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Archive for November 14, 2006

Nov. 14, 2006 — Putting the “lacrosse” in The Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex

During last night’s Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state championship games for Classes 3A and 1A, a number of the usual coaching railbirds stood at the fence in the southwestern corner of the University of Maryland Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex.

Then a pair of women entered the corridor behind the visiting bench, one holding the hand of a small child. They were wearing black sweatshirts with the words “Terps Lacrosse” on the front.

Cathy Nelson-Reese and Jen Adams, new head and assistant coaches for the Maryland women’s lacrosse team, were in the house.

Having been to as many women’s lacrosse Final Fours as I have (more than a dozen), I’ve gotten to see these two women along with luminaries such as Kelly Amonte, Tonia Porras, Quinn Carney, Allison Comito, Sascha Newmarch, Tori Wellington, Courtney Martinez, Sonia Judd, Kristin Sommar, Christie Jenkins and Sarah Forbes. The program won seven straight national championships between 1995 and 2000. Both Nelson-Reese and Adams boast four straight titles, and each helped define the era.

Adams is in that Ted Williams firmament of her sport, where people might see her going down the street and say, “There goes the greatest women’s lacrosse player who ever lived.”

Nelson, as a player, wasn’t far behind. She takes over at an interesting juncture in the game of women’s lacrosse, a game which has seen a series of innovations the last 15 years or so.

First, there was the realization by Princeton’s Chris Sailer and others that bringing in all 12 players into the attack can create mismatches (such as screening off a cover point to make an attacker play defense).

Through the balance of the 1990s, there were the raft of changes that Maryland made in the game, such as running plays based off the men’s game, yellow molded heads and stick shafts made of space-age materials, the offset stick, and sports psychology.

After Maryland’s dynasty, Virginia and Princeton made everyone think about how to maximize 1-v-1 matchups in the attack end, taking advantage of the correct matchup at the right time.

Finally, Northwestern (and head coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller) have preached a combination of speed, physical fitness, and execution to win the 2005 and 2006 national championships.

If anyone can figure out how to make a new wrinkle in the game, or to beat a Northwestern, you know Cathy Nelson-Reese and Jen Adams want to be a part of that. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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Oh, there’s the matter of a PIAA Class AA semifinal field hockey game this evening at Bloomsburg University. Game time is at 7 p.m. Don’t miss it; it could be the national game of the year.

And about two hours away in Reading, there is a Class AAA semifinal where you will see something that has never happened before: 1,165 wins’ worth of coaching experience on the sidelines.