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Archive for July 8, 2022

July 8, 2022 — The State of Lacrosse, 2022

The biggest development in domestic lacrosse in the last year was the flow-through from the college rules when it came to free movement in the game. In all levels now, the game is a free-flowing contest without the umpires having to play traffic cop as to where players are on a dead whistle.

But a close second had to have been the inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse. The teams played six weeks’ worth of games at the South Germantown Soccerplex in Boyds, Md. A number of players such as Kayla Treanor, Sam Apuzzo, Kylie Ohlmiller, and Taylor Cummings, as expected, did very well in the league. Other players, such as defender Kayla Wood and goalies Caylee Waters, Kady Glynn, and Britt Read, were able to find out ways to take advantage of the points system that was used to determine a single overall winner.

That winner was Cummings. But she and a number of World Cup players decided not to play the second season of AU Lacrosse, allowing a new generation of athlete to join up.

As expected, Charlotte North, the two-time Tewaaraton Award-winner, joined AU. So did Canada’s Aurora Cordingley and Honda Award-winner Jamie Ortega of UNC. But a couple of non-recent collegians joined the AU pool: Molly Wolf and Kerrigan Miller. The next AU season starts later this month at U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md.

The 2022 collegiate lacrosse season, as you might expect, came down to Ortega’s UNC Tar Heels and North’s BC Eagles. The two sides were very much different sides of the lacrosse coin. North Carolina relied on precision and tactics, while Boston College used its physical prowess.

North, in winning her second Tewaaraton award, scored goals which were artful in their buildup as well as their execution. During an early-season game against Northwestern, she scored a pair of goals when she evaded triple- and quadruple-teaming in order to find net. Her teammates, such as Jenn Medjid, followed her lead as the Eagles made the NCAA final for a fifth straight season.

On the other sideline for the final was none other than Ortega, the Honda Award winner. But key to UNC’s ultimate win over Boston College in the final were a number of grad-school transfers, such as former Notre Dame midfielder Andie Aldave and former Richmond attacker Sam Geiersbach, each of whom chipped in key goals for the Heels. Geiersbach was particularly magnificent in the NCAA semifinal win over Northwestern, scoring five goals in an eight-goal rally in the final 10 minutes of play.

UNC was not the only team benefitting from the post-COVID rules regarding grad-student play and the transfer portal. The University of Maryland were able to get Cordingley from nearby Johns Hopkins and Abby Bosco from the University of Pennsylvania and turned themselves into an instant contender.

Pittsburgh also did well for itself in its startup season in Division I, getting former Virginia Tech sniper Paige Petty through the transfer portal.

Aside from UNC winning the Division I title, it was Indianapolis winning NCAA Division II, Middlebury winning DIvision III, and Benedictine College winning the NAIA title.

The U.S. collegiate scene may have graduated a number of good players, but the coaching ranks are suffering significant losses in the offseason. Chris Paradis is retiring after 27 years at Amherst, Carol Cantele is leaving after 30 years at Gettysburg, Janine Tucker is leaving Johns Hopkins after 28 years, and Chris Sailer is leaving Princeton after 36 years. That’s just four coaches, but they are leaving a void of more than a century and a quarter of coaching experience.

Other coaches have been making moves in the last year. Mindy McCord, who spent more than a decade in north Florida building Jacksonville into a good mid-major team, will be looking to take the University of South Florida into Division I. Also, Allison Kwolek is prepping Clemson for its inaugural Division I season, and the current coaching staffs of Bellarmine and Lindenwood are preparing their teams for the jump from Division II.

In the schools, major attention was focused on New York, an area which did not see state championships a year ago, but only regional titles. One major midseason event for schools in the Empire State was the Gains for Brains Showcase on Long Island, which featured seven intersectional games. The first of them was a most memorable one, as Northport, the No. 1 team in last year’s Top 10, met up with New Canaan (Conn.).

In the game, Northport was about to take a lead into the halftime break, but suffered a yellow card in the final minute. Not only did that one rash challenge alter the team talk, it altered the entire course of the contest.

Under NFHS regulations, yellow cards are non-releaseable. This allowed New Canaan to score three goals during the penalty, taking the lead. New Canaan, upon seizing the momentum, went on to seize the ball, holding onto it for the first nine minutes of the second half as the Rams ran out winners on the day.

New Canaan had three memorable games with Route 124 rival, Darien (Conn.). They met in the regular season, in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference tournament, and in the state Class “L” final in an unforgettable trio of games. New Canaan won two of three from their county rivals, winning the state title.

Two other rivals also managed a trio of derby matches for the ages. Summit (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) met in the regular season, for the Union County Tournament, and in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final. Summit was able to win two of three in winning the final T of C for girls’ lacrosse.

But the greatest competition that occurred during the 2022 season was in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland. Now, the IAAM has always been one of the top leagues in the country for talent alone, but the league also became the singular experimental league for the NCAA’s 90-second possession clock. It was used in all “A” and “B”-Division matches.

During the 2022 season, the teams in the “A” Division were competitive and brought the best attributes out of each other. League fixtures were a happening, and oftentimes brought out situations where umpires had to scramble to the scorer’s table for the rulebook. This happened in a late-season contest between the first American scholastic team, Baltimore Bryn Mawr (Md.) and Severn Archbishop Spalding (Md.).

During the game, the Spalding coaching staff noticed that the Bryn Mawr goalie was not wearing hip pads, which are a specific requirement in the rulebook. Bryn Mawr didn’t have any hip padding available for its goalkeeper, so the team, holding on to a 10-goal lead at the time of the discovery, chose to use 12 outfielders the rest of the way and still won by seven.

The keen competition continued into the season-ending tournament. In the final, Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) was able to win draws, hold onto the ball, and outlast Glenelg (Md.) Country School 15-7 in the title match.

The world of girls’ lacrosse was able to stretch and grow in this post-pandemic season. More and more teams traveled longer distances for road games and for tournaments like the St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes Spring Fling and the Gains for Brains Showcase, although the schedule lost out on the Katie Samson Festival, which was discontinued.

In addition, there are now competing organizations to try to identify a national high school girls’ lacrosse championship. As was the case last year, there were two tournaments, one held in Elkridge, Md. and one in Farmington, Conn.

One record-setting player managed to do something that no other lacrosse player — male or female — has done. During the 2022 season, senior Fran Frieri scored exactly 200 goals in leading Lockport (Ill.) to its deepest Illinois state championship run in history.

Frieri, who broke the single-season goal-scoring record last year, managed to exceed the greatest goal-scoring total for a four-year varsity career (540, by Soph Turchetta). The kicker is that she was able to do this in just three seasons, since she lost her sophomore season to the global pandemic. You’ll get to see her at the University of Notre Dame this coming year.

In addition, a second player, Reagan O’Brien of Boston (Mass.) Latin, exceeded the rarefied air of 500 goals and 700 combined goals and assists. She and Corinne Wessels, Sophia Turchetta, and Caitlyn Wurzburger are the only four scholastic players who have figured in the scoring of 700 varsity tallies during their careers. O’Brien helped the Latin side to an 11-8 record in 2022.

The world of lacrosse has had some cultural issues in the last couple of years. First off, of course, was the role that a number of universities with women’s lacrosse programs had in the college admissions scandal. There was also a large story, which has since undergone a retraction, about the lengths to which some parents went in order to get players exposed to coaches in the club lacrosse system. That story, in The Atlantic, had plenty of grains of truth despite its eventual retraction.

The world of collegiate women’s lacrosse was roiled by two incidents of racial bias directed against women’s teams from historically-black colleges. In one incident, fraternity hangers-on directed racial epithets at the Howard University team as they were playing Presbyterian College. In another, Georgia law enforcement stopped and searched the Delaware State University team bus as it was traveling from a road trip. This incident has spurred a civil rights lawsuit.

But rising from those incidents has been not only a conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion in lacrosse. There has been a lot of talk, but the 2022 United States women’s lacrosse team had no persons of color in the lineup.

There has been action elsewhere, however. The Nations United lacrosse team won two pools at the U.S. Lacrosse National Championships in Bel Air, Md. this past May. Also, the Sound On crew of Tari Kandemiri and Amari Powell were the halftime talent on the NCAA semifinals and finals. This duo of former players has added a lot of knowledge and a bit of sass to lacrosse announcing.

And speaking of inclusion, the rights-holder of the NCAA Tournament, ESPN, listened to criticism and gave discrete broadcast windows to the four quarterfinal matches in the Division I tournament, and even broadcast the national final on ESPN, generating record ratings. The network also gained the rights to Athletes Unlimited and the FIL Women’s World Cup, cornering the market on top women’s lacrosse content.

There is one interesting development that could have great bounty in the future. Investors and the NXT Level television network put together a six-week spring competition amongst historically black colleges, with the men’s teams from Delaware State, Lincoln, Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State, and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore playing under the Lacrosse Sixes format.

There’s no women’s league yet. But that could change.