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Archive for June 23, 2016

June 23, 2016 — The state of lacrosse, 2016

The 2016 lacrosse season for women and girls began with the knowledge that Canada had defeated the United States the previous summer in the FIL U-19 Women’s World Cup.

As such, there was an immediate re-examination of the role of Canadians in the sport of women’s lacrosse. Northwestern University received transfer Danita Stroup, who was a teammate of the sensation Selena Lasota on the U-19 World Cup team, from LIU-Brooklyn. There has not been a huge influx of Canadians like there has been on the men’s side, but that may be coming soon, especially when it comes to alumnae from the leading Canadian scholastic program.

Hill Academy, an athletically-focused private school in Vaughan, Ont., had an undefeated fall lacrosse season, but were not able to manage a win during their spring tour of the mid-Atlantic. But the difficulty of Hill’s spring schedule cannot be overstated; they played the likes of Alexandria Bishop Ireton (Va.) and Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) during their trip. Hill, which plays a solid, enterprising brand of lacrosse, represented more than half of Team Canada’s roster at the U-19 World Cup.

The story of the U.S. scholastic season, as it has been the past seven years, centered around the fortunes of Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.). Even after graduating a number of legendary players the last few years, the Eagles reloaded with strength up the middle. As much as lauded all-stars Andie Aldave and Brindi Griffin paced the team, offensive threats Catie May and Savannah Buchanan emerged, and two-way defender Julia Dorsey scored numerous key goals this season.

But if there was one player who paced the team in 2016, it was sophomore center Maddie Jenner, who dominated the draw circle to such an extent that opponents adjusted their tactics specifically to try to stop her.

McDonogh was able to win every one of its games during the 2016 season, pushing its record winning streak to 155, far and away the largest win streak in the 90-year recorded history of girls’ scholastic lacrosse.

The win streak wasn’t the only record of note during the 2016 scholastic season. Sophia Turchetta, the nation’s leading scorer in 2014 and 2015, exceeded the 600-goal mark during the season just past, plus she broke Corinne Wessels’ all-time record for combined goals and assists, finishing with 785 for her five-year varsity career.

Turchetta and her Harvard (Mass.) teammates made a run in the state tournament but fell a couple of rungs short of the state Division II title. The 2016 season saw her fall short of leading the nation for a third straight season, but two other players made the top 10 goals totals of all time. Bridget Ruskey of Cape May Court House Middle Township (N.J.) had 135 goals, tied for the eighth-best total of all time. Nora Bowen of Purcellville Woodgrove (Va.) had 134 goals, which is the 10th-highest total of all time.

In addition, Kathy Jenkins of Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) earned her 701st career win in 2016, putting her first in recorded U.S. scholastic lacrosse history.

In collegiate lacrosse, the season started with everyone staring up at two-time defending national champion Maryland. The Terrapins had met their major rivals during the season — Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida, Penn, Northwestern, and Princeton — beating them all. But we’ll circle back to them in a bit.

The fabric of competition, outside of Maryland’s dominance in the regular season, was as good as it has been in the collegiate ranks. There were tremendous matches seemingly every weekend, though there were occasional incidents occurring as a result of a rules emphasis on the legality of lacrosse sticks.

Stick checks, during the NCAA season, were the closest thing to a TSA airport inspection ever attempted on an athletic field. A thick binder of specifications covering each and every legal lacrosse stick were at the scorer’s table, and umpires were asked to check strings and hole placements as well as pocket depth.

Some stick inspections dragged on for upwards of 10 or 15 minutes as umpiring crews were playing cat and mouse with players who may have altered strings to assist with shooting or the taking of draws. In one game, Syracuse center Kayla Treanor’s stick was deemed to be illegal at halftime, but she still won draws in the second half with her backup stick. By the time of the conference tournament season, the binder was replaced by a small card to guide the umpires in measuring the sticks.

Umpiring also came into play during the NCAA Tournament. In an octofinal game at Florida, Penn State was the beneficiary of a goal that was not given to the Gators in the final minute of play. Penn State parlayed that break into a run to the Final Four, where the Lions dropped a close decision to North Carolina.

The Tar Heels, perhaps grateful to escape the national semifinal game against Penn State, got off to an incredible start against Maryland in the title game, throwing the Terps’ high-tempo game plan right back at them. Sammy Jo Tracy was incredibly effective in the draw circle against two-time Tewaaraton Trophy winner Taylor Cummings, and the UNC rhythm passing game was working. Carolina had a 6-0 run in the first half, and a 5-0 run in the second half, while goaltender Megan Ward had an immense game.

The 13-7 UNC victory was the ninth Division I title in the last 12 years won by a university in a non-traditional women’s lacrosse area. The 2016 bracket also showed that there were several more non-traditional teams like Florida and Southern California which are poised for national-championship runs in 2017 and beyond.

Elsewhere, it was Florida Southern winning the NCAA Division II championship, Middlebury winning NCAA Division III, Georgia winning the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division I Tournament, and Denver University winning the Division II title.

The end of the Division I season also happened to mark the opening weekend of a new venture in women’s lacrosse: a semi-professional league. Led by former Team USA stalwart Michele DeJuliis and longtime women’s sports administrator and entrepreneur Digit Murphy, the league, called United Women’s Lacrosse (UWLX), has brought together 80 postcollegiate players to play for two months in conjunction with major events such as the National Schoolgirls Tournament and the National Draw.

It’s a league which will not only give postcollegiate women an athletic outlet in a professional environment, but I think it is going to help out the U.S. elite pool immensely. I think there is going to be a player currently not in the conversation for the 2017 Women’s World Cup who is going to become an absolutely indispensable player through her performance in UWLX.