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Archive for July 2, 2018

July 2, 2018 — The State of Lacrosse, 2018

“And it’s over—in more ways than one.”

This tweet, sent from the stadium floor of Tierney Field in Sparks, Md. the evening of May 11, 2018, was the summation of all that occurred in the game of lacrosse this spring.

While the specific event was the end of the 198-game winning streak of Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.), the season was all about the ending of some long-time assumptions regarding the sport.

McDonogh’s streak was notable not only because of its length (almost a decade’s worth of dominance), but because it included great teams. McDonogh played a number of the greats, whether from Long Island, the mid-Atlantic, or the emergent powers of the deep South.

One such powerhouse that raised itself into prominence this year was Delray American Heritage (Fla.). The team won the FHSAA state championship mostly on the skill and quickness of sophomore Caitlyn Wurzburger, who, for the third year running, recorded 100 goals and 100 assists in a season. Barring injury or illness, she is threatening to rewrite all records for a four-year career and a six-year varsity career. She already has more assists than anyone else, 332.

Wurzburger, however, was not the nation’s top goal-scorer. That honor, for the second year running, goes to Colorado-bound attacker Charlie Rudy, who had 147 this year. Rudy’s prowess helped her scholastic team, Novato (Calif.) to win another CIF North Coast championship.

Perhaps the most unpredictable race for state honors in 2018 went to the public schools of New Jersey, where the No. 1 team in the NJSIAA seemingly changed week to week because the top five or six teams regularly challenged themselves to by playing each other and by playing the occasional out-of-state game.

How tough was the competition in New Jersey this year? Last year’s Tournament of Champions winner, Bridgewater-Raritan (N.J.), didn’t even qualify, losing to Westfield (N.J.) in the Group IV North 2 sectional final. And this was a scant 40 days after B-R lost to the eventual 2018 Tournament of Champions winner, Moorestown (N.J.). In the process, Quakers head coach Deanna Knobloch reached the 550-win plateau, one of only four known scholastic lacrosse coaches to reach that mark.

Other norms were being upset in other places in the lacrosse world. Even before the completion of the NCAA Division I championship game, it was known that there was going to be a new champion, as Boston College took on James Madison in the final. Madison, thanks in large part to the excellence of Tewaaraton nominee Kristen Gaudian and the guile of Elena Romesburg, outlasted B.C. 16-15 in the final.

Boston College, one week earlier, had outlasted then-No. 1 Stony Brook in a quarterfinal for the ages, winning 12-11 in overtime. The Eagles got the win on the back of eventual Tewaaraton winner Sam Apuzzo as well as through the shooting of Dempsey Arsenault, who had the game-winner.

Boston College had then taken their game to the Final Four where it outlasted Maryland 15-13, ending the stellar career of Megan Whittle, who wound up being one of the NCAA’s all-time leading scorers.

Despite Whittle’s heroics on the attack end this season, this year’s scoring luminaries came from Stony Brook. U.S. national teamer Kylie Ohlmiller and Wolves teammate Courtney Murphy broke a number of long-standing scoring records this year. Murphy now holds the career goals mark with 341. Ohlmiller’s records are for career assists (246) and combined goals and assists (498).

Joining James Madison on the winners’ podiums in the NCAA were LeMoyne in Division I and Gettysburg in Division II. In the WCLA, it was Michigan winning the Division I championship, and Loyola took the Division II title.

One other bit of news this year surrounded developments in the semiprofessional ranks. The upstart Women’s Professional Lacrosse League announced a five-team league, but playing a grand total of one game against each opponent in their round-robin schedule.

Meanwhile, the UWLX was still able to get its hands on good players and announced an unbalanced schedule for its four teams.

It’s not known whether the existence of two leagues will get more sponsors to come aboard eventually, but what we do know is that the UWLX’s free-movement rule from three summers ago eventually made its way into the NCAA, and it was a true game-changer.

The game flowed a lot quicker with self-starts and with free movement, but it also changed a number of game-ending situations, especially coming out of timeouts. With players being two yards off the ball-carrier instead of being where your stick was when you dropped it before coming off the pitch for the timeout, it created some uncomfortable situations for players not used to being doubled in the attack end right from the whistle.

This was shown most clearly in the final 10 minutes of the NCAA quarterfinal between Stony Brook and Boston College. The Seawolves entered those crucial minutes with the lead, but coughed up the ball three times, once just eight seconds after a timeout when Apuzzo and a B.C. teammate doubled Ohlmiller on the restart.

The free-movement rule, along with the 90-second possession clock now in all three NCAA divisions, will, I think, have a knock-on effect on the National Federation. Will we see a visible possession clock as well as the free-movement rule in the next two years?

We’ll see.