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Archive for February, 2019

Feb. 28, 2019 — The catalyst behind a comeback

Many of you know that Kali Hartshorn is the center for the Maryland women’s lacrosse team, and her prowess in the center draw circle is comparable to the likes of former Terrapins Quinn Carney, Acacia Walker, Taylor Cummings, Dana Dobbie, and Karri Ellen Johnson.

But is she the best lacrosse player in her own family?

Her younger sister Marin is a freshman attacking midfielder for Rutgers University, a team which is 3-2 after last night’s loss to Pennsylvania. But Rutgers has already gotten notice for a dramatic overtime win last weekend at Delaware, a game which saw the Scarlet Knights’ defense hold the Hens’ attack scoreless the entire second half, plus the sudden-death extra session.

One major reason for the comeback was Marin Hartshorn’s prowess on the draw circle. She won three draws and had a clutch goal in the final minute of regulation, one which led to Taralyn Naslonski’s overtime free-position goal.

Hartshorn has already won one award for Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week. I foresee a few more.

Feb. 27, 2019 — When self-knowledge is a bad thing

It was about six or seven years ago when a college football quarterback named Johnny Manziel was one of the biggest names in sports.

While a player at Texas A&M University, he won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for some 8,000 yards in two seasons, and got the Aggies to one of the major bowls after the 2012 season.

Manziel’s combination of running and passing made him a media celebrity. The problem was, he knew it.

By the time he was the first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2014, he had gotten a reputation for partying instead of working diligently on his game. His professional career since the NFL draft has been, frankly, a disaster. In eight NFL starts, he threw for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

He then jumped to the Canadian Football League, where he didn’t play at all with his first team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then in his first game with his new team, the Montreal Alouiettes, he threw four interceptions in the first half. That first 30 minutes of play was one of the most discouraging things I’ve ever seen in sports.

Today, the Alouettes announced that Manziel had violated the terms of his contract with the team. The termination of the contract means that none of the other eight CFL teams are allowed to sign him.

It’s a sad situation, for a young man of 26 years of age who has publicly admitted to having bipolar disorder.

And I’m not sure that the presence of spring pro football south of the border will help him.

Feb. 26, 2019 — An incremental step into the Deep South

About 20 years ago, there were a pair of teams who participated in the independent league encompassing field hockey teams in the Carolinas.

But there’s been an effort to resurrect field hockey in the Palmetto State. Read this story from the Daniel Island News.

Feb. 25, 2019 — A great Final Third non-broadcast

Because of a throat infection I picked up last week, I didn’t go forward with a Final Third broadcast for the third week of the regular season in NCAA women’s lacrosse.

It’s a shame, because three absolute doozies played themselves out in front of our screens. Both of our chosen Division I matches — Maryland-UNC, and Northwestern-Syracuse — went into overtime. And so did our Division III game, Catholic-Salisbury.

And our fourth, featuring past Division II champions Florida Southern and Adelphi, wound up with a two-goal margin.

Yep, I know how to pick good games.

Here are a few notes from this quartet of matches:

  1. Though North Carolina is in the midst of a rich seam of form when it comes to recruits, the team is still a work in progress. I got the distinct feeling that the team was waiting for Marie McCool to walk out of the locker room to help them.
  2. Maryland, as is its wont, got off to a hot start, scoring the first three goals against UNC. But, as often happens when Maryland gets on a starting run, the opposition finds a way to come back.
  3. Northwestern is a fun, fun team to watch on the offensive end. They have all the tools necessary to make a serious run at a national title.
  4. Syracuse seems to have its issues in the draw circle together, with a platoon system that doesn’t rely on just one player.
  5. Florida Southern, which has made the last three NCAA Division II championship games, is no fluke. They are an effective and hard-working lacrosse team that came up against a good Adelphi defense.
  6. Catholic went up four goals early on Salisbury, and had a chance at a fifth straight off a half-field breakaway. How different might the outcome have been if that bounce shot had gone in?
  7. Twice in these contests, our least favorite lacrosse call came up: the dangerous shot. In both cases, the interpretation of the rule appeared to me to be towards the lower end of ridiculous. In one instance, a Syracuse shot hit a Northwestern defender who wasn’t in the goal frame when the shot was attempted, but the defender scooted from post to post and, frankly, “ate” the ball deliberately. In the other, a Maryland’s shot attempt hit the back of a UNC player who was outside the goal frame — outside of shooting space. The way I see it, this new emphasis is leading to some unjustifiable judgments.

 

Feb. 24, 2019 — Equality should be effortless

Three days ago, the Big Ten Network announced its slate of broadcast lacrosse games for the main network. It’s a schedule which includes today’s enormous fixture between Maryland and North Carolina, a bellweather game for the women’s lacrosse season.

Unlike most every other network that shows lacrosse on TV, however, this year’s BTN schedule is dead solid equal: 14 men’s games and 14 women’s games.

Television network executives: equality isn’t that hard to do. And I think that especially goes with lacrosse, where ESPN produces a half-hour special previewing the men’s game, and not one second for the women’s game.

Feb. 23, 2019 — NGB jitters, political instability … and rain

Ever since the FIH Pro League was announced in 2017, there have been all sorts of obstacles which have been bedeviling the world field hockey governing body in its attempt to truly professionalize and grow the worldwide game by having Test matches being played in each individual participating nation, rather than hosting qualifying tournaments in one or two places around the globe.

As such, the FIH has now been tasked with exporting its brand to the participating nations of the Pro League, ensuring that FIH officials oversee a match taking place at an FIH-compliant site in each individual country.

As such, the teething problems started early, with India’s men’s and women’s teams opting to qualify for Tokyo 2020 through the FIH Open Series, and with Pakistan’s men pulling out of the Open Series citing a lack of backing from its national governing body.

But last night, a men’s Test between Germany and Argentina — the second game of a doubleheader in Buenos Aires — was cancelled due to heavy rain and lightning, even after the two countries’ women’s teams played to a shootout won by the Albicelestes.

You may be wondering how this happened. Well, it’s a league regulation that if a game cannot be played on the day on which it is schedule, the game is cancelled outright and the points shared in the standings.

An outright cancellation is something that would never — NEVER — happen in any other outdoor game at the international level. One example: the U.S. men’s soccer team, in 2014, beat Costa Rica in a snowstorm in Denver.

The FIH, relying on its regulations, chose to close up shop early because of the rain instead of making the effort to get the men’s game in, either by waiting out the storm, or by playing the next day.

Yep, an elegant solution; problem solved.

 

 

Feb. 22, 2019 — A couple of notable retirements

Late today, a pair of coaches who made unusual coaching history in their respective careers announced their retirements.

Brenda Beckwith, one of only a handful of coaches ever to have an undefeated and unscored-upon team when she guided Winslow (Maine) to the 1998 Maine Principals Association title, has left her position with the girls’ basketball team in order to follow her daughter at nearby Simmons College in Boston. She had long since given up her position on the field hockey sideline, where she had won four state titles between 1993 and 2000.

It was the 1998 title which saw the Black Raiders complete the season with a goalless draw and the rest of the season with clean sheets.

GA School State Year
0 Los Gatos CA 2017
0 Watertown MA 2014
0 Garden City NY 1998
0 Winslow ME 1998
0 Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes VA 1995
0 Pocomoke MD 1993
0 Stowe VT 1983
0 Philadelphia Archbishop Wood PA 1973
0 Springfield (Delaware County) PA 1968

Also, Jaye Stuart, one of only three known field hockey coaches to have won state championships in more than one state, retired from Washington Shepaug Valley (Conn.) after four decades and two Connecticut public school titles. She had previously won a championship with Duxbury Harwood Union (Vt.) in 1979, her first year of coaching.

Stuart is in the same two-state category alongside Jodi Burd Hollamon, winner of a state title with Salisbury Parkside (Md.) and a four-time state champion with Delmar (Del.), and Daan Polders, who won state championships with Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) and Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.).

The depth and knowledge of the American scholastic field hockey coaching corps has definitely taken a hit today. It has also lost some of its uniqueness.

Feb. 21, 2019 — The run to history

Today, Delray American Heritage (Fla.) will play its opening game of the 2019 season when it travels to Boca Raton (Fla.). The Stallions will play not only a number of its regional and state rivals, but they will also be playing the last two No. 1 teams in the TopOfTheCircle.com Final Top 10.

American Heritage will take on Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) on March 18th, and will also take on Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) four days later in a game being played at Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.).

Major credit should go to the American Heritage coaching staff for not taking it easy for its non-conference schedule, seeing as there is a member of the Stallions who is on the verge of obliterating almost every scoring record in the history of the National Federation.

That player is junior Caitlyn Wurzburger, who finished her sophomore year with 307 goals and 332 assists. Yeah, these numbers include middle-school varsity play, but then again, so does the national leader in combined goals and assists, Sophia Turchetta. Amazingly, Wurzburger needs to figure in on just 164 more of her team’s goals the next two years to overcome Turchetta’s all-time mark.

I’ll have to burn a couple of pencils to try to figure out how Wurzburger’s four-year marks (which are only half-formed, mind) will compare to the all-time four-year points total of the recently graduated Corinne Wessels.

But I think the one which is way, way out of reach is Turchetta’s six-year goals record, which is 654. It will take a special effort to get to that mark, and I wouldn’t blame Wurzburger for throttling back on individual goals in order for the team’s goal of winning the state title.

Then again, I think I said that a year ago regarding field hockey player Mackenzie Allessie. Shows you what I know.

 

Feb. 20, 2019 — Fool me twice

For the third time, women’s soccer has shown its inability to draw ratings on a non-sports network. It was announced today that the National Women’s Soccer League is cutting ties with Lifetime and its corporate partner, A&E. Though the NWSL’s uniforms will retain a circular patch on the sleeve with the Lifetime logo on it, the agreement currently leaves the eight-team circuit without a leaguewide television partner.

Lifetime had previously partnered with the Women’s United Soccer Association almost 20 years ago, and Oxygen had partnered with Women’s Professional Soccer in the late 2000s. Both networks saw low ratings in their first go-rounds in broadcasting women’s soccer, which was, frankly, predictable.

Neither network invested a lot of money in either in-house or cross-network advertising, and I think both Oxygen and Lifetime counted solely on the gender of the participants rather than the competition, the stories, or the drama of the late-season playoff races in order to draw viewers.

Without a national television deal (albeit the games are being distributed by Yahoo), there is unspoken pressure on the U.S. women’s national soccer team to win the 2019 Women’s World Cup, a tournament which ends about six weeks before the end of the season, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that ESPN, NBC, or Fox could broadcast the stretch drive to the playoffs as well as the postseason.

Given the uncertainties over the offseason in the NWSL, having a permanent TV home is an indicator of corporate stability — something you couldn’t say for much of the last 18 years of USSF Division I women’s soccer.

Feb. 19, 2019 — The quarter-billion dollar money pit and the concept of wealth

Earlier this week, it was revealed that a nascent tackle football league called the Alliance of American Football is requiring a bailout, having burned through its startup funding by the second week of its first season.

Indeed, it took Tom Dundon, the owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, to flash a quarter of a billion dollars to keep the eight-team circuit afloat. That’s “billion” with a “b,” folks.

I’m amazed, frankly, that in a sports culture which argues against the outside financing of leagues such as the WNBA, NWSL, or NPF, that a single owner with a lot of wealth can finance a football league which can’t even get worker’s compensation insurance for one of its eight teams.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

The current financial situation which has befallen the AAF is one which has befallen an alphabet soup of football leagues (USFL, XFL) which have formed to compete with the NFL.

And yet, since the merger of the American Football League into the NFL, none of these outdoor tackle football leagues have lasted to their fourth seasons. Some of them never made it off the drawing board.

All of this makes you wonder if Dundon, the man with the wealth to prop up the AAF, is the smartest guy in the room, now that he’s bought himself the chairmanship of the league.