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Archive for April, 2022

April 30, 2022 — Back from the brink

Yesterday’s ACC quarterfinal matches featured a pair of teams who were playing for more than just an automatic qualifier slot in the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse tournament. They were also playing for more than just bragging rights within the nation’s toughest college lacrosse conference.

They were also playing for their seasons.

Coming into yesterday, both Notre Dame and Virginia were very much on the outside looking in when it comes to the Big Dance. Had Notre Dame lost its ACC quarterfinal to Duke, and if Virginia had lost its game to Syracuse, neither teams would be eligible for the NCAA Tournament for falling short of the .500 cutoff.

But credit both the Irish and the Cavaliers for finding a way to survive against their quarterfinal opponents. I think a big portion of this has to come from the coaching staffs. Christine Halfpenny and Julie Myers have certainly not forgotten how to coach their sides and to get them ready for their high-caliber opponents.

The execution on offense for both of these teams was impeccable. Notre Dame, for example, scored on its first 11 shots on goal as the Irish built an 11-2 lead by the 20-minute mark. Virginia, for its part, scored on 18 of 19 shots on the goal cage for the game in winning 18-14 over Syracuse.

Now, in my observations on the sport of women’s lacrosse over the last third of a century, I have seen my share of goaltenders and how their play can influence the outcome of a season. The lacrosse goalie, as we’ve said, is very much a thankless position.

How thankless? I remember one year when not a single goalie made the NCAA All-Tournament Team in Division I, despite having some pretty spectacular netminding through the tournament. But also, consider the situation: if you fail 45 percent of the time, you’re a candidate for a Hall of Fame somewhere. This especially goes for today’s rules package, which has taken away a lot of defensive techniques and has favored the offense the last quarter-century.

These games set up a pair of interesting ACC semifinal contests tomorrow. Notre Dame and Virginia certainly can’t keep up their hot shooting against UNC and Boston College — can they?

April 29, 2022 — Friday Statwatch for games played through April 27

Well, that’s more like it.

Thanks to a number of you adding your statistics to MaxPreps and other places, our statistical portrait is rounding into place. What we find interesting is that we now have two seniors lumbering up the ladder of top goal-scorers of all time. Fran Frieri of Lockport (Ill.) and Reagan O’Brien of Boston (Mass.) Latin have both exceeded 400 career goals. And the thing is, Illinois and Massachusetts are barely halfway through their regular seasons, so there are plenty more opportunities for them to get to the rarified air of the all-time top 10.

But our most significant statistical occurrence this week is that the two longest winning streaks as of last week were broken within five days. Saturday, the win streak of Northport (N.Y.) was broken by New Canaan (Conn.) in the Gains for Brains Showcase, and on Tuesday, Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) saw its win streak stop at 67 thanks to a winning performance by local rival Cherry Hills Kent Denver (Colo.). Colorado Academy was so dominant within the state of Colorado, it had not lost a game to an in-state opponent since the first week of April, 2015.

To give you perspective on this span of time, Apple Computer was still selling iPods in April 2015.

I encourage you to keep convincing your teams, your schools, leagues, or state governing bodies to adopt the easy-to-use MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams to enter their information there as well as whichever is your local news site, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, SEASON
144 Sara Williams, Winter Haven All Saints Academy (Fla.)
126 Cassidy Jones, Memphis White Station (Tenn.)
107 Trinity Cassidy, Snellville Brookwood (Ga.)
107 Kayleen Favreau, Holly Springs (N.C.)
106 Brinley Christiansen, Pensacola (Fla.) Catholic
102 Hayden Head, Lewisville Forsyth Country Day School (Ga.)
101 Sienha Chirieleison, Camp Hill Trinity (Pa.)
101 Chiara Scichilone, Wellington Palm Beach Central (Fla.)
100 Sydnee-Anne Mueller, El Segundo (Calif.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
93 Riley Nee, Hampstead Topsail (N.C.)
78 Ryann Banks, Peachtree McIntosh (Ga.)
69 Taylor McGovern, Parkland Margery Stoneman Douglas (Fla.)
68 Evelyn Guyer, Durham (N.C.) Academy
62 Kayla Nguyen, Cary Green Hope (N.C.)
62 Maggie Wilson, Boca Raton (Fla.)
57 Frances Poch, Charleston Bishop England (S.C.)
57 Julia Frosch, Pensacola (Fla.) Catholic
56 Bailey Dykes, Lake Wales (Fla.)
55 Lauren Hayden, Newport Croatan (N.C.)

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, CAREER
429 Fran Frieri, Lockport (Ill.)
406 Reagan O’Brien, Boston (Mass.) Latin

COACHING WINS
821 Kathy Jenkins, Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.)

If you see something missing or out of place, feel free to send an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the needed changes.

Thanks for reading and we’ll try this all again next week.

April 28, 2022 — A different definition of “perfection”

If there ever was a metaphor for the game of girls’ lacrosse in the spring of 2022, think of the kids’ board game “Perfection.”

In the game, the player is given 25 puzzle pieces and a 60 second clock to insert the pieces into a spring-loaded game board. When the clock expires, the board pops up all of the pieces that were already played, jumbling them all up in the air and scattering them across the table.

So, who knew that the two best teams in the U.S. during the pandemic times — Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) and Northport (N.Y.) would lose games in the span of just four days? Yep, that has not only jumbled their respective league tables, but it has put a considerable uncertainty to picking the national girls’ Top 10.

St. Paul’s 20-7 loss yesterday was to Glenelg (Md.) Country Day. The Dragons have slowly been in the ascendancy within the Independent Athletic Association of Maryland, winning two consecutive championships in the IAAM’s “C” Division in 2003, and 2004.

As a result of this, the Dragons moved up to the “B” Flight in 2005, then won the championship at that level. By 2016, Glenelg Country had won a championship with a roster that could compete with the “A”-level teams like Maryvale, McDonogh, and Notre Dame Prep, so in 2017, the team moved up to Class “A”, which is the single most competitive girls’ lacrosse conference in America.

Head coach Paige Walton has overseen this long-term ascendancy, which has been punctuated by not only yesterday’s win over the defending champions, but by a big win a couple of weeks ago against long-time power McDonogh.

Despite yesterday’s achievement, the journey is not at an end. The Dragons meet Owings Mills Garrison Forest (Md.) tomorrow to try to win the No. 1 seed in the IAAM “A” Tournament.

Given what we’ve seen from the league thus far this year, the tourney should be a dandy.

April 27, 2022 — Can an entire league be caught up in the same scandal? It appears as though the answer is “yes.”

Yesterday, the A.P. Sports Editors handed out yearly awards for excellence in journalism. The top two awards for investigative sports journalism were for the same topic: how the National Women’s Soccer League became, frankly, a cesspool when it came to toxic leadership.

First place went to The Athletic, whose team of Meg Linehan, Stephanie Yang, Katie Strang, and Pablo Maurer are unmatched when it comes to women’s football expertise. Second place went to The Washington Post, whose duo of Molly Hensley-Clancy and Stephen Goff placed special scrutiny on the Washington Spirit and its leadership.

Late yesterday, more evidence for the need of these writers to report on the topic came to the surface, as Houston Dash head coach and general manager James Clarkson was suspended after a league investigation for harassment and abuse.

This means that, in the last year, seven out of the 10 NWSL teams have had to undergo some kind of coaching or leadership change (not necessarily because of abuse charges). And this doesn’t even count the scandal that befell Angel City FC’s ownership group, which dropped David Dobrik before a single ball was kicked in Los Angeles.

The one thing that has caught the eye of the American soccer intelligentsia is one clause in the initial statement on Twitter yesterday: “ongoing investigation.”

Even with the likes of Rory Dames and Richie Burke and Paul Riley being cast away from the NWSL, there are still, apparently, enough persons of questionable moral fiber that the league and its players’ union have set up a semi-permanent apparatus for investigatory purposes.

And I think there are some people in power in the sport that had better take heed.

April 26, 2022 — Top 10 for the week of April 24

It’s only April, and it’s been an absolute rollercoaster of a scholastic girls’ lacrosse season. Wins by Glenelg (Md.) Country School as well as New Canaan (Conn.) have jumbled the Top 10 like a bunch of TinkerToys, and I’m sure it’s going to continue in the next months as the season winds to a close.

1. Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) 13-0
The Gators finish off the regular season on Wednesday with a match against Glenelg (Md.) Country School

2. Darien (Conn.) 5-0
The Blue Wave took down New Canaan (Conn.) 15-11 last Tuesday; massive game next Monday against Wilton (Conn.)

3. Glenelg (Md.) 10-0
The Gladiators have an enormous game next Monday against Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.)

4. Canandaigua (N.Y.) Academy 7-0
The Braves bested Pittsford (N.Y.) side last week and see Penfield (N.Y.) this evening

5. Glenelg (Md.) Country School 13-1
GCS, enjoying one of its best seasons in its history, beat Owings Mills McDonogh 10-5 last week, and will have Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) tomorrow

6. New Canaan (Conn.) 7-2
The Rams got the job done in the Gains for Brains Showcase, taking advantage of a penalty split between the first and second halves to take the lead against Northport (N.Y.)

7. Westwood (Mass.) 6-0
Wolverines face Hingham Notre Dame (Mass.) this Thursday in a huge match

8. Northport (N.Y.) 9-1
Tigers had a lead heading into the final minute of the first half against New Canaan (Conn.), but a penalty led to six straight goals and almost total possession of the ball for the first 15 minutes of the second half

9. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 11-2
The Eagles have a game Wednesday at Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) which is an extremely important match for the team’s confidence

10. Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 12-0
Carroll bested Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) 11-7 last week

Who’s out: Severn Archbishop Spalding (Md.) 13-11 loss to Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.)

And bear in mind: Denver Colorado Academy (9-0), Delray American Heritage (Fla.) 15-2, Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 14-2, Annapolis Broadneck (Md.) 9-0, Victor (N.Y.) 6-1, South Huntington St. Anthony (N.Y.) 7-1, Manhasset (N.Y.) 6-2, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.) 11-1

April 25, 2022 — Meanwhile, on that other competition surface …

The United States women’s field hockey team, in search of long-term form, success, and goals, finally found some yesterday in an FIH Pro League match against an England team against which the States have measured themselves for the last 102 years.

The game was decided in a 3-1 shootout in favor of England after a 2-2 draw, but it so easily could have been a three-point win at the second of two Tests at Karen Shelton Stadium on the weekend. The Americans had taken a 2-0 lead into the fourth quarter before Pippa Lock and Sophie Hamilton tied the match within 10 minutes.

In the shootout, only Erin Matson was able to find the back of the cage, while the Lions got goals from Hamilton, Isabelle Petter, and Elena Rayer.

The result pulls the United States off the bottom rung of the Pro League, oddly enough, still only four points behind England. China, which has played a scant two games in this Pro League cycle, remains in the cellar.

April 24, 2022 — A shock start for Gains for Brains

The annual Gains for Brains lacrosse tournament, bringing together 14 of the best girls’ scholastic lacrosse teams from the New York metropolitan area, took place over the weekend.

And while the rest of the six games had their own storylines and their own heroines, the opening game Saturday at Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) had an outsized headline.

In this contest, New Canaan (Conn.) defeated Northport (N.Y.), the No. 1 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, by a score of 12-8.

Northport, coming into the contest, had not lost a game since April 4, 2019 — a span of 46 straight victories. But the Tigers found New Canaan more than a match, especially after a yellow card in the final minute of the first half led to three New Canaan goals. Lexie Tully, Devon Russell, and Dillyn Patten all scored on the advantage as a 6-4 Northport lead suddenly became a 7-6 New Canaan lead.

The momentum for the Rams continued, as the team owned the ball for the first nine minutes of the second half, not letting Northport get anything going, and pulling out to a 10-6 lead.

Though Northport fought back in the last 10 minutes, New Canaan was able to take its lessons from a loss five days earlier to Darien (Conn.), valuing the ball and keeping it out of the Tigers’ sticks. Indeed, New Canaan ran an excellent stall-to-score in the final five minutes that led to a back-breaking goal in the final minutes.

April 23, 2022 — What have we learned from “Destiny Week”?

The last few days have been chock full of intrigue in the world of NCAA women’s lacrosse, with conference tournaments on the horizon and with some blue-blood teams needing to pull their records to .500 in order to maintain eligibility for at-large bids in the tournament.

I think the teams looking over their shoulders right now are the mid-table teams in the two national “power” conferences in Division I, the ACC and the Big Ten.

I think these two schools, which usually send the lion’s share of teams to the national Division I tournament, could see their numbers a little down from the usual. In the Big Ten, the one team which I think will need a good tournament is Rutgers. Despite the fact that they are 13-3 overall and are ranked ninth in Ratings Percentage Index (that formula which takes into account won-loss record, won-loss records of opponents, and the won-loss records of their opponents’ opponents), I have a feeling that the Scarlet Knights are going to have to get at least one win in the tournament in order to clinch an at-large bid.

I also think there are a number of ACC teams who are also going to have to treat the postseason tournament as a referendum on their seasons — no more so than Notre Dame and Virginia. Both are 8-8 overall, and one loss next week means that they are not eligible for the Division I tournament. Virginia Tech (9-8) and Pittsburgh (8-9) are also at the .500 cutoff and need a deep run to try to impress the selectors.

The situation in the ACC means that the single best collegiate conference in all of women’s lacrosse may have as few as four bids; in past years, the conference has had as many as six or seven teams make the bracket.

The immediate beneficiary is the Big Ten, which has five teams in the top 20 of RPI.

I think there are going to be some extra pencils sharpened and extra numbers of scratch pads used for the tournament committee this time around.

April 22, 2022 — Friday Statwatch for games played through April 20

It’s Friday, so that means it’s time for Statwatch, our feature which attempts to track the statistics which cross borders and crosses over eras of the game. It’s a job which has gotten progressively more difficult in lacrosse because of the lack of publishing of statistics in many publications, and the closure of many other journalistic organizations.

One thing we mentioned last year, for example, was the closure of newspaper coverage in Lockport, Ill. during the global pandemic, which means that there haven’t been beat reporters covering an undefeated team, with one of the all-time career goal-scorers, which has already outscored their opposition 148 to 68 this season. The one thing we don’t know yet is how many of these 148 tallies have been scored or assisted by future Notre Dame student-athlete Fran Frieri.

I encourage you to keep convincing your teams, your schools, leagues, or state governing bodies to adopt the easy-to-use MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams to enter their information there as well as whichever is your local news site, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, SEASON
137 Sara Williams, Winter Haven All Saints Academy (Fla.)
126 Cassidy Jones, Memphis White Station (Tenn.)
103 Trinity Cassidy, Snellville Brookwood (Ga.)
103 Brinley Christiansen, Pensacola (Fla.) Catholic
95 Hayden Head, Lewisville Forsyth Country Day School (Ga.)
95 Chiara Scichilone, Wellington Palm Beach Central (Fla.)
95 Sydnee-Anne Mueller, El Segundo (Calif.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
74 Riley Nee, Hampstead Topsail (N.C.)
66 Taylor McGovern, Parkland Margery Stoneman Douglas (Fla.)
63 Evelyn Guyer, Durham (N.C.) Academy
59 Maggie Wilson, Boca Raton (Fla.)
57 Julia Frosch, Pensacola (Fla.) Catholic
53 Bailey Dykes, Lake Wales (Fla.)
52 Lauren Hayden, Newport Croatan (N.C.)

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, CAREER
394 Reagan O’Brien, Boston (Mass.) Latin
345 Fran Frieri, Lockport (Ill.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
65 Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.)
46 Northport (N.Y.)

COACHING WINS
816 Kathy Jenkins, Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.)

We could use a little help here. If you see something missing or out of place, feel free to send an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the needed changes.

Thanks for reading and we’ll try this all again in seven days.

April 21, 2022 — Your pocket guide to the weekend (Part 2)

Today, we wrap up our pocket guide to this weekend’s NCAA women’s lacrosse action, which includes several games on which the entire rest of the season can pivot. This includes a pair of games in the state of Maryland on Saturday:

FRIDAY, APRIL 22
Lindenwood at Indianapolis
RECORDS:
Lindenwood 13-2, Indianapolis 14-1
KEY PLAYERS: Lindenwood:
Bridget Considine (gr., a), Logann Eldredge (so., a), Kate MacDonell (jr., d), Eleanor Kast (sr., g); Indianapolis: Abigail Lagos (gr., a), Sarah Klein (so., aw), Peyton Romig (gr., c), Audrey Moran (so., g)
THE SKINNY:
In a three-week period last year, the Lions and Greyhounds played three unforgettable matches that each were not determined until the final minutes. Lindenwood’s most important contest was the third one, in the NCAA Division II quarterfinal. That 17-13 win propelled the Lions to the Final Four and, eventually, the national championship. This game should be as keenly contested.

Syracuse at Boston College
RECORDS:
Syracuse 13-3, Boston College 13-2
KEY PLAYERS: Syracuse:
Meaghan Tyrrell (sr., a), Emily Hawryschuk (gr., a), Katelyn Mashweske (jr., c), Katie Goodale (so., d); Boston College: Charlotte North (gr., a), Jenn Medjid (sr., a), Courtney Taylor (gr., d), Rachel Hall (sr., g)
THE SKINNY: These two clubs have had this date circled on the calendar ever since the schedule was released over the offseason. That’s because this game is the rematch of last year’s thrilling NCAA title game. The shine has been dulled from this contest a bit because of what Duke and UNC have been doing, and neither of these teams has a chance to be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament. The angle here: Syracuse head coach Kayla Treanor was the offensive coordinator for Boston College the last few seasons, and she’s now going to have to figure out a way to get the most out of a hurt group of attackers and stave off the scoring hurricane that is Charlotte North.

Southern California at Arizona State
RECORDS:
USC: 11-3, Arizona State 9-6
KEY PLAYERS: USC:
Kelsey Huff (gr., m), Claudia Shevitz (so., a), Olivia Dooley (jr., d), Isabelle Vitale (fr., a); ASU: Emily Glagolev (gr., a), Carley Adams (gr., a), Taylor Pinzone (gr., a), Zoe Mazur (jr., c)
THE SKINNY:
There is a three-way logjam at the top of the standings of the Pac-12 Conference. Both USC and Arizona State are tied with Stanford with a record of 7-2. Thing is, a win here means that the team is going to have a bye into the May 5th semifinal. It’s likely that the loser of this game will have to play back-to-back to get into the Pac-12 title game. Interesting to note: Pinzone, a grad transfer from Northwestern, is the second-leading career goal scorer (520) of all time in the scholastic realm.

SATURDAY, APRIL 23
Northwestern at Maryland
RECORDS:
Northwestern 13-2, Maryland 13-1
KEY PLAYERS: Northwestern:
Lauren Gilbert (gr., a), Erin Coykendall (jr., a), Jill Girardi (gr., m), Madison Doucette (sr., g); Maryland: Aurora Cordingley (gr., a)., Grace Griffin (gr., m), Shaylan Ahearn (jr., m), Hannah Leubecker (jr., a)
THE SKINNY:
The talk this offseason was that Maryland was going to have to change what it was doing in order to be able to re-ascend to the championship level to which it was so accustomed. The Terps were aggressive in the portal, and have been equally aggressive in pushing the pace of play to the Sascha Newmarch and Sarah Forbes levels of the 1990s. The Terps are also mindful of the fact that Northwestern beat them three times last year, twice by 10-goal margins.

The College of New Jersey at Salisbury
RECORDS:
TCNJ 11-1, Salisbury 11-2
KEY PLAYERS: TCNJ:
Jennifer LaRocca (sr., a), Ally Tobler (so., aw), Anna Devlin (jr., c), Sabrina Phillips (jr., dw); Salisbury: Erin Scannell (jr., a), Caroline McKenna (sr., d), Lydia McNulty (gr., a), Emma Skoglund (gr., a)
THE SKINNY:
Let’s look at a little history. Between 1985 and 2006, TCNJ made the Division III final 18 times, winning 13 titles. Between 2005 and 2021, Salisbury made the final nine times, winning four trophies including the 2021 title. These are two of the best women’s lacrosse programs in Division III history, but are both looking to make their own marks coming out of the pandemic. Right now, Salisbury is the No. 3 team in the most recent IWLCA poll, and the New Jersey Lions are sixth. I don’t think a loss by either team will hurt their NCAA chances much, but TCNJ last year was obligated to play three road games in Waterville, Maine in the NCAAs.