March 27, 2015 — Dawsonville, now in the coaching box

With six Dawson sisters having come through the successful field hockey program at Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), and with four of them having been capped for the U.S. national team (which is believed to be the largest concentration of siblings to have ever represented the U.S. in any athletic endeavor), it was seemingly inevitable that some of them would gravitate towards coaching.

This week came the first head-coaching hire. Meghan Dawson, a two-time national champion at North Carolina and an assistant coach the last couple of years at Bucknell, will be heading up the field hockey program at Appalachian State University.

The assignment is not going to be easy, however. The dissolution of the Norpac field hockey conference means that Appalachian State’s field hockey program is, for now, an independent program whose lone avenue into the NCAA Tournament will be through winning an at-large bid against heavy competition from superconferences such as the Big Ten and the ACC.

ASU also has not had a winning season since 2003. Still, you get the feeling that with a player who is so used to winning games, leagues, and championships, the Mountaineer program and the rapidly growing field hockey community in North Carolina will benefit greatly from her tutelage.

BULLETIN: March 26, 2015 — Maryland 16, Northwestern 5

EVANSTON, Ill — The stars were out at Lakeside Field for the inaugural Big Ten women’s lacrosse game. And they weren’t only the members of the Northwestern and Maryland teams, but on the uniforms specially made for the occasion. Northwestern had seven stars on the backs of their black uniforms with purple Gothic numerals, while Maryland had 12 stars on the backs of their special red uniforms with a patch of the Maryland state flag on their shoulders.

But the biggest stars on the night were a pair of former high-school teammates. Super-frosh Megan Whittle had five goals while her former Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) teammate Taylor Cummings had a pair of goals, three assists, and an otherworldly performance in the draw circle, winning 13 draws.

Cummings was an absolute master at center for the Terps, like her forebears Quinn Carney, Dana Dobbie, and Karri Ellen Johnson. But in this game, even with three opposing sticks whisking at her ankles trying to gain possession, Cummings would, again and again, secure possession for the Terps after any made goal. It was as if there was a secret button in her stick to draw the ball into her pocket.

Northwestern, which had a good first 20 minutes of the first half, saw its balloon popped with a 9-0 run. The penultimate goal was an absolute work of art as Cummings lobbed a ball to Kristen Lamon, who was cutting from behind the cage. Lamon leaped and finished in a single devastating move.

Northwestern was led by its own freshman star Serena Lasota, who had three goals and an assist. The Wildcats, however, were unable to get senior leader Kara Mupo enough open shots, and the Wildcats’ use of space was wanting, and the team’s usual sense purpose was seemingly missing after Maryland made its eruption.

March 26, 2015 — Universities, control, and customer relations

A couple of weeks ago, a video went viral on the Internet, showing a student from the University of Oklahoma leading a racist chant on a bus going to a fraternity event.

It took less than 48 hours for the University of Oklahoma not only to expel the student, but to revoke the privileges of the fraternity, empty its space, and close the building.

It’s a striking contrast to a couple of other situations that have come to light recently.

In the case of the University of Maryland Baltimore County women’s lacrosse team, it took about five or six days from the time the coaching staff reportedly learned about a series of texts threatening bodily harm to teammates and coaches for the athletic department to suspend the players, then it took more than two weeks after that to dismiss four out of five players in that text conversation.

And, just as troubling, a University of Maryland fraternity member was suspended for a virulently racist email which was written in January 2014 — more than 14 months after it was first written.

Now, to be fair, the email in question in the latter instance only came to the attention of university officials on March 10, according to the University of Maryland’s president. However, both of the Maryland suspensions are in contrast to the swift and efficient actions at Oklahoma.

How can this be?

For years, universities — whether publicly funded or private — were seen as somewhat of an extralegal entity. On campuses, some police have limited jurisdiction, academic freedom sometimes trumps the law, and some students — especially student-athletes — seemingly have more rights than others.

I’m not sure whether the seemingly thousands of brushes that scholarship athletes have had with the law have made universities take a jaundiced eye towards some of their marquee students, but I think you’re seeing a few more university administrators unable and unwilling to allow the bad apples on campus to alter the mission of their universities: teaching students.

But what’s also happening is that there is an increased scrutiny on universities like Ohio State, Miami, and Florida State which have been less than forthcoming in terms of suspending students and student-athletes for their behavior.

The progress is slow, but the Oklahoma example is, frankly, the one that should be taken as the standard, not the exception.

March 25, 2015 — The hammer drops

As of this afternoon, the official roster of the women’s lacrosse team representing the University of Maryland at Baltimore County is five names shorter.

Four out of the five players which have been suspended from the team for threatening teammates and coaches in an online chat exposed to the media are apparently no longer with the team.

The fifth, junior Brittany Marquess, has been allowed to return to the team because her part in the chat was as a result of an earlier conflict with a teammate, which has since been resolved.

Yes, I did mention that the roster is five names shorter. The fifth player is reserve goalie Alissa Goldeisen, who quit the team in the midst of the controversy. Goldeisen, a transfer from Loch Haven University, wrote some pretty inflammatory remarks on her personal blog:

I was forced to leave my team this past Thursday evening. When I say forced, I was not actually told to leave the team, but I left because I could not longer stand for the emotional, and verbal abuse I was receiving on a daily basis. My coaches and the freshmen on my former lacrosse team were belittling and degrading me on a daily basis. I was forced to suck up to the freshmen, kiss their feet, and go out of my way to make them comfortable (at my own expense) while they bashed me publicly to other student athletes at my university, and texted me harassing messages on a weekend [sic] basis (while they were participating in illegal activities).

There is a lot to unpack here, not to mention the unproven allegations of “illegal activities” on the part of the first Tony Giro recruiting class. She also accuses her own teammates of harassing messages, which could (and should) be documented if there is a culture of harassment to be proven.

There is a lot of frustration in the tone of her post. Goldeisen has played a grand total of four minutes, 24 seconds in her time at UMBC in the goal cage. And she has not played a minute in the 2015 season

Compounding her frustration is the fact that she has been battling depression, something to which she opens up to in her writings. Indeed, the tagline on her blog reads:

Mental illness is not something you have to go at alone, but it helps to keep a little faith in yourself.

This is a noble sentiment, especially in a culture and society where mental illness has been so marginalized that a parallel society exists to separate those deemed to be “crazy” or “borderline” or even “hysterical” from those deemed to be “normal.”

All that being said, the post was, frankly, self-serving. Listen to this:

I came on this women’s lacrosse team for NOTHING. They needed a goalie, and I turned my life upside down to help them out. Quitting my full time job, losing income, switching classes around, missing out on sorority events, everything.

Lacrosse is a sport where you don’t make money playing it; it is an amateur sport for women worldwide, and about the only way you make income is through promoting products or by coaching. When you play the sport, you play for a goal that is greater than yourself — primarily, the success of your team. As such, you play to not to let your teammates down.

The failure to learn that basic lesson is, indeed, regrettable.

March 23, 2015 — A matter of survival for two Division III stalwarts

Before the season began, the April 12th matchup between the women’s lacrosse teams from Salisbury and The College of New Jersey might have been seen as a fight for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Division III tournament.

But the way things are going for the Sea Gulls and the Lions, the game will likely be the most important bit of resume-building they will be doing heading into their respective conference tournaments.

Salisbury, winners of the NCAA Division III title the last two seasons, had an early loss to The Catholic University of America, followed by a loss at Washington & Lee. The Sea Gulls seemed to turn things around last weekend with a 13-11 win over No. 2 Cortland but will have a Wednesday showdown with top-ranked Franklin & Marshall before finishing out its Capital Athletic Conference schedule in mid-April.

The College of New Jersey has had a similar early-season struggle. The Lions, which last won a national title in 2006, has already lost one-goal games at Messiah and at Gettysburg this season, and could really use a win at long-time foe Ursinus tomorrow.

While it is notable that TCNJ is a heavy favorite to take the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s AQ berth into the national championship tournament, I think the Lions will be targeting the April 12th game at Salisbury and the subsequent match against Trinity as opportunities to make a statement to the tournament committee.

Stay tuned.

March 22, 2015 — More Kentuckies on the horizon?

The third round of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament concludes today.

And much like in the last eight months, the talk of the collegiate basketball world is Kentucky.

The Wildcats have, by either pure luck or through other means, have assembled a team which can have two entire platoons of McDonald’s All-Americans on them.

The concentration of talent on one team has concerned me since LeBron James convinced players like Chris Bosh to join him in Miami several years ago. By the same token, Cesc Fabregas was lured from Liverpool to Barcelona by a number of his Spanish national soccer teammates.

But it isn’t only free-agent professionals exerting an unnatural influence on competition. Because players in other sports have conversations with each other at national events and on social media, you’re beginning to see overwhelming assemblies of talent threatening to make the chase for a national championship a laugher.

Take, for instance, the Maryland women’s lacrosse team. They may have lost the recruiting race for some individual talents, but won the lottery with their current attackers Megan Whittle, Brooke Griffin, Kelly McPartland, and current Tewaaraton Trophy winner Taylor Cummings.

And as loaded as this attack is, it could have been even more stacked if Jen Cook and Halle Majorana had not transferred.

Though there is competition for blue-chip recruits across the nation these days, Maryland has recruits coming in the next few seasons like U-19 national-teamer Brindi Griffin and Kelsey Cummings, the sister of Taylor.

There is a similar concentration of talent occurring at the University of North Carolina field hockey team. Austyn Cuneo, the leading scorer for the United States Youth Olympics qualification team of last year, will be joining with Meredith Sholder, who led the U.S. Indoor national team in the recent Big Apple Tournament, have both committed to UNC along with Alexandra Rushton of Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) and Ashley Hoffman of Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.).

It almost makes you forget that UConn, not UNC, is the two-time defending national champion.

Thing is, both field hockey and lacrosse operate differently from the current environment of men’s basketball. The chief difference, of course, is that players stay in school rather than flee for the immense riches of the pros.

This, of course, presents a problem to a coach with a loaded recruiting class. But that’s a subject for another day.

March 21, 2015 — A rebound

After all of what’s been written and said about the University of Maryland Baltimore County women’s lacrosse program after the leak of troubling text conversations threatening bodily harm and the lives of team members and coaches, a funny thing’s been happening recently.

The Retrievers are winning.

UMBC’s three-game winning streak, the latest being today’s 13-12 overtime win over Binghamton, has not been against its toughest competition.

It is notable that UMBC’s loss to No. 1 Maryland earlier this month was only by a 14-7 score — something that No. 6 Florida can’t say. But the Retrievers have the balance of their conference schedule ahead, including road trips to Vermont and New Hampshire on consecutive weekends.

But I think the games that will determine their fate will be in a 10-day span next month. The first game is an April 7th rescheduled game against Towson. That’s followed by an April 10th game against UMass-Lowell, followed by Stony Brook on the 17th.

If UMBC can jell together under Amy Slade’s coaching, without the distractions of the suspended players (and another who reported her quitting on her personal blog a few days ago), who knows how deep this team can go into the postseason?

 

 

 

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