakato, who was originally brought into help coach the side, but played so well in intersquad scrimmages, she was added to the roster.

And, Jamaica’s player-coach is Karen Healy-Silcott. If that name rings familiar, she’s the coach at Howard who was very outspoken about what happened in February when racist Presbyterian College students hurled invectives against the team.

Though it may be difficult for these teams to progress into the top levels of the tournament by journey’s end, the experiences the players will have are going to help grow the game around the world.

June 25, 2022 — Knowing what we don’t know

A few years ago, I attended a book talk by sports columnist Christine Brennan, who was a field hockey player at Toledo Ottawa Hills (Ohio), a team which was one of the only ones to wear argyle socks as part of its uniform. (Don’t believe me? Buy her book “Best Seat In The House.”)

During the Q-and-A period, a question was asked about the progress of women’s sports in the post-Title IX era, and how we should remember people and teams like the Raybestos Brakettes, or any number of “Bloomer Girls” traveling baseball teams, or dominant athletes like volleyball’s Flo Hyman and squash player Heather McKay, who once went 20 years without losing a match (and who also made the Hockeyroos squads in 1967 and 1971, taking bronze at the ILWCA World Championship in Auckland).

Brennan’s answer, to paraphrase, was that a lot of these pioneers are not likely to get the credit they deserved for advancing their particular sport.

That answer has stuck with me, especially this week in this anniversary week of Title IX. A lot of the celebrations surrounded things which have happened in the last 25 or so years, such as the 1999 win by the U.S. women’s soccer team, the start of the WNBA, and the struggle for equality in the NCAA, especially after the March Madness weight room fiasco of 2001.

One video illustrates the problem. The Premier Lacrosse League posted Twitter video in which players were asked which was the best female athlete of all time.

A lot of the flash answers fell into predictables: Boston College graduate Charlotte North, tennis player Serena Williams, and soccer player Abby Wambach — people who have made their marks in sports during the “highlight” age of televised sports, after the founding of ESPN in 1979.

Now, I’ve always said that I thought Babe Didrikson Zaharias was the best woman athlete of all time, what with her prowess in track and basketball. She dabbled in billiards and toured with the House of David barnstorming baseball team.

But Didrikson’s bigger contribution was to golf, helping to start the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950. She won majors such as the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur, and three U.S. Opens. In 1950, she won the Open, which, in conjunction with victories at the Women’s Western Open and the Titleholders’ Open, gave her what was then golf’s Grand Slam.

I also believe that the conversation about the greatest female athlete ever also should involve Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a dominant track athlete in the 1990s who somehow found time to win four letters with the UCLA women’s basketball team in the early 1980s.

And no doubt, Serena Williams’ haul of professional majors (23 in singles, another 16 in doubles and mixed doubles) should mark her in both longevity and versatility. And for all of Williams’ wins, it could have been even more. Four times, she bowed out of the U.S. Open under controversial circumstances; if she had flipped a couple of those into wins, she would be even more legendary.

But that’s a conversation for another time.

June 24, 2022 — Friday Statwatch for games played through June 22

With the end of the scholastic girls’ lacrosse season last Tuesday, what you see below is found in available sources across the nation. I encourage you to keep convincing your teams, your schools, leagues, or state governing bodies to adopt the easy-to-use MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams to enter their information there as well as whichever is your local news site, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, SEASON
200 Fran Frieri, Lockport (Ill.)
154 Isabella Caporuscio, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.)
144 Sara Williams, Winter Haven All Saints Academy (Fla.)
144 Kayleen Favreau, Holly Springs (N.C.)
139 Sienna Chirieleison, Camp Hill Trinity (Pa.)
137 Cassidy Jones, Memphis White Station (Tenn.)
137 Erika Ho, New Lenox Lincoln-Way Central (Ill.)
132 Hayden Head, Lewisville Forsyth Country Day School (Ga.)
130 Caroline Ling, Springboro (Ohio)
126 Sydney Hannes, Tyngsboro (Mass.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
105 Riley Nee, Hampstead Topsail (N.C.)
105 Ryann Banks, Peachtree McIntosh (Ga.)
94 Kayla Conroy, Marin (Calif.) Catholic
90 Evelyn Guyer, Durham (N.C.) Academy
88 Grace Mattimore, Cleveland St. Joseph Academy (Ohio)
77 Harmony Hall, Simi Valley Royal (Calif.)
75 Morgan Coleman, Camp Hill Trinity (Pa.)
75 Eva Pronti ,Victor (N.Y.)
70 Taylor Santos, Scotts Valley (Calif.)
70 Riley Mathews, Hinsdale (Ill.) Central
70 Kelsey Neary, Arlington Heights Hersey (Ill.)

CAREER GOALS
545 Fran Frieri, Lockport (Ill.)
406 Reagan O’Brien, Boston (Mass.) Latin

COACHING WINS
832 Kathy Jenkins, Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.)

If you see something out of place, please send an email to us at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the needed changes.

This is our last Friday Statwatch for the season; we’ll have a Final Statwatch next month as part of our year-end package.

June 23, 2022 — 37 words, 50 years, so much to accomplish

Today’s the 50th Anniversary of the signing of Title IX of the 1972 Civil Rights Act into law. The legislation guaranteed equal opportunity in educational institutions between men and women.

The law has been lauded for everything from the rise of the WNBA to the increase in the number of women in graduate schools, to the expansion of sports like lacrosse nationwide.

We’ve been looking at various aspects of the women’s sports revolution since 1998. Women now play soccer at world-beating levels, even as the world of men’s soccer is just starting to add money and coaching to teams run by clubs like Barcelona, Olympique Lyonnais, Manchester City, and Club America.

Women run in race cars, whether it’s in their own series such as the former WGGT series and now the W Series under the FIA banner. American women have dominated team sports at the world level, such as basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and softball.

Women play tackle football and have been part of an alphabet soup of leagues over the last 30 years. Women are just starting to get towards pro rugby and cricket in many parts of the world.

But for all of the celebrations of Title IX in the media today, there are a number of shortcomings that don’t get discussed as much.

First of all, the “equality” in Title IX is limited to those institutions receiving Federal funding. And even with the narrowing of discriminatory behavior, there has been enormous inequality in college sports even to this day. This was shown by the infamous Sedona Prince video in 2021 showing the obvious inequality of facilities offered to men’s and women’s basketball teams in the NCAA Tournaments.

Also, equality does not flow through to the media organizations that document the achievements of teams and individuals. Newspapers, blogs, and TV networks can shape the destiny of women’s sports leagues by simply not choosing to report scores on the ticker on the bottom of the screen while showing another game of cornhole or pickleball.

It took enormous pressure and shaming on social media to get ESPN to equalize coverage of men’s and women’s lacrosse, for example. The TV landscape of games went from a ratio of 5 or 6 to 1 between men’s and women’s games, with the title game never getting a nationwide telecast, to a more equal ratio with all games on the women’s side from the quarterfinal onward getting their own broadcast windows, and the women’s final on ESPN.

The equality has also not flowed through to predominantly Black colleges and universities. These days, athletes who attend HBCUs find substandard athletic departments and, frankly, a lot of sports which rely on non-Black participants such as bowling and softball. There are just three HBCUs with women’s lacrosse, and none in the Next Level League which has six men’s teams.

Minority participation in field hockey has lagged far behind every other sport in the NCAA canon. Indeed, the best place to find more minorities is in the scholastic level, where the sport has been expanded in southern California, northern Virginia, and Delaware.

But what limits Title IX is the fact that it does not make businesses treat men and women equally. This was nakedly shown in the current controversy surrounding the LIV Golf Tour, which is run by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, only recently, allowed its female citizens to get drivers’ licenses.

And you notice the dozens of golfers joining the tour and its $100 million paydays? All male. No women.

There is a long way to go.

June 22, 2022 — Legislation in the right place

Over the last few years, there has been a major push in American state legislatures to try to regulate or outright ban transgender high school athletes from competing in interscholastic sports.

Most of these are blanket bans; it wouldn’t matter if you were a basketball player, a swimmer, or a skier: if you compete and identify as a different gender from which you were born, you would not be able to get the benefits of interscholastic athletics.

I’ve always been against these kinds of state regulations, because these are ill-equipped and ill-informed people who are creating more laws and more bureaucracy. I’ve always said that any and all regulations regarding transgender people in sport must be promulgated by the governing bodies of the sport.

In the last week, two such governing bodies have taken action. Last week, the International Cycling Union passed new regulations which doubled the period of time before a rider transitioning from male to female could compete. Even after the transition, a cyclist cannot have more than 2.5 nanomoles per liter of testosterone for a 24-month period before being allowed to compete.

Last Sunday, FINA, the world governing body for swimming, effectively banned any and all transgender women from participating under swimming competitions under their control.

Under the policy, transgender women would have to show that they have not experienced male puberty at any stage before the age of 12, which is an extremely broad brush designed to keep out any and all transgender people out of competitive swimming.

Unlike the ICU, however, FINA is looking to create a competition, an “open” category, for future competition for people who do not meet the criteria for either the men’s or women’s events.

The legalese surrounding this extremely complicated rights issue is certain to build up amongst each and every Olympic and non-Olympic sports — everything from Taekwondo to tackle football, from jai-alai to basketball.

Thing is, there seems to be a push from people who do not want to see equality for men and women, those who see the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs or the IndyCar win for Danica Patrick in 2008, or when pro bowler Kelly Kulick won the 2010 Firestone Tournament of Champions as less of an anomaly and more of an abomination.

I disagree with the latter. The women who won these events earned their way into the sport, competed well, and used their talent to gain a victory.

Thing is, so many women have to do this on a daily basis, whether it is working for a police force, working in an office environment, or providing critical services. And often doing this while making 75 percent of what a male makes in the same job.

To me, the conversation about transgender folks in sports is one which is dwarfed by the issues of inequality between men and women. That’s something that needs to be addressed post-haste.

June 21, 2022 — Top 10 for games played through June 19

With the last two games of the U.S. scholastic lacrosse season being played this evening (as well as a companion doubleheader from yesterday), the story of the 2022 girls’ season is almost complete. It’s notable that Westwood (Mass.), one of the teams that played last evening, is one of only two undefeated teams in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10. But that’s because the leagues which many of our Top 10 contest every year are extremely strong.

1. Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) 17-1
Season complete: The Gators got a revenge 15-7 win over Glenelg (Md.) Country School in the IAAM “A” final

2. Victor (N.Y.) 21-1
Season complete: Blue Devils beat Queensbury (N.Y.) for the NYSPHSAA Class B title

3. New Canaan (Conn.) 21-2
Season complete: The Rams held on for a 14-13 win over Darien (Conn.) in the CIAC Class L championship game

4. Westwood (Mass.) 24-0
Wolverines played the MIAA Division 1 final last evening against Wellesley (Mass.)

5. Glenelg (Md.) Country School 17-2
Season complete: Dragons gave a great account of themselves all season but dropped the final to St. Paul’s

6. Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 24-0
Season complete: Carroll bested a game Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.) side to win the PIAA Class AAA Tournament

7. Sykesville Century (Md.) 19-0
Season complete: Knights beat Parkton Hereford (Md.) 16-6 in the MPSSAA Class 3A state final at Loyola University

8. Bronxville (N.Y.) 19-1
Season complete: The Broncos beat Skaneateles (N.Y.) in the NYSPHSAA Class D championship

9. Darien (Conn.) 20-1
Season complete: The Blue Wave fell behind New Canaan (Conn.) early and could not overcome in the CIAC Class L semifinals

10. Summit (N.J.) 23-2
Season complete: After spotting Oak Knoll a 3-1 lead, allowed only one goal in about 35 minutes of play to take a 10-4 win in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champion

Who’s out: Northport (N.Y.) 15-9 loss to Baldwinsville (N.Y.); Darien (Conn.) 14-13 loss to New Canaan (Conn.)

And bear in mind: Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 18-2, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 15-3, Morristown (N.J.) 17-4, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 21-5, Northport (N.Y.) 19-2, South Huntington St. Anthony (N.Y.) 15-2, Manhasset (N.Y.) 15-2

June 20, 2022 — The last whistle

Today and tomorrow, the last state championship games in the 2022 scholastic girls’ lacrosse season will be contested, as the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association hosts two doubleheaders at Babson College in Wellesley.

The four games will have various storylines, great stars, and their own Walter Mitty stories of players who exceed all expectations.

Tonight’s nightcap, however, should be the best of the four as Westwood (Mass.) takes on what should be a home game for Wellesley (Mass.) in the Division 1 final. Westwood is, by most metrics, the best team in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is the No. 4 team in last week’s TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10. It’s a team coached by former Boston College player Margot Spatola, and this Wolverines team has a sizable chunk of that B.C. form. Westwood has 10-goalled every team it has faced in its quarter of the state bracket.

I think another game to watch is the Division 4 championship between Manchester-Essex (Mass.) and Dover-Sherborne (Mass.). There have been some wild games in the newly-formed Division 4 bracket. One such contest came in the octofinal round as Tyngsboro (Mass.) defeated Barnstable Cape Cod Academy (Mass.) by a score of 21-20.

I guess this is what happens when a tournament with two divisions becomes one with four; small villages and small private schools which have been overlooked for state title honors under the old system are striving for a slice of immortality, and can often exhibit great lacrosse if given a chance.

June 19, 2022 — A tree grows in Forestville

Yesterday, at Forestville Bishop McNamara (Md.), there was a gathering of youth lacrosse players at a tournament played with the 6-v-6 Olympic rules package, followed by a showcase game amongst male high-school players.

It wouldn’t be unusual, except for the location as well as the participants.

In the last 10 years, there has been more and more growth in the participations of African-Americans in lacrosse than ever. It’s gotten to the point where an entire segment of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) bracket is filled with teams that did not exist years ago, such as Hyattsville Northwestern (Md.), Lanham DuVal (Md.), and Laurel Chesapeake Math and IT Academy North (Md.). These newer lacrosse problems are from the predominantly Black areas of Maryland such as Baltimore and Prince George’s County.

Yesterday, they gathered for games, a couple of clinics, and a sense of community — the kind that comes from seeing people like yourself in a competitive environment.

That’s really cool.

June 18, 2022 — Can’t catch a break

Christen Press is a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team pool. A two-time World Cup winner and Olympic bronze medalist, she has scored some of the most ridiculous goals I have ever seen, even on the level of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Her touch, improvisation, and talent have put her in the running for international duty.

But in the last week, Press suffered a tear to her anterior cruciate ligament, which has ruled her out for this summer’s CONCACAF W Tournament, the competition that serves as qualification for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

The kicker for this story for me is the fact that, when asked by reporters about the public release of the player pool for an upcoming series of friendlies against Colombia in preparation for the team’s July 4 opener in the W Tournament, head coach Vlatko Andonovsky said that Press would not have been up for selection in the side even when healthy.

Given the kinds of brilliant goals she has scored in the past, plus her speed, savvy, and competitive ability, I’m a little heartbroken for her. She’s an amazing player whose goals have put supporters on their feet and has sent some commentators into outrageous fits in the booth.

I, for one, hope this veteran can get back to health in time for the next series of major competitions. She would be a tremendous asset.