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Archive for March, 2017

Mar. 31, 2017 — A breakthrough for the Boys in Blue?

Last night, the U.S. men’s field hockey team had to deal with one final twist in its World League Round 2 quarterfinal against Trinidad & Tobago.

The organizers exercised the option of moving the times of the quarterfinals for the benefit of the host nation. What this did was to move the USA-T&T quarterfinal from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to allow more supporters to come to Tacarigua, a town eight miles inland from Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad.

It was certainly a loud crowd, and it was even louder when the hosts took a 2-0 lead on a Dylan Francis extra-man goal with under three minutes remaining in the third quarter. With that much time remaining in the States’ hopes for a World League Semifinal berth, the Americans pressed. Michael Barminski responded with a goal from the left baseline that went into the top corner on a near-impossible angle over the head of T&T goalie Kwasi Emmanuel.

That important proximity goal gave the U.S. some momentum heading into the final 15 minutes. With time ticking down, and with the U.S. having pulled goalie Brandon Karess for an 11th outfielder, Adam Miller sent a diagonal smash into the circle from the left side of the midfield. Patrick Harris, one of the few U.S. players to play semiprofessionally in Europe, got his stick on it to put the match on level terms.

In the resulting penalty shootout, the States managed to get the early advantage through Harris, but it was tied 2-2 when Tyler Sundeen managed to fake down Emmanuel deep into the eight-second limit, providing the margin of victory with a turnaround shot.

The U.S. now goes into the semifinal round against Japan tomorrow, needing one win to make into the Hockey World League semifinals, something the Boys in Blue have never done before.

 

Mar. 30, 2017 — The dominance of Maryland: is it for real?

Yesterday, the Maryland women’s lacrosse team, the No. 1 team in all the land, handled up No. 3 Florida by a score of 18-8.

As has been the case in most regular seasons since 1995, Maryland has been the dominant national program. Consider the top three opponents to come through College Park this season: North Carolina, Syracuse, and Florida. Not only has Maryland beaten the latter two by 10 goals, but it has held three very high-scoring teams to 10 goals or fewer.

What’s been going on?

  1. Megan Taylor. The sophomore goaltender has been lights-out, making stops in situations when your mind says, “Here comes a goal.” Indeed, against Florida, she made 20 saves. Of course, when your opposition in practice takes world-class shots, it’s no wonder Taylor has gotten so good.
  2. Team defense. I thought last year’s unit, led by Tewaaraton finalist Alice Mercer, was a good backline. But this year’s group — Nadine Hadnagy, Julia Braig, Morgan Torggler, and Alex McKay — have been astounding. They have collectively held three of the finest scorers in the country — Florida’s Mollie Stevens, UNC’s Sammy Jo Tracy, and Syracuse’s Nicole Levy — pointless in three games against the Terps this season.
  3. Home cooking. As good as Maryland has played, all three games were at home. Travel has not been a factor thus far, but will have to play ranked opponents Penn State and Northwestern on the road to close out the regular season.
  4. The draw.  It’s a simple principle: if the other team doesn’t have the ball, then they can’t score. Kali Hartschorn, the freshman center from Allentown (N.J.) is in the tradition of Quinn Carney and Dana Dobbie and Taylor Cummings when it comes to tilting the advantage during draw-control situations.

Now, I’ve seen plenty of Maryland since this site started. I’ve watched Sascha Newmarch, Sarah Forbes, Cathy Nelson, Kelly Amonte, Jamie Brodsky, Tori Wellington, Sarah Mollison, the Egan twins, Caitlyn McFadden, Kelly Coppedge, Sonia Judd, Courtney Martinez, Allison Comito, Kristin Sommar, Jen Adams, Kari Ellen Johnson, Katie Schwarzmann, and all of the rest.

And this current group has a chance of ascending to the firmament of being the best team ever to play women’s lacrosse in a U.S. college environment.

Whether this team does or not, of course, is to be determined in the next month’s worth of games, plus two tournaments.

Mar. 29, 2017 — Winning, but leaving a legacy

The job action of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team is going to end this week with an agreement for better pay and for the U.S. team to hit the ice on Friday to open the 2017 IIHF World Championship.

According to some scant information (since neither side has been willing to disclose full financial details), the agreement will bolster the pay of the average U.S. player to upwards of $70,000 to $120,000 per year depending on whether the team wins an Olympics or IIHF World Championship.

That’s a lot better than the $1,000 per month pre-Olympic stipend, needless to say.

But what has also changed is that there is now equal insurance and equal travel allowances. No longer will the women have to fly coach and get less per-diem expense money than their male counterparts.

The biggest thing that came out of this agreement, however, could have effects 15, 30, and even 50 years onward. USA Hockey is now tasked with maintaining a women’s high performance advisory group to plan out a future for girls’ and women’s hockey in the United States.

With an advisory committee, there is an opportunity for some actual power and influence, in the form of strategic planning, fundraising, and perhaps post-collegiate infrastructure.

This tells me that there is going to be an eventual buy-in by USA Hockey for the National Women’s Hockey League, the troubled two-year-old league that had to slash pay in mid-season because of budgetary shortfalls.

Let’s see what happens after the dust settles on this wage kerfuffle. I think there will be some interesting opportunities for women ice hockey players coming soon.

 

Mar. 28, 2017 — Top 10 for the week of Mar. 26

For the second season, we’re going to be providing you with a list of our Top 10 in national girls’ high school lacrosse every Tuesday until the scholastic season finishes in mid-June.

What you see below are records of the teams as they finished up play on Sunday, so if there were important games yesterday, they won’t get counted until next week’s Top 10.

And, as we’ve done in field hockey, we’re taking time to honor a team that may be anywhere on the spectrum of lacrosse — club, college, junior varsity — for doing something extraordinary. This week’s honorary No. 11 Team of the Week is Philadelphia Strawberry Mansion (Pa.), a program which has been building for the past year to get on the field. Facing obstacles including perception, thinly veiled prejudice, and even the bureaucracy of the City of Philadelphia, the Knights were able to win their first game of the season over Philadelphia Delaware Valley Charter 5-4 in overtime.

1. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 6-0

Eagles take on Lutherville Maryvale Prep (Md.) today before playing at Baltimore Bryn Mawr (Md.) on Thursday

2. Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) 4-0

Saints host Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) and Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) before taking on Chicago Loyola Academy (Ill.) and Richmond Collegiate (Va.) at Spring Fling

3. Manchester Valley (Md.) 1-0

Beat Catonsville (Md.), a school coming off a girls’ basketball championship, by a score of 11-4 last week

4. Bayport-Blue Point (N.Y.) 0-0

Starts its season this weekend with the co-op East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson team; looming large is an April 19th title with Mount Sinai (N.Y.)

5. Marriottsville Marriotts Ridge (Md.) 1-0

Mustangs have an intriguing match with Edgewater South River (Md.) this afternoon

6. Washington Georgetown Visitation (D.C.) 3-0

Cubs take on Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) tomorrow afternoon

7. Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) 0-0

Tough first week with yesterday’s game against Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.), then Springfield (Pa.) and Harriton (Pa.) on consecutive days

8. Garden City (N.Y.) 2-0

Survived tough opening week against Port Washington (N.Y.) and Massapequa (N.Y.)

9. Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy (N.Y.) 0-0

Brothers have to wait until April 10 to start in earnest, when they play East Syracuse-Minoa (N.Y.)

10. Darien (Conn.) 19-1-1

The Wave begins with a big-time interstate match against Yorktown (N.Y.) on Saturday

11. Philadelphia Strawberry Mansion (Pa.) 1-0

Head coach Jazmine Smith has built the program on determination, donations, and drive, and the players are beginning to see the fruits of their labor

And bear in mind: Novato (Calif.) 6-0, Vero Beach (Fla.) 12-1, Olney Good Counsel (Md.) 2-0, Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) 3-0, Westwood (Mass.) 0-0, Summit (N.J.) 0-0, Ridgewood (N.J.) 0-0, Mount Sinai (N.Y.) 0-0, Manhasset (N.Y.) 1-0, Alexandria Bishop Ireton (Va.) 3-2

Mar. 27, 2017 — Giving it Buff-ters

The women’s lacrosse Top 10, according to the IWLCA’s weekly poll, have the usual suspects. Syracuse, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina, Penn State, and a resurgent Princeton are in the Top 10, as well as everyone’s darkhorse for the 2017 season, Southern Cal.

But there’s this other undefeated team sitting at the No. 4 slot that nobody has been making a big deal about. But the University of Colorado is suddenly on the cusp of greatness.

The Buffaloes have won all 10 games on their schedule, starting with an overtime win against Northwestern and continuing with last week’s win at Penn State.

How has Colorado been able to find this kind of success? Amongst the players, the leader of the team is junior Darby Kiernan, who not only has 28 goals this season, but leads the team in draw controls with 76.

But the hallmark of this team is defense. As a team, Colorado only allows opponent to shoot 32.9 percent, and only 22 percent from the 8-meter fan, which is unheard of.

Then again, think about who is coaching the team. Ann Elliott was a defender for Northwestern who won three national championships. In addition Elliott was a dominating force on defense with two state title teams with Shaker Heights (Ohio).

The road isn’t any easier for Colorado this week; Friday, the opponent is Stony Brook — another Top 10 team. And after that is the heart of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation schedule — games against Stanford and Southern Cal.

I think it’s the latter game, to be held April 14th, that will determine the No. 1 seed in the MPSF Tournament. But it could also help determine the which of these two could receive a Top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

When was the last time you could say that about a western team?

Mar. 26, 2017 — The ugliness spreads

We’re less than a week out from the scheduled start of the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

But the host nation, the United States, may not be able to field a team for the opening game against Canada.

Members of the U.S. women’s elite pool are boycotting the tournament in a search for equitable pay, but there is an entrenched group of members of the USA Hockey Board of Directors who voted down a proposal at a meeting last week that would have significantly increased pay and benefits.

As a result, USA Hockey has reportedly been contemplating a team of strikebreakers. These would include Division III athletes, other college and high-school players, and postgraduates.

Yet, according to numerous sources, these players have rejected the initial overtures of the USA Hockey selectors. While many of the potential strikebreakers have expressed an unwillingness to get in the middle of this dispute, and others have talked about their relative inexperience at this level, there’s one easy reason why USA Hockey doesn’t have a wisp of a chance to recruit replacement players: no incentive.

Think about it: if the U.S. team is only paid $1,000 a month in the six months leading into an Olympics and nothing at any other time, strikebreakers wouldn’t be getting any more than the striking players — which is nothing.

The U.S. women’s national hockey team is also getting some interesting and powerful allies in their boycott: elite U.S. men’s national team players and members of the United States Senate.

Stay tuned. This could get interesting.

 

 

Mar. 25, 2017 — Developing chasms

NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse used to be about succession, as well as success. There was a period of several years when the team losing the title game one year would win the title game the next.

But in the mid-1990s, the layout changed. Thanks in large part to dominant programs at Maryland and Northwestern, there were rwo races for the national championship. There would be one dominant program, and everyone else was competing for the second-place trophy.

Then, came the events of May 30, 2010. That game featured Maryland and Northwestern, the two teams that came to define the game for the previous decade and a half.

Since then, women’s lacrosse seems to have developed a duality at the top. Over the las five years, that duality has been Maryland and North Carolina. One of these two teams has been the No. 1 team in the IWLCA poll, and these two universities have split the last four NCAA titles.

Yet, a month ago, the margin between these two teams was three.

There is plenty of time between now and the conference tournaments to figure out where the slices in the layer cake are at the top of Division I. A further determination will occur this Wednesday when No. 1 Maryland takes on No. 3 Florida. But if the Gators are able to come into College Park and get a result, it could be the single most disruptive event coming out of a regular-season game in some time.