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Archive for February, 2020

Feb. 29, 2020 — The Final Third, Leap Day Edition

Join me today at about 11:45 a.m. Eastern time on our Facebook Live page for this week’s Final Third. Our marquee games will be Virginia-North Carolina and Maryland-Syracuse, plus we’ll take a deeper dive in Division III (snow permitting) as the NESCAC schools begin their seasons in earnest.

Feb. 28, 2020 — A shifted scenario

The Carrier Dome is the home of the Syracuse University football, basketball, and lacrosse teams. Built on the site of the old Archbold Stadium, the concrete structure has been remarkably durable since it was built 40 years ago, even as schools have been building more and more elaborate structures for their athletics programs.

Today was supposed to have been one of a number of watershed moments: the last varsity women’s lacrosse game before the stadium closes for several months of renovations, including replacing the inflatable fabric roof with a rigid structure that would hold an enormous scoreboard.

But there’s a problem. A major snowstorm has blown through the region, with up to four feet of snow expected in some places near Lake Oswego.

In response, the University of Maryland’s Department of Transportation advised against travel to the area, and both schools agreed to move the game to tomorrow at high noon at the Lacrosse & Field Hockey Complex in College Park.

But what that did was cancel the Orange’s Senior Day festivities as well as their participation in a campus-wide alumni/ae celebration.

Reaction has been swift and overwhelmingly skeptical. But one tweet from former all-time great Alyssa Murray-Cometti is likely to shape the narrative for tomorrow’s throwdown:

To the girls that have now been forced to give up their senior day and last time ever playing in the dome, thank you for everything you’ve done for the program. You are far from finished.

Stay tuned.

Feb. 27, 2020 — A thinkable (albeit worrisome) scenario

With the United Women’s Lacrosse League having pretty much folding its tent after the 2018 season, the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League is pretty much set to be the lone entity carrying the flag for not only high-level women’s lacrosse in America, but as a possible experimental vessel for the rules package being proposed for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

Which makes today’s announcement that the WPLL is dropping from five to four touring teams a head-scratcher. Now, you probably have already done the math to figure out that 20 percent of roster spots are gone, but there’s more than that.

Full rosters are going to be limited to 22 players; some WPLL teams listed as many as 26 last year. But gameday rosters will be cut down from 19 players to 15.

With such tremendous talent coming into the league in 2020 (Emily Hawryschuk, Katie Hoeg, Brindi Griffin, Asa Goldstock, Kali Hartshorn, Taryn Ohlmiller, Maria DiVietro, and Cara Trombetta, among others), I can’t see why the number of teams in the WPLL isn’t trending upward.

I guess the only thing that could happen, given the eight years before Los Angeles, is that the current four teams may split into eight (like cell division) when the WPLL adopts the 6-v-6 game that is being proposed for the Olympics.

This could get interesting.

Feb. 26, 2020 — An unthinkable scenario

For the last several days, media hysteria surrounding the coronavirus has spread fear to many places which have had persons testing positive for the disease, from Italy to Iran, from South Korea to Japan.

And that last country could be an enormous problem. With just 148 days until the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, we heard a pronouncement from Dick Pound of the International Olympic Committee which cast extreme doubt about the ability of the IOC to maneuver around an emergency situation.

“You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels. The media folks will be in there building their studios,” Pound told The Associated Press. “I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’ ”

Pound said there were but two scenarios: to go on with the Olympic Games, or cancel the 32nd Olympiad altogether.

Let me say that again. The IOC’s thinking right now is, “Go or cancel.”

That’s disconcerting for an organization which seemingly has a lot of money, power, and influence, but is sadly lacking in flexibility and a “can do” attitude.

Compare the current situation to that which befell FIFA in 2003. The Women’s World Cup had been scheduled for China, but that nation’s SARS epidemic, one which eventually killed 774 persons worldwide, forced the world governing body of soccer to change locales a mere 128 days before the scheduled start of competition.

The decision was to move the Women’s World Cup to the United States, which not only had a wildly successful 1999 edition, it had the stadiums, hotels, and other infrastructure necessary to take over in a pinch.

The thing is, today’s bloated Olympics program, which sees the return of baseball and softball and the inauguration of karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing, all require massive amounts of permanent infrastructure — venues are almost always custom built instead of being portable, as in the case of events sponsored by Red Bull, Mountain Dew, and ESPN’s X-Games.

This has led to countless “white elephant” sports projects littering urban scapes in cities from Montreal to Brazil, from Beijing to Athens.

If the IOC decides to completely cancel the 2020 Games, rather than postponing them for a time to let public health officials get a handle on coronavirus, it actually should be easy to devolve control of Olympic tournaments and let world governing bodies host events wherever they can.

But I think that’s going to lead to uncontrolled chaos, especially if it turns out that the governing bodies can do a better job than the IOC.

Feb. 25, 2020 — The national preseason Top 10

Our yearly annual back-of-the-envelope preseason Top 10 is back for the spring, as we try to divine what is going to happen with the national girls’ lacrosse season.

The teams will scramble between now and when we do our first weekly Top 10 in late March, once most teams start their seasons.

1. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 21-0

2. Manhasset (N.Y.) 15-3

3. Darien (Conn.) 21-2

4. Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) 25-2

5. Alexandria Bishop Ireton (Va.) 17-6

6. Severna Park (Md.) 19-1

7. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 20-2

8. South Huntington St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) 17-1

9. Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 18-0

10. Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 20-2

And bear in mind: Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 19-0, New Fairfield (Conn.) 21-1, Delray American Heritage (Fla.) 22-2, Sykesville South Carroll (Md.) 16-1, Westminster (Md.) 14-6, Walpole (Mass.) 20-2, Moorestown (N.J.) 19-5, Ridgewood (N.J.) 21-1, Northport (N.Y.) 18-1, Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) 17-2, Eastport-South Manor (N.Y.) 18-2, Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy (N.Y.) 11-6, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 17-1, Harriton (Pa.) 24-2

 

Feb. 24, 2020 — A mouthful of history

If you tuned into our Facebook Live broadcast last Saturday (archived here), you would have heard me giving you updates on the Division III women’s lacrosse matchup between Franklin & Marshall College and Washington and Lee University.

(And yes, one is a college and one a university, and one has an ampersand and the other does not).

Over the course of the afternoon, the verbiage got to be a little much and I was thinking about a way to shorten the five-syllable names of the schools. If you heard, I wound up lapsing into team nicknames, the Diplomats and the Generals.

Sports announcing is a difficult job, having to deal with a soup of team designations and player names, all while the action is happening right in front of you.

It’s even more difficult with six screens going on at once. But it’s fun testing your vocal dexterity with cumbersome names.

Feb. 23, 2020 — An historic result

In April 1976, three guys got together in a garage in Cupertino, Calif. to design the internal workings of a kit, to be assembled by a customer, which would, through input from a typewriter-like keyboard, execute functions on demand.

The men were Ronald Wayne, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs, and the company they created is now the second-largest company in the world, Apple.

You have to go back all the way to the dawn of the home technology era to compare what happened yesterday to what happened to the Maryland women’s lacrosse team. Yesterday’s 19-6 defeat was the most lopsided for the Terrapins since a 16-2 loss to West Chester University on April 13, 1976.

Back then, there was no NCAA championship for lacrosse or any sport played by women; the sanctioning of women’s sports was done by the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).

The sticks were wooden, a team could hold onto the ball for an unlimited period of time, and there was no boundary for either gameplay or coaching. Teams would send coaches to both ends of the field for encouragement and coaching, and nearby trees, football goalposts, long-jump pits, and other occasional obstacles were sometimes in play.

Admittedly, Maryland was not an elite team in 1976. The team finished with five wins and seven defeats, three of which were 10-goal defeats. This included a 19-3 loss to Ursinus, which stands at the worst defeat in Maryland history.

I can imagine the coach at the time, Sue Tyler, getting together with her lacrosse players sometime between the end of the 1976 season and the beginning of the 1977 campaign, and making a mutual goal to not experience the kinds of heavy losses that were administered by the likes of West Chester, Ursinus, and Penn State.

That’s because the Terrapin program, beginning in 1977, transitioned to elite status. The opening game, March 27, 1977, was a 23-0 shutout of Georgetown. Four years later, the Terps won the AIAW national championship. Sue Tyler was inducted into the IWLCA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Indeed, since that 1976 season, no Maryland women’s lacrosse team has ever finished below .500. Despite yesterday’s historic loss, I don’t think Maryland is going to break that streak. The individuals on the roster are too good, and I think there’s enough coaching acumen to snap out of the longest losing streak in Cathy Reese’s career at Maryland.

That’s two games.

I think the Maryland program will do just fine, with an adjustment or two.

Feb. 22, 2020 — The Final Third

Join us today shortly before 1 p.m. Eastern time for a raft of great matches on our answer to whiparound coverage on other networks that we call The Final Third.

We’ll be featuring the Division I matchups of UNC-Maryland and Princeton-Virginia, as well as the Division III matchup between Franklin & Marshall and Washington & Lee. We’ll also be cutting into several games around the country to bring you the best women’s lacrosse action in our unique narrative style.

Join us on Facebook Live, won’t you?

Feb. 21, 2020 — A change in role

When Barbara Longstreth, the former U.S. international in both field hockey and women’s lacrosse, started selling field hockey sticks out of the trunk of her car back in 1977, she tapped into a market that was, just four years into Title IX, cresting an economic wave.

She built a field hockey, lacrosse, and softball equipment business out of a small barn not so far away from Valley Forge, Pa. beginning in 1986 and turned it into a reknowned location not only for buying equipment, but receiving personal service in finding the right stick, pad, or bat for the job.

Yesterday, it was announced that BSN Sports, a company from Texas, would be acquiring part of Longstreth’s business — specifically, the arms of the company selling lacrosse and softball equipment parts as well as outfitting teams in those sports as well as field hockey.

Longstreth, Inc. will still have a presence in its brick-and-mortar store for field hockey equipment, apparel and footwear, as well as via catalog sales and on the Web. It would also appear as though that company will be hyper-focused on the ancient ritual.

Notably, when you look at BSN Sports’ website, there are individual catalogs for many athletic endeavors such as football, baseball, both genders of lacrosse, and softball. But not field hockey.

Wonder if that may change soon, given businesspeoples’ penchant for mergers and acquisitions?

Feb. 20, 2020 — The oddest end of a sports career, unless you’ve been paying attention

Alex Danson, a member of the England and Team GB field hockey teams who seemed to have some of her best efforts against the United States in world competitions, announced her retirement early today.

Danson had an international career that began in 2001 as a 16-year-old, and ended with, oddly, a joke. She was on holiday with her husband in 2018 when he told her a funny tale. Danson, according to reports, laughed, lost her balance and hit her head on a brick wall. The resulting post-concussion symptoms lasted nine months, and she could not deal with bright lights or noise.

If you’ve been following news stories over the past decade and a half, from pro football players committing suicide to hockey and soccer players having to retire early, to some athletes having died on the field of play, you know that what Danson had was not a one-off event. I’m certain Danson had a number of closed-head injuries over the course of her 300-game international career, and that this one accidental bump against a wall was just one more bruise that her brain took.

When it comes to brain injuries, they are often fickle. Your Founder is sitting not so far away from the site one of the most written-about traumas in sports history, but for a different reason from Danson’s retirement.

In 1997, a football quarterback named Gus Frerotte celebrated a score for his team by hitting his head against a padded wall at his home stadium. He got a concussion, sprained his neck, and didn’t play another game that season.

Oddly enough, Frerotte, played 10 more seasons in the brutal confines of the NFL without another concussion (that we know of), and eventually helped run a Pennsylvania startup company that uses cloud computing to monitor brain performance.

Danson, it must be said, left field hockey better than when she found it. In a country with more active players than any other on the globe, she helped with moving the game from an amateur sport to one where one could draw a reasonable salary.

“When I was at school, I never dreamt to be a full-time hockey player because they didn’t exist,” she tells The Guardian. “One of the proudest things is I’ve seen hockey transcend from amateur to a professional game.”

And when England Hockey put their minds to it, the fortunes of the national team changed. Before Danson was on the national team, the previous world tournament won by either England or Great Britain was the 1975 International Federation of Women’s Hockey Associations Tournament in Edinburgh, Scotland.

After Danson’s arrival, England won bronze in the 2010 Women’s World Cup and Champions Trophy and in the 2013 World League. As Team GB, they won bronze in the 2012 Olympics, silver in the 2012 Champions Trophy, and gold at Rio 2016.

It’s an awesome legacy, and I hope she will wind up giving back to the game.