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Archive for June, 2022

June 30, 2022 — The 2022 FIH Women’s World Cup: contenders, pretenders, and a team that has to win

Tomorrow, in Terrassa, Spain, the co-hosts take on Canada in the opening match of the 15th FIH Women’s World Cup.

It’s a tournament which won’t see the United States this time around, but there are plenty of good stories to go around. Indeed, we can pretty much break it down to three teams:

Biggest contender: Obvious, isn’t it? The Netherlands. The world No. 1 has missed only one championship final in every single biennial FIH world tournament since 1998. That’s right; the Oranje have won gold or silver in every World Cup or Olympics except 2000, when the Olympics were held in Australia. Indeed, since 2006, Holland has won six gold and two silver medals in biennial comps.

Other contenders: Germany is a strong and fit team that is in the Group of Death (Pool A). I think they’ll survive but I don’t know how they’ll do in “survive and advance” mode. England has a solid group of players and has a great chance to get on the medals stand in the end.

Biggest pretender: India was a shootout goal away from a medal in Tokyo 2021, but I am not so sure the good feelings engendered by the Eves’ run in the tournament will lead to the team becoming a long-term perennial power.

Other pretenders: Ireland won silver in the last World Cup, but I can’t see the Green Army making a repeat. Australia has had to build back after getting rid of a number of toxic personalities within the national governing bodies. Can the players show out for this championship?

A team that has to win: Argentina won silver last time around, but if they are to get to the top of the medal stand, it will need one more great performance from goalie Belen Succi. One of the all-time greats for Argentina, Succi is rumored to be retiring after this World Cup. The team has already decided not to carry Delfina Merino and Noel Barrionuevo for this tournament, leaving the veteran leadership to midfielder Rocio Sanchez Moccia.

Here’s how inexperienced the team is: the total roster for Argentina has scored 290 international goals. By themselves, Merino and Barrionuevo combined for 284.

June 29, 2022 — The 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship: the contenders

Last in a series of stories about the 2022 Women’s World Lacrosse Championships in Towson, Md.

Tonight, the 11th World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship begins with two teams which are likely to feature prominently in the storyline of this entire championship.

These side represent both sides of the 49th Parallel between the United States and Canada.

The USA is a star-studded team with, seemingly, no weaknesses. Indeed, when the final U.S. roster came out a few months ago, it was argued that the talent pool in the United States was big enough so that head coach Jenny Levy could make an “A” and a “B” team to compete in this championship.

The Americans will be led by an extraordinary attacking midfield, where Charlotte North, Taylor Cummings, and Ally Mastroanni are all capable of winning draws into a thimble. Marie McCool, Kayla Treanor, and Kylie Ohlmiller are extraordinary players who played last summer with distinction in the Athletes Unlimited lacrosse promotion.

Canada has some players who could be more than a match for the States. Start with Dana Dobbie, who is one of the finest draw-controllers the game has ever known, as well as a player who has scored goals of immense craft and cunning while with the Baltimore Ride of UWLX and the Baltimore Brave of the WPLL. Alongside her is going to be Aurora Cordingley, a Tewaaraton finalist with the University of Maryland, as well as midfielder Brooklyn Walker-Welch of national champion University of North Carolina, and Syracuse’s Alie Jimerson.

Another team which will be a major threat for the title this year is the last team to beat the U.S. in a World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship final, Australia. Australia will be led by the veteran midfielder Hannah Neilsen, along with Stacey Morlang Sullivan and Sarah Mollison. Team Koala has had an historical hex over the States, winning the 2005 title (Annapolis, Md.) and the 1986 title (Swarthmore, Pa.) over the Americans on home soil.

For me, the dark horse in the top pool is England. The Lions have done particularly well in World Cups, taking four bronzes since 1997. A very familiar face to American fans on the British team is Megan Whittle, who was a teammate of Taylor Cummings at both the University of Maryland and Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.). Laura Merrifield, at 6-foot-1, is going to present all kinds of matchup problems on the attack end. Britt Read was one of the top goalkeepers in the Athletes Unlimited promotion last summer. If she’s on, watch out.

June 28, 2022 — The 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship: the pretenders

Third in a series of stories about the 2022 Women’s World Lacrosse Championships in Towson, Md.

There is a group of teams in the Women’s Lacrosse World Championships which have had pretty good results over the years, but are likely to find the gulf between themselves and the true contenders hard ro bridge.

Scotland is one of the progenitors of the sport of women’s lacrosse. It was not only started there in 1980, as Louisa Lumden watched a men’s game between the Canghuwaya Indians and the Montreal Lacrosse Club, but a Scotswoman, Rosabella Sinclair, introduced the game in the United States when she brought it to the Bryn Mawr School, a mere 2 1/2 miles from Towson University. The team is ranked fifth in the world, but I don’t think it has the talent to get as high as fifth in the overall table.

Korea is primed for a good run in the knockout rounds of the tournament. Anna Kim, a Stanford grad, will be leading this team. Esprit Cha, late of HIgh Point University, played on a championship-winning Brookslandville St. Paul’s (Md.) side. Her sister Gabby played lacrosse at Towson.

The nation of Germany has done very well in field invasion sports such as field hockey and soccer. Lacrosse may be the next. Though there are several thousand lacrosse players in Germany, watch for a couple of Americans to make an impact. Start with Virginia’s Lauren Goerz, and end with Syracuse’s Jennifer Markey. I have a feeling they could help this side to surpass its best finish — an eighth-place classification in 2001.

One of the members of Team Ireland, Katrina Dowd, will be coming back to the site of her career highlight, Unitas Stadium. While with Northwestern, on May 22, 2009, Dowd scored on an impossible fallaway goal from a tight angle to level the score at the end of the first half of extra time, 12-12, against the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern would win the game 13-12 after the end of extra time, securing that goal in team and tournament lore.

June 28, 2022 — Top 10 for the week of June 22

We’ve got a change near the top of our Top 10, mostly because of the awesome postseason that Westwood (Mass.) put together. You could argue that the Wolverines may not have the overall resume of teams like New Canaan or Victor, but both of them have to shoot at the same 6-by-6 goal frame.

Westwood outscored their MIAA Tournament opposition by a score of 81-15; indeed, the closest any team came to them during their run to the title was in the 11 goals. The piece de resistance was the championship final, a dominant 16-1 win over Wellesley (Mass.) last Monday. It wasn’t a flashy win, but it was decisive. The Wolverines simply eased out to an early lead and kept on going. Before you knew it, the lead went from overwhelming to the 10-goal running clock.

If you have a chance to watch this game on the NFHS Network, do so. The Westwood team played amazing lacrosse in all phases of the game.

1. Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) 17-1
Season complete: The Gators got a revenge 15-7 win over Glenelg (Md.) Country School in the IAAM “A” final

2. Westwood (Mass.) 25-0
Season complete: The Wolverines not only beat Wellesley (Mass.) in the MIAA Division 1 final, they dominated, winning by a score of 16-1

3. Victor (N.Y.) 21-1
Season complete: Blue Devils beat Queensbury (N.Y.) for the NYSPHSAA Class B title

4. New Canaan (Conn.) 21-2
Season complete: The Rams held on for a 14-13 win over Darien (Conn.) in the CIAC Class L championship game

5. Glenelg (Md.) Country School 17-2
Season complete: Dragons gave a great account of themselves all season but dropped the final to St. Paul’s

6. Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 24-0
Season complete: Carroll bested a game Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.) side to win the PIAA Class AAA Tournament

7. Sykesville Century (Md.) 19-0
Season complete: Knights beat Parkton Hereford (Md.) 16-6 in the MPSSAA Class 3A state final at Loyola University

8. Bronxville (N.Y.) 19-1
Season complete: The Broncos beat Skaneateles (N.Y.) in the NYSPHSAA Class D championship

9. Darien (Conn.) 20-1
Season complete: The Blue Wave fell behind New Canaan (Conn.) early and could not overcome in the CIAC Class L semifinals

10. Summit (N.J.) 23-2
Season complete: After spotting Oak Knoll a 3-1 lead, allowed only one goal in about 35 minutes of play to take a 10-4 win in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champion

Who’s out: None.

And bear in mind: Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 18-2, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 15-3, Morristown (N.J.) 17-4, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 21-5, Northport (N.Y.) 19-2, South Huntington St. Anthony (N.Y.) 15-2, Manhasset (N.Y.) 15-2

June 27, 2022 — The 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship: the outsiders

Second in a series of stories about the 2022 Women’s World Lacrosse Championships in Towson, Md.

In the middle of the 2022 World Championships are teams which have done well just to make it to the tournament and aren’t expected to match up well against the likes of Australia, Canada, and the United States.

However, these teams, especially the four which played into the 2017 Championship Division, have so many reasons to keep your eye on them.

Israel finished eighth five years ago at the World Championship and finished second at the most recent European championship. With players like twin sisters Jessi Steinberg Stone and Ali Steinberg Burnard, along with former Franklin & Marshall star Saran Meisenberg, Israel could spring an upset in the knockout rounds.

Japan played in its first World Championship as hosts in 1997 and has made every tournament since. Watch for current Louisville attacker Kokoro Nakazawa and former Baltimore Brave Ai Hirose to give a good account for themselves and for the Cherry Blossoms.

New Zealand has been trying to get out from behind the considerable shadow of Oceania neighbor Australia for years. The Kiwis were undefeated in pool play five years ago and got into the quarterfinals where they ran smack into Canada. Sally Rutherford is a true throwback athlete, not only competing well for the New Zealand women’s lacrosse side, but she also made the 2012 and 2016 Olympics as a field hockey goalkeeper.

The Haudenosaunee team, representing the Six Nations, will be led by Jalyn Jimerson, late of Syracuse University. Allyson Trice, a close defender from the University of Pittsburgh, could be a breakout star of these championships

June 26, 2022 — The 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship: the newcomers

First in a series of stories about the 2022 Women’s World Lacrosse Championships in Towson, Md.

Wednesday night, the opening draw of the 11th world championship of women’s lacrosse under the aegis of the governing body now known as World Lacrosse. Aside from a name change from World Cup to World Championship, there’s not going to be a lot different except for the addition of new teams to this tournament.

The newcomers for this tournament are Latvia, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Puerto Rico, Uganda, Jamaica, and Argentina.

It’s not expected that any of these teams will be able to make it into the Round of 16, but this group could very have some of the best stories.

Puerto Rico, for example, has three sisters from Haymarket, Va. Antonella, Isabella, and Gabriella Henson-Vendrill. They played for the ascendant Chantilly Paul VI (Va.) team before making their collegiate choices.

Uganda, the first African team at this championship, is led by Dorothy Nakato, who was originally brought into help coach the side, but played so well in intersquad scrimmages, she was added to the roster.

And, Jamaica’s player-coach is Karen Healy-Silcott. If that name rings familiar, she’s the coach at Howard who was very outspoken about what happened in February when racist Presbyterian College students hurled invectives against the team.

Though it may be difficult for these teams to progress into the top levels of the tournament by journey’s end, the experiences the players will have are going to help grow the game around the world.

June 25, 2022 — Knowing what we don’t know

A few years ago, I attended a book talk by sports columnist Christine Brennan, who was a field hockey player at Toledo Ottawa Hills (Ohio), a team which was one of the only ones to wear argyle socks as part of its uniform. (Don’t believe me? Buy her book “Best Seat In The House.”)

During the Q-and-A period, a question was asked about the progress of women’s sports in the post-Title IX era, and how we should remember people and teams like the Raybestos Brakettes, or any number of “Bloomer Girls” traveling baseball teams, or dominant athletes like volleyball’s Flo Hyman and squash player Heather McKay, who once went 20 years without losing a match (and who also made the Hockeyroos squads in 1967 and 1971, taking bronze at the ILWCA World Championship in Auckland).

Brennan’s answer, to paraphrase, was that a lot of these pioneers are not likely to get the credit they deserved for advancing their particular sport.

That answer has stuck with me, especially this week in this anniversary week of Title IX. A lot of the celebrations surrounded things which have happened in the last 25 or so years, such as the 1999 win by the U.S. women’s soccer team, the start of the WNBA, and the struggle for equality in the NCAA, especially after the March Madness weight room fiasco of 2001.

One video illustrates the problem. The Premier Lacrosse League posted Twitter video in which players were asked which was the best female athlete of all time.

A lot of the flash answers fell into predictables: Boston College graduate Charlotte North, tennis player Serena Williams, and soccer player Abby Wambach — people who have made their marks in sports during the “highlight” age of televised sports, after the founding of ESPN in 1979.

Now, I’ve always said that I thought Babe Didrikson Zaharias was the best woman athlete of all time, what with her prowess in track and basketball. She dabbled in billiards and toured with the House of David barnstorming baseball team.

But Didrikson’s bigger contribution was to golf, helping to start the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950. She won majors such as the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur, and three U.S. Opens. In 1950, she won the Open, which, in conjunction with victories at the Women’s Western Open and the Titleholders’ Open, gave her what was then golf’s Grand Slam.

I also believe that the conversation about the greatest female athlete ever also should involve Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a dominant track athlete in the 1990s who somehow found time to win four letters with the UCLA women’s basketball team in the early 1980s.

And no doubt, Serena Williams’ haul of professional majors (23 in singles, another 16 in doubles and mixed doubles) should mark her in both longevity and versatility. And for all of Williams’ wins, it could have been even more. Four times, she bowed out of the U.S. Open under controversial circumstances; if she had flipped a couple of those into wins, she would be even more legendary.

But that’s a conversation for another time.

June 24, 2022 — Friday Statwatch for games played through June 22

With the end of the scholastic girls’ lacrosse season last Tuesday, what you see below is found in available sources across the nation. 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
200 Fran Frieri, Lockport (Ill.)
154 Isabella Caporuscio, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.)
147 Maddie Wright, Mattapoisett Old Rochester (Mass.)
145 Haley Hamilton, South Hamilton Hamilton-Wenham (Mass.)
144 Sara Williams, Winter Haven All Saints Academy (Fla.)
144 Kayleen Favreau, Holly Springs (N.C.)
141 Reagan O’Brien, Boston (Mass.) Latin
139 Sienna Chirieleison, Camp Hill Trinity (Pa.)
137 Cassidy Jones, Memphis White Station (Tenn.)
137 Erika Ho, New Lenox Lincoln-Way Central (Ill.)
132 Hayden Head, Lewisville Forsyth Country Day School (Ga.)
130 Caroline Ling, Springboro (Ohio)
126 Sydney Hannes, Tyngsboro (Mass.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
105 Riley Nee, Hampstead Topsail (N.C.)
105 Ryann Banks, Peachtree McIntosh (Ga.)
94 Kayla Conroy, Marin (Calif.) Catholic
90 Evelyn Guyer, Durham (N.C.) Academy
88 Grace Mattimore, Cleveland St. Joseph Academy (Ohio)
77 Harmony Hall, Simi Valley Royal (Calif.)
75 Morgan Coleman, Camp Hill Trinity (Pa.)
75 Eva Pronti ,Victor (N.Y.)
70 Taylor Santos, Scotts Valley (Calif.)
70 Riley Mathews, Hinsdale (Ill.) Central
70 Kara O’Shea, South Hamilton Hamilton-Wenham (Mass.)
70 Kelsey Neary, Arlington Heights Hersey (Ill.)

CAREER GOALS
545 Fran Frieri, Lockport (Ill.)
507 Reagan O’Brien, Boston (Mass.) Latin

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

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

This is our last Friday Statwatch for the season; we’ll have a Final Statwatch next month as part of our year-end package.

June 23, 2022 — 37 words, 50 years, so much to accomplish

Today’s the 50th Anniversary of the signing of Title IX of the 1972 Civil Rights Act into law. The legislation guaranteed equal opportunity in educational institutions between men and women.

The law has been lauded for everything from the rise of the WNBA to the increase in the number of women in graduate schools, to the expansion of sports like lacrosse nationwide.

We’ve been looking at various aspects of the women’s sports revolution since 1998. Women now play soccer at world-beating levels, even as the world of men’s soccer is just starting to add money and coaching to teams run by clubs like Barcelona, Olympique Lyonnais, Manchester City, and Club America.

Women run in race cars, whether it’s in their own series such as the former WGGT series and now the W Series under the FIA banner. American women have dominated team sports at the world level, such as basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and softball.

Women play tackle football and have been part of an alphabet soup of leagues over the last 30 years. Women are just starting to get towards pro rugby and cricket in many parts of the world.

But for all of the celebrations of Title IX in the media today, there are a number of shortcomings that don’t get discussed as much.

First of all, the “equality” in Title IX is limited to those institutions receiving Federal funding. And even with the narrowing of discriminatory behavior, there has been enormous inequality in college sports even to this day. This was shown by the infamous Sedona Prince video in 2021 showing the obvious inequality of facilities offered to men’s and women’s basketball teams in the NCAA Tournaments.

Also, equality does not flow through to the media organizations that document the achievements of teams and individuals. Newspapers, blogs, and TV networks can shape the destiny of women’s sports leagues by simply not choosing to report scores on the ticker on the bottom of the screen while showing another game of cornhole or pickleball.

It took enormous pressure and shaming on social media to get ESPN to equalize coverage of men’s and women’s lacrosse, for example. The TV landscape of games went from a ratio of 5 or 6 to 1 between men’s and women’s games, with the title game never getting a nationwide telecast, to a more equal ratio with all games on the women’s side from the quarterfinal onward getting their own broadcast windows, and the women’s final on ESPN.

The equality has also not flowed through to predominantly Black colleges and universities. These days, athletes who attend HBCUs find substandard athletic departments and, frankly, a lot of sports which rely on non-Black participants such as bowling and softball. There are just three HBCUs with women’s lacrosse, and none in the Next Level League which has six men’s teams.

Minority participation in field hockey has lagged far behind every other sport in the NCAA canon. Indeed, the best place to find more minorities is in the scholastic level, where the sport has been expanded in southern California, northern Virginia, and Delaware.

But what limits Title IX is the fact that it does not make businesses treat men and women equally. This was nakedly shown in the current controversy surrounding the LIV Golf Tour, which is run by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, only recently, allowed its female citizens to get drivers’ licenses.

And you notice the dozens of golfers joining the tour and its $100 million paydays? All male. No women.

There is a long way to go.

June 22, 2022 — Legislation in the right place

Over the last few years, there has been a major push in American state legislatures to try to regulate or outright ban transgender high school athletes from competing in interscholastic sports.

Most of these are blanket bans; it wouldn’t matter if you were a basketball player, a swimmer, or a skier: if you compete and identify as a different gender from which you were born, you would not be able to get the benefits of interscholastic athletics.

I’ve always been against these kinds of state regulations, because these are ill-equipped and ill-informed people who are creating more laws and more bureaucracy. I’ve always said that any and all regulations regarding transgender people in sport must be promulgated by the governing bodies of the sport.

In the last week, two such governing bodies have taken action. Last week, the International Cycling Union passed new regulations which doubled the period of time before a rider transitioning from male to female could compete. Even after the transition, a cyclist cannot have more than 2.5 nanomoles per liter of testosterone for a 24-month period before being allowed to compete.

Last Sunday, FINA, the world governing body for swimming, effectively banned any and all transgender women from participating under swimming competitions under their control.

Under the policy, transgender women would have to show that they have not experienced male puberty at any stage before the age of 12, which is an extremely broad brush designed to keep out any and all transgender people out of competitive swimming.

Unlike the ICU, however, FINA is looking to create a competition, an “open” category, for future competition for people who do not meet the criteria for either the men’s or women’s events.

The legalese surrounding this extremely complicated rights issue is certain to build up amongst each and every Olympic and non-Olympic sports — everything from Taekwondo to tackle football, from jai-alai to basketball.

Thing is, there seems to be a push from people who do not want to see equality for men and women, those who see the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs or the IndyCar win for Danica Patrick in 2008, or when pro bowler Kelly Kulick won the 2010 Firestone Tournament of Champions as less of an anomaly and more of an abomination.

I disagree with the latter. The women who won these events earned their way into the sport, competed well, and used their talent to gain a victory.

Thing is, so many women have to do this on a daily basis, whether it is working for a police force, working in an office environment, or providing critical services. And often doing this while making 75 percent of what a male makes in the same job.

To me, the conversation about transgender folks in sports is one which is dwarfed by the issues of inequality between men and women. That’s something that needs to be addressed post-haste.