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Archive for February, 2017

Feb. 28, 2017 — The national preseason Top 10

Yep, we’re at it again.

We’ll be embarking on a what we think is going to be a remarkable scholastic season with our weekly Top 10. This is a back-of-the-envelope survey which is going to get better as the season goes on and as teams develop their yearly resumes.

Here goes:

1. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 22-0
2. Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) 25-1
3. Manchester Valley (Md.) 19-2
4. Bayport-Blue Point (N.Y.) 17-1
5. Marriottsville Marriotts Ridge (Md.) 14-2
6. Alexandria Bishop Ireton (Va.) 20-4
7. Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) 24-1
8. Garden City (N.Y.) 21-1
9. Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy (N.Y.) 20-0
10. Darien (Conn.) 19-1-1
And bear in mind: Novato (Calif.) 24-0, Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 18-0,  Naples Barron G. Collier (Fla.) 16-5, Milton (Ga.) 19-3, Manchester (Md.) Valley 19-1, Olney Good Counsel (Md.) 18-3, Baltimore Roland Park (Md.) 14-4, Westwood (Mass.) 24-1, Summit (N.J.) 22-1, Moorestown (N.J.) 18-6, Mount Sinai (N.Y.) 18-3, Upper Arlington (Ohio) 22-0 Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 23-5

We’ll be publishing our weekly lists once most of the country starts up, likely at the end of March or early April.

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Feb. 27, 2016 — Return of the Eagles

They played the U-19 National Indoor Tournament over the weekend in Richmond, and, it seems, rumors of the demise of the WC Eagles are greatly exaggerated. The Eagles took home an astounding seven out of 24 pool championships, including titles in the top four pools.

The effort was led by the WC Eagles Diamonds team, which included U.S. U-21 national teamers Erin Matson and Corinne Zanolli, along with age-group national teamer Madison Orobono. The Diamonds’ top competition in Pool A was Princeton FHC, which had the likes of Julianna Tornetta and high-school sophomore Sammy Popper. But when Princeton took on the Diamonds on the first matchday, the Tigers finished nine goals adrift and were obligated to fight for second. Princeton did manage a 6-4 win in a head-to-head matchup with an XCalibur team featuring All-Americans Katie Jean and Rachel Robinson from Pennsylvania state Class AA champion Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.).

In Pool B, WC Eagles Blue, a team featuring Emmaus (Pa.) star Leah Zellner and Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) age-group national teamer Charlotte DeVries, finished level on points with Nook Hockey, which featured Cheyenne Sprecher, Katelyn Mark, and Jessica Dembrowski from three-time PIAA Class AAA finalists Palmyra (Pa.). Eagles Blue, however, won the pool on goal differential.

In Pool C, it was WC Eagles Black which swept its five matches, winning by 26 on goal differential. The team features a lot of youth: Kara Heck is the Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) freshman sensation, and Adele Iacobucci has been a leader for Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) as  a sophomore.

WC Eagles Gold, a team with Villanova Academy of Notre Dame of Namur (Pa.) luminary Quinn Maguire, went undefeated in Pool D, beating out a Firestyx side boasting Emmaus (Pa.) champions Meredith Sholder and Maddy Dorn.

As well as as WC did in the Red Division (the top eight divisions in the tournament), there were other teams that had to give their best efforts in order to fight the Eagle onslaught. Take Pool E champion XCalibur Justice. This team with players from three states were able to get by a WC Eagles Orange team featuring Pennsauken Bishop Eustace (N.J.) scorer Erin Quinn.

In Pool F, Freedom Hockey Thunder, a team with Severn Archbishop Spalding (Md.) attackers Margot Lawn and Kyler Greenwalt, won its pool over WC Eagles Red. In Pool G, Mackenzie Allessie of Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) helped power Alley Cats Blue to the championship against a Boston Huskies team featuring Kourtney Kennedy of Watertown (Mass.) and Lily Posternack of York (Maine), the latter of which was recently voted Miss Maine Field Hockey.

In Pool H, the winner was TCOYO Ying, which featured VIrginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) attacking midfielder Leah Crouse and Norfolk (Va.) Academy forward Riley Fulmer. Ying beat out an XCalibur Knights team which featured star freshman forward Sophia Gladieux of Oley (Pa.) Valley.

There were interesting stories in other pools as well for the U-19 championship. Pool O was won by Uprise White, which not only featured a number of players from 18-time Group IV state champion Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), it also included Moorestown (N.J.) sophomore Delaney Lawler, who just happens to be the niece of Eastern coach Danyle Heilig.

In addition, let’s give a call to Windy City Freeze, winners of Pool S. They feature Nell Van Schaack, the senior from Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) who is headed to Georgetown this fall.

Feb. 26, 2017 — 89.9 seconds

Pat Riley is a Hall of Fame basketball coach who helped usher in two different kinds of basketball despite the fact they were pretty much playing by the same rules.

Back in the 1980s, it was “Showtime” in Los Angeles as he gave Magic Johnson and James Worthy the ball to play their high-tempo style of offensive basketball. But what many people forget was that the very next decade, Riley projected the exact opposite as head coach of the New York Knicks.

Riley’s teams would not only be amongst the leaders in defense for most of his tenure as head coach, but not only because of a pressing style of play, but because he shortened the game by having his players work the ball down, taking time off the shot clock and take a shot close to the end of it, rather than hoist up the first good shot that a player had.

Watch a film of a pro basketball game from the early 1980s and another from the last 20 years or so, and you’ll notice a difference in pace as well as the number of people getting touches on the ball every possession.

But that’s an evolution that occurred over decades.

The imposition of the possession clock in NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse has seemingly not changed the tactics of most teams. They may have a package of concepts or patterns that may evolve over the course of the clock, but thus far, you haven’t seen a team holding the ball in the attack end for 60 seconds, then attack the final 30.

That’s kind of what I was expecting in the final seven or so minutes of yesterday’s Maryland-UNC game, especially with the Terps looking to see out a five-goal lead.

But Maryland had possessions of 27 and 51 seconds in those final minutes, sandwiching another in which the Terps had a shot-clock violation. The final margin was three, and it could have been two but for a UNC turnover as the final minute loomed.

I know, it’s a process. But I think you’re going to see a lot of slow-down lacrosse in the last five minutes late in the season in similar circumstances. Look for teams to seek that perfect shot with the clock heading under 20 seconds when the games get more high-stakes later in May.

Feb. 25, 2017 — Maryland 13, North Carolina 10

FULL TIME That’s all for now; have a good evening

FULL TIME And in a weekend which has already seen No. 3 in the polls fall yesterday, the fact that No. 1 also went down is a major motivational point

FULL TIME Maryland won a handful of hustle plays on the end line, and Megan Taylor had a fine game in the Terps’ cage

FULL TIME It was a taut game, but both coaches will tell you there is room for improvement, especially late-game ball security

FULL TIME That’s it; the horn signals the end of a 13-10 win

59:00 Carolina get into its set offense behind the cage and drops the ball; wow; a chance to pull level has gone away without a shot on net

58:39 UNC GOAL McCool runs the 1-6 from the office, leans on her defender and scores! That’s a skill that only a U.S. national team attacker has! Carolina to within three!
There’s time to catch them if possible!

57:51 UNC GOAL A big speed run by Bill; Carolina to within 13-9

57:40 Maryland with the ball again in the set offense but turns it over cheaply with nearly a minute on the possession clock

56:55 Shot clock violation; UNC ball

56:00 UMD FP Megan Whittle is just off the 8-meter fan but only five seconds on the shot clock; what can she do with the fan not cleared?

55:00 Terps cannot get a good-enough shot on goal, though, and it goes over to UNC

54:00 Maryland has the ball in the attack end and has a chance to chew up some clock

51:43 UNC YELLOW Tracy is off for two with a slash

51:03 UMD GOAL Stukenberg left wide open in the arc again! Maryland leads 13-8

50:12 UNC GOAL Don’t look now, but Carolina’s back in proximity, Heels to within 12-7

48:35 UNC GOAL Molly Hendricks scores while being dumped; Carolina trails 12-7

48:05 UMD FP and GOAL Jen Giles scores again! What a game she is having! UMD leads 12-6

46:32 UNC GOAL Marie McCool finishes for UNC, who trail 11-6

45:43 UMD GOAL Jen Giles avails herself of a Hensh feed and the Terrapins lead 11-5

45:30 UNC YELLOW Carly Davis off for the slash

43:03 UNC YELLOW Moore with the slash for UMC; it is her second yellow

40:34 Timeout, UNC

40:34 UMD GOAL Caroline Wannen with the curl and the Terps hold a 10-5 lead

33:08 UMD GOAL Caroline Wannen loops from behind and finds cage! Maryland is leading 9-5

30:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME If this was a “Hoosiers” exercise to prepare for the Final Four weekend in cavernous Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Maryland was able to shake off any opening jitters

HALFTIME The horn sounds with Maryland leading 8-5

29:25 UNC And just like that, Carolina retaliates. Reed’s goal brings Carolina to within three

29:02 Stukenberg with an innocuous play in the circle that leads to her being dispossessed

27:53 Timeout, UMD

25:44 UNC YELLOW Molly Hendrick sits for two for the slash

22:39 UMD GOAL Giles curls left and finds the net; Maryland leads 8-4

21:41 UNC GOAL With the shot clock in the red, Ella Hazar finishes from a tidy angle on the right post; Maryland leads 7-4

15:05 UMD GOAL Whittle curls and bounces away from pressure, then launches a dart that goes in. Maryland leads 7-3

11:30 UNC GOAL Maggie Bill shakes free and gets to the spot; Carolina down 6-3

10:34 UMD GOAL Giles dishes to an open Hartschorn and she finishes! Maryland leads 6-2

9:29 UNC GOAL Caroline Wakefield rips a chance from the top of the fan and UNC gets one back

8:59 Timeout, UNC

8:59 UMD GOAL Interior pass from Giles finds Zoe Stukenberg and the Terrapins lead 5-1!

7:28 UMD FP and GOAL Jen Giles takes a lefty shot from the right hash and beats Caylee Waters; Maryland leads 4-1

4:53 UNC GOAL FP and GOAL Carly Reed bounces it in off a left-hash opportunity; UNC trails by two

3:22 UMD GOAL Megan Whittle with the forehand runner and it’s 3-0 Maryland

2:40 UMD FP and GOAL Taylor Hensh from the right hash, arrows it in; Terps now lead by two

2:38 UNC YELLOW Alex Moore is off for two; such an early foul!

0:31 UMD GOAL Kali Hartshorn, just seconds after a Zoe Stukenberg takeaway on the defensive end, scores from in close! Terps lead 1-0

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME North Carolina is in the navy with white numerals; Maryland is in the white trimmed in the Crossland and Calvert motifs that constitute the state flag

PREGAME The Maryland-Yale men’s game now having ended, the participants are now warming up under cloudy and breezy skies; game should start around 5 p.m.

PREGAME The sky is now clear, and the temperature has dropped about 25 degrees in the last hour. The teams will take the field once the men’s game between Yale and Maryland ends

PREGAME The start of the game has been delayed by lightning twice, and it’s estimated the game may not get underway until after 4 p.m. Torrential rain is pelting Capital One Field, but it is FieldTurf and should dry quickly

PREGAME I also think a secondary matchup will be the UNC attack against Maryland’s defense. UNC has two of the top goal-scorers in the history of the scholastic game (Alex Moore and Carly Reed), and Maryland has graduated close defender Alice Mercer, who was a Tewaaraton candidate last year. I think defender Nadine Hadnagy and goalie Megan Taylor are going to have to play well for the Terps to win

PREGAME One key matchup is in the draw circle, between UNC’s Sammy Jo Tracy and Maryland freshman Kali Hartshorn. Hartshorn, a freshman, takes over center from three-time Tewaaraton Trophy winner Taylor Cummings

PREGAME Today’s game should be no different. There are compelling matchups all over the field, but there are a couple that bear mentioning

PREGAME But what also makes this game a titanic matchup is the fact that the sides have played a number of memorable games the last five years, including a triple-OT classic in 2013

PREGAME This is a game featuring former conference rivals in the ACC, and these are also two of only five universities to have won the NCAA Division I title since 1990

PREGAME Carolina, the No. 1 team in the country, is 3-0 on the season. Maryland, the No. 2 team, is 2-0 on the campaign

PREGAME Hello, and welcome to Maryland Stadium for this  interconference women’s lacrosse match between UNC and Maryland

Feb. 24, 2017 — To assemble a collegiate schedule

Tomorrow, a No. 1 and a No. 2 in women’s college lacrosse meet up in a pivotal match that could set the tone for the entire season.

A pivotal match in February.

The last quarter-century has seen lacrosse go from an 11- or 12-game season with matches chiefly being held in April and May to a schedule of games played at one-week intervals so that the 18-game season begins in many places where there are feet of snow on the ground.

Wait. Eighteen? Isn’t the NCAA maximum number of games 17?

Well, read up on this story from The Syracuse Post-Standard about how teams have found a loophole in the scheduling rules and are now adding games through the use of doubleheaders.

But what I’d like to see is more of either the Friday/Sunday scheduling that collegiate field hockey has adopted, or more midweek games.

Seriously. With global climate change being the way it is, I can’t see the reason why the U.S. collegiate women’s lacrosse schedule can’t begin in mid-March and finish off its conference tournaments by the first weekend of May, allowing for the Division I tournament to be played over three weekends leading into Memorial Day Weekend for the final.

Feb. 23, 2017 — From the penthouse to the outhouse in fewer than 10 months

It was the first weekend of May 2016 when Leicester City F.C., a middle-sized soccer team with middle-sized support and located, fittingly, in the Midlands of the British Isles, clinched the 2015-16 Premier League championship.

In an era of enormous money being poured into professional soccer, creating a class system, Leicester were the rank outsiders, coming into last season at 5,000-to-1 odds to win the league.

The Foxes, playing an all-for-one, one-for-all style of team football, became the darlings of not only soccer, but in all of sport because they played a simple game, set simple team goals, and came together as a fist to defeat some of the richest sports entities on the planet.

This evening the architect of the miracle season, Claudio Ranieri, was fired. The current Foxes side has many of the same players as it did a year ago except for back Ngolo Kante (more on him in a minute). But the team currently lies in 17th place in the league, and is in danger of losing its membership in the Premier League and may have to move down a level to play smaller-market teams such as Norwich and Brentford next season.

How did this utter collapse occur?

Some of it is the trappings of being the champions of England. Leicester, reluctantly, had a cameo role in the Guinness International Champions’ Cup, managing a penalty-shootout win and two defeats in three matches scattered between Europe and North America. Too, the Foxes were obligated to take part in three tournaments over the course of the season: the League Cup, the F.A. Cup, and the UEFA Champions’ League.

As Leicester had never won anything in the course of its 133-year history, there was nobody to advise the players or coaches how to deal with the overnight success. Or how to deal with big-money transfers. The big loss in the transfer market was when Ngolo Kante left the team in the offseason to join with Chelsea F.C. in London for a reported 32 million pounds.

Kante, the rock of Leicester’s defense, was gone. And the club would miss him more than you can imagine, despite playing a better team game than anyone else in England last year.

The attack has also suffered. Jamie Vardy has just five goals this season, and Riyadh Mahrez has just five points this season (3 g, 2 a).

The road ahead is clear for Leicester, however. By Monday night, the Foxes will know where they will have to play from; depending on results from the weekend, they could be anywhere from 17th to 20th in the league. And in a couple of weeks, Leicester City will host Sevilla in the second of a two-game, total-goal series in the Champions League.

But pro soccer is one of those sports where it is difficult for a team to turn around solely on the personality and disposition of the head coach. Swansea City turned to former U.S. boss Bob Bradley for help, but he was sacked after winning just two times in 11 fixtures.

For interim manager Steve Shakespeare, it’s all about winning now and winning decisively. The players are in place, but it’s all a matter of self-believe now. Let’s see if they have another “great escape” in them.

Feb. 22, 2017 — An age-old problem

This Saturday, the top two women’s lacrosse teams in the country are going to be playing perhaps the single most critical game of the entire season, one on which the balance of the entire narrative may turn. A win by North Carolina would validate its status as the nation’s top dog, but a win by Maryland would validate the youth movement the team has made in bringing in the nation’s finest recruiting class.

A men’s lacrosse game between Yale and Maryland, to be broadcast on ESPNews, will precede this game. Yet, ESPN, your once-proud worldwide leader in sports, is not going to be broadcasting this game, instead handing it off to BTN Plus for streaming.

What’s wrong with this picture?

What is wrong is that it is the very same gripe. Despite the fact that there is more airtime available for collegiate athletics thanks to the proliferation of TV networks, the imbalance of men’s to women’s athletics not only remains prevalent, it has gotten worse.

In 2017, there are going to be 130 men’s college games televised on major, regional, and streaming networks. The women? They’re getting 73, barely half as many.

It’s idiotic.