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May 17, 2022 — Top 10 for the week of May 15

It’s been said that NCAA lacrosse is “May Madness.” But the girls’ scholastic game is seeing more than its share of amazing games in the month of May. Not only did we see exciting denouements in to the seasons in Florida and in the IAAM postseason, but the Maryland public schools and the Virginia independent schools are ramping up.

Tonight sees an exciting morsel as No. 2 Glenelg (Md.) takes on No. 10 Sykesville Century (Md) at 6:30 p.m. These two schools have played championship-level lacrosse for decades on opposite sides of Interstate 70 as it runs through the Free State countryside.

1. Darien (Conn.) 15-0
The Blue Wave commence with FCIAC Tournament play this Thursday against Trumbull St. Joseph’s (Conn.)

2. Glenelg (Md.) 15-0
The Gladiators take on a good Sykesville Century (Md.) team in the MPSSAA Class 3A West regional title game this evening after a weather delay

3. Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) 17-1
Season complete: Took everything that Glenelg Country gave them three weeks ago in a 20-7 loss and eased out to a 15-7 win in the IAAM “A” final

4. Victor (N.Y.) 15-1
Team is reaching its stride with recent wins over Baldwinsville (N.Y.) as well as Rush-Henrietta (N.Y.)

5. New Canaan (Conn.) 14-2
The Rams are the third-ranked team in the upcoming FCIAC Tournament and have a rematch against Westport Staples (Conn.) in the quarterfinal round

6. Westwood (Mass.) 13-0
Wolverines beat Franklin (Mass.) 6-5 last week in a game which should be a bellweather for the MIAA season

7. Glenelg (Md.) Country School 16-1
Season complete: Dragons take on a good Baltimore Bryn Mawr (Md.) side in the semifinals of the IAAM Class “A” Tournament

8. Northport (N.Y.) 14-1
The defending sectional champions are rounding into form for a deep postseason run

9. Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 18-0
Patriots beat Philadelphia Penn Charter (Pa.) and Springfield (Pa.) to close out the regular season

10. Sykesville Century (Md.) 14-0
It’s a shame that the state’s Class 3A championship may be decided in Century’s match against Glenelg (Md.) in a contest broadcast on the NFHS Network

Who’s out: Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 13-9 loss to Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.).

And bear in mind: Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 18-2, Sykesville Century (Md.) 14-0, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 15-3, Ridgewood (N.J.) 14-3, Summit (N.Y.) 15-2, Rush-Henrietta (N.Y.) 13-2, South Huntington St. Anthony (N.Y.) 14-2, Bronxville (N.Y.) 15-1

May 16, 2022 — #VARnow

In May 2016, Florida was eliminated from the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse tournament despite seemingly scoring a goal in the final seconds of play. The goal, however, was not given despite video evidence to the contrary.

One year later, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins played a wild and rainy Big Ten Conference match which saw a late goal, possibly scored after the horn (which was the NCAA rule at the time), leading to a Wildcats overtime win.

Yesterday, Boston College forward Jenn Medjid hit the twine in a game against Denver. The umpires called a goal, although the ball was sitting on the back of the goal, with the shot having missed the frame.

These aren’t the only controversial calls which have happened in the last few years. But, even with the three-umpire system commonly used in college lacrosse, it’s become readily apparent that the game at its highest levels needs some form of a video assistant referee (or VAR).

I don’t think it should be the kind of “eye in the sky” supervision like it is in the National Hockey League, where a game can be stopped at any minute with a call from Toronto. I’m also not sold on the “umpire referral” system which is used in field hockey, where a game official can, at any time, review a play on video.

Instead, I think it should be a challenge system like it is in the NFL, where a coach can ask for one video review per half, and if the coach’s two challenges are upheld, the team gets a third challenge.

I think there should also be optional umpire referrals in the final two minutes of a half. But the referrals should only be limited to the following:

  1. Status of the ball (out of bounds, goal shots)
  2. Status of the clock (resetting of the possession clock, or the running of one clock and the stoppage of another)
  3. Review of certain fouls, including the “water polo” accumulation of fouls in the midfield leading to a green card

One limitation to this kind of review is judging stick checks inside the invisible sphere surrounding a player’s head. We’ve seen a number of missed calls over the years when it was somewhat obvious that a stick contacted a players’ head, but no sanction came of it.

I’m sure you can go to many reunions of college teams when this topic is discussed, especially when an opposing player, not having been called for a second yellow card during a game, scored the telling goal.

Given the number of sports these days which use video officiating these days, it’s mind-boggling that NCAA lacrosse is not on board.

It’s beyond past time for VAR in lacrosse, and it needs to be voted on and voted in without delay.

May 15, 2022 — An appreciation: Chris Sailer, head coach, Princeton University

Back when I was working in the dailies, we were extremely fortunate to have several Hall-of-Fame coaches to cover along with their championship-level teams.

One of these coaches was Chris Sailer, whose 36-year coaching career at Princeton ended earlier today with a loss to Syracuse.

Chris Sailer is a dream interview. She told you what you needed to know, with the same kind of passion that she had for the sport. You could ask about small details and small nuances of the sport and she would give you a good answer.

Sailer’s career is not only defined by her three national championships, but the quality of form her teams had in the years surrounding them. Between 1992 and 1996, Princeton made the Final Four every year. In three of those years (1993-95), the Tigers made the title game, winning the 1994 championship.

The next decade, Princeton made the Final Four every year between 2000 and 2004, making it to the national final four out of those five seasons, whilst winning the 2003 and 2004 titles.

Now, if you’ve been reading this site since it started in 1998, you couldn’t help but think that most of the last 30 years of NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse was defined by Maryland and Northwestern.

Not so. Chris Sailer has had an influence upon the game which is underappreciated by most of today’s pundits.

Back in the early 1990s, so the story goes, she figured out a way to try to take advantage of the regulations as they were written. Back then, there were no outer boundaries or restraining lines on the field, meaning that a team could bring all 11 outfielders into the attack end, then try to run a play so that an opposing attack player (who would not be likely to have the same kind of defensive training) would have to mark the team’s better attacking threats.

Watching Sailer’s offense — a scheme which would be adopted by many schools at the time — was like watching the video game Surround, as the teams would occupy the space near the 12-meter fan, move around, pick and curl, and try to either shake a player free or create a mismatch.

Sailer’s scheme would prompt many college coaches to recruit players who could fill many positions so that a mismatch would be less likely under the 11-on-11 scheme.

It’s very much a tribute to Sailer’s coaching that Princeton’s teams were able to adapt to the phalanx of rules changes that have infiltrated the game, even up until today.

But one hallmark of Princeton’s coach was the way that she got to know her players and how she regarded them as members of an extended family. Since 1999, she handed out cotton short-sleeved shirts for pre-game warmups. Each had a different word printed on the back of them, a characteristic or contribution that the player brought to the Tigers.

The words on the back of the shirts were different every year and no player got the same word during their time on varsity. Some examples over the years: SOUL. WRATH. TOGETHER. RESPECT.

The last few years have been hard not only on Sailer, but on many Ivy League coaches. The Council of Ivy Group Presidents refused to allow Ivy League student-athletes to claim a fifth year of eligibility, which saw a tremendous drain of athletes into the transfer portal and, more importantly, to rival teams in other conferences.

Indeed, since an NCAA quarterfinal loss to Boston College in 2019, Princeton saw the field only five times in two years. It was not supposed to have been the best omen for the Tigers for the 2022 season, but the team won its first six matches of the season, including three over ranked teams.

Princeton would win its 16th Ivy League championship under Sailer, largely on an eight-game win streak that ended today against Syracuse.

This weekend has been tough on lacrosse coaching legends, and the world of Division I NCAA women’s lacrosse won’t be the same without Chris Sailer and Janine Tucker.

May 14, 2022 — An appreciation: Janine Tucker, head coach, Johns Hopkins University

The circumstances of Janine Tucker’s final game as the head coach of the Johns Hopkins University women’s lacrosse team were replete with irony.

The loss in yesterday’s first-round game was a 17-12 defeat to the same Duke University which ended Hopkins’ deepest-ever run in the NCAA Division I Tournament, a quarterfinal loss in 2007. That 2007 Duke team would go on to squander a 10-goal lead to Virginia in the Final Four in Philadelphia.

The site of yesterday’s swansong was the University of Maryland. The irony there is that Hopkins’ best player from last year, Aurora Cordingley, transferred there to take advantage of a grad-school year, and has been nominated for the Tewaaraton Trophy emblematic of the best player in the collegiate game.

Tucker has been through a lot the last 29 years as coach at Johns Hopkins, not the least of which was the move of the entire program from Division III to Division I, to be at an equal level with the legendary men’s team.

This site dropped in on a couple of Hop’s games in the first Division I season in the spring of 1999. What I got from Tucker is the sense of positive reinforcement when it came to her team talks. There was some stern talk when it came to how to improve, but the words were never cutting or cruel. And whatever was said was ended with a smile on her face.

Mind you, this was two decades before Ted Lasso.

“It’s a choice,” she said after the loss to Duke yesterday. “I tell my team, ‘It’s OK to be sad, it’s OK to be disappointed, but we’re not going to live in that space.’ What we’re going to choose to do is really enjoy each other to the very bitter end. We can still have those emotions because they are competitors and they are fighters. But they also understand that they’re going to give each other the kind of energy to lift each other up versus this incredible despair or sadness and bring each other down.”

Janine Tucker was not only known for her coaching, but for her off-field efforts within the lacrosse community. When Loyola coach Diane Geppi-Aikens waged a very public battle with brain cancer between 1995 and 2003, Tucker was the person organizing coaches and others for fundraising runs and other behind-the-scenes needs such as administering her memorial website. She also delivered her former coach’s final words at her funeral.

Immediately after that, Tucker steered Hopkins to its most successful era. Paced by the mercurial attacker Mary Key, the Blue Jays made the NCAA Tournament the next four seasons, and were one game away from making the 2007 Final Four, but were stymied by Duke.

After that were some lean years, but the team has managed to recover. Johns Hopkins, over the last seven seasons, has been a dark-horse contender for NCAA honors. But it must be said that the silverware cabinet is still dwarfed by the men’s team — a men’s team that has been playing for more than 100 years, mind you. Tucker has only won one major trophy for the team: the 2001 ECAC Division I championship.

But you can’t blame her or the Blue Jays for not trying. During her time in Division I, she’s been unfortunate to have to face the likes of Northwestern and Maryland (winners of 15 national titles since 1999) during their membership in the American Lacrosse Conference or in their Big Ten Conference games.

Somehow, I don’t think she’d have it any other way.

May 13, 2022 — Friday Statwatch for games played through May 11

This week’s statistical occurrence is obvious. With nine goals last night in a win over Lincoln-Way Central (Ill.), Fran Frieri, the fine senior from Lockport (Ill.), became the fifth member of the 500-goal club.

Mind you, it’s a 500-goal club which includes more than one athlete who competed in more than the four-year varsity career that most publications recognize. If, for example, you wanted to count just the freshman through senior years in high school, the current leaders are these:

540 Sophia Turchetta
520 Taylor Pinzone
501 Fran Frieri
485 Bridget Ruskey
479 Jane Earley

All five of these players are from the 2010s, but the commonalities amongst the five are few. Yes, three of them are from Massachusetts and just about all of them were forwards, although Turchetta was known to be on the draw team at times.

But Frieri has one big upside: she has scored all of her goals in just three varsity seasons. Lockport lost the 2020 season to the global pandemic, and it is an open question as to how many other records she could have eclipsed in four full seasons. But she’ll have the rest of this scholastic season to try to eclipse Turchetta’s four-year mark before taking her talents to Notre Dame.

The figures in red below are compiled from 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
156 Fran Frieri, Lockport (Ill.)
144 Sara Williams, Winter Haven All Saints Academy (Fla.)
126 Cassidy Jones, Memphis White Station (Tenn.)
119 Hayden Head, Lewisville Forsyth Country Day School (Ga.)
117 Kayleen Favreau, Holly Springs (N.C.)
113 Sydnee-Anne Mueller, El Segundo (Calif.)
113 Sienha Chirieleison, Camp Hill Trinity (Pa.)
112 Annabelle Biggar, Lafayette Dawson School (Colo.)
108 Brooklyn Suttlemyre, Syracuse (Utah)
107 Riley Cormier, Denver Northfield (Colo.)
107 Trinity Cassidy, Snellville Brookwood (Ga.)
106 Brinley Christiansen, Pensacola (Fla.) Catholic
106 Caroline Ling, Springboro (Ohio)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
94 Kayla Conroy, Marin (Calif.) Catholic
93 Riley Nee, Hampstead Topsail (N.C.)
93 Ryann Banks, Peachtree McIntosh (Ga.)
82 Evelyn Guyer, Durham (N.C.) Academy
69 Taylor McGovern, Parkland Margery Stoneman Douglas (Fla.)
67 Emily Philips, Wake Forest (N.C.)
65 Taylor Santos Scotts Valley (Calif.)
64 Morgan Coleman, Camp Hill Trinity (Pa.)
64 Maggie Wilson, Boca Raton (Fla.)
64 Grace Mattimore, Cleveland St. Joseph Academy (Ohio)
62 Kayla Nguyen, Cary Green Hope (N.C.)
61 Frances Poch, Charleston Bishop England (S.C.)
61 Lauren Hayden, Newport Croatan (N.C.)

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

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

We’re pretty sure that these aren’t 100 percent complete, so here is where you come in. If there’s something that needs a correction, please 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 stopping in and settin’ a spell. See you next week.

May 12, 2022 — What have we learned from the Rise series?

Well, the U.S. U-18 Rise field hockey team is consistent. In the first two Tests against Canada this week at the Proving Grounds in Conshohocken, Pa., the States have run out 5-2 winners.

In each game, the States have shown some flashes of individual brilliance. There was a segment in Game 1 when U.S. center forward Lauren Kenah attacked along the baseline and appeared to melt through three opposing Canadian defenders. The States have scored on field goals as well as penalty corners, and have shown pretty good field generalship in the final third.

About the only thing you could fault the U.S. for are some pretty generous turnovers. One, on a bad set on a penalty corner, led to the first Canadian goal in the second Test. The ball went under the U.S. battery and Canada ran a perfect snowbird for the goal.

But the defense has had its moments, and will be looking to build on those moments and lessons learned in order to improve their careers at the next level.

For now, however, there will be two more games against Canada this week before the U-16s play for four games in Surrey, B.C. against the Young Leafs.

May 11, 2022 — A big social media story impacts the lacrosse community and the wider world

For the last week or so, the story which has gone viral on Twitter in the women’s lacrosse community is the video of three uniformed law enforcement officers in Georgia searching the team bus of the Delaware State women’s lacrosse team during a traffic stop 20 days ago.

It is the third time that a lacrosse team or lacrosse players of color have been harassed in the past two years. Last year, a men’s lacrosse game between Emmanuel College and the University of the South was called off because of racist epithets on the part of Sewanee fans, and this year, the Howard women’s lacrosse team was the target of racist taunts by students at Presbyterian College.

Only this time, the harassers were wearing weapons and badges. They searched the bus for drugs and made statements to the players as if they were adjuged to be guilty of breaking the law without proof or probable cause. The team was let go after 45 minutes without charge.

Given the national conversation about police overreach and misconduct, I’m not surprised about the traction this story is getting. At the moment, everyone from the Delaware governor to activists in both Georgia and Delaware, as well as Del State students have been weighing in.

Yesterday, Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman read a six-minute statement defending the stop. Tellingly, he did not take questions from reporters.

“It should not be lost on any of us how thin any day’s line is between customary and extraordinary, between humdrum and exceptional, between safe and victimized,” said Delaware State University president Tony Allen. “This is true for all of us but particularly so for communities of color and the institutions who serve them.”

And it says here that the police officers did not serve its public well on that day.

May 10, 2022 — Top 10 for the week of May 3

As the nation’s best girls’ lacrosse conference, the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, draws to a close this week, we’re also seeing representatives of some other good lacrosse areas such as the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC). Their postseason tournament, a prelude to the Connecticut state tournament, is another opportunity for Darien and New Canaan to meet again. But then again, watch out for the likes of Wilton, a team more than capable of winning the state title.

1. Darien (Conn.) 13-0
The Blue Wave played Moorestown (N.J.) yesterday and have Fairfield Ludlowe (Conn.) Thursday to finish out the regular season

2. Glenelg (Md.) 13-0
The Gladiators have four 25-goal scorers in their lineup, spreading out their scoring

3. Glenelg (Md.) Country School 16-1
Dragons take on a good Baltimore Bryn Mawr (Md.) side in the semifinals of the IAAM Class “A” Tournament

4. Victor (N.Y.) 12-1
There’s a reason why they beat Canandaigua this year and are a favorite for state honors; a team which can play lock-down defense

5. New Canaan (Conn.) 11-2
The Rams play Westport Staples (Conn.) and Norwalk (Conn.) back-to-back

6. Westwood (Mass.) 10-0
Wolverines host a Franklin (Mass.) team that took them to the brink in last year’s state final

7. Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) 15-1
The Gators play an athletic and motivated Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) in today’s IAAM “A” semifinal

8. Northport (N.Y.) 12-1
Tigers got by East Setauket Ward Melville (N.Y.) 9-9

9. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 15-2
The Eagles need to win more than their share of draws in order to get past Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) in the IAAM Class “A” semifinals

10. Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 16-0
A game next week against Philadelphia Penn Charter (Pa.) looms large as the Patriots head into the postseason

Who’s out: Canandaigua Academy, lost 13-12 to Rush-Henrietta (N.Y.) and to Victor (N.Y.) 6-2.

And bear in mind: Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 18-2, Sykesville Century (Md.) 13-0, Ridgewood (N.J.) 13-2, Rush-Henrietta (N.Y.) 13-1, South Huntington St. Anthony (N.Y.) 12-2, Bronxville (N.Y.) 14-1

May 9, 2022 — A prescient story

It was in May 1995 when I first saw Christa Samaras on a lacrosse pitch. She completely took over an NCAA Division I semifinal against Dartmouth with her enthusiasm and relentless energy in a 13-8 win.

It turns out that day was the last time we would see Sarah Devens on a lacrosse field. Her own enthusiasm and relentless energy masked personal demons which would see her take her own life in July of that year.

Last week, Samaras was the subject for a Forbes Magazine story, detailing her own mental health struggles at the time. Reading her struggle against suicide is a complete shocker and eye-opener that one of the greatest female lacrosse players our country has ever produced almost never stepped on that world stage.

As far back as the early 90s, while attending Annapolis (Md.), she was looking for a way out, including trying to see if there was a gun in her household.

“If I had found one,” she tells Forbes, “it would have been over.”

In this month, set aside for mental health awareness, we’ve been reading numerous accounts of struggle on the part of not only female athletes, but just plain folks who have found the Global Pandemic Era one of extreme emotion and trauma.

The Samaras story has had me going back over a quarter-century of mental notes about people I have seen in the sports world. Were there frowns when I asked questions? Was there a quaver or tremor in a voice? Did the behavior of an athlete or coach change over time? Were there coaches who, while finding success on the pitch, were creating numerous individual mental health crises off it?

I have my own suppositions regarding the role of coaching in the downward spiral of athletes. In some of the support areas of the teams, if you brought up the name of a player who may have flunked out of school or had a drop in form that relegated them to the bench, the player was dismissed as either a “head case” or a “lost soul.”

As we are all learning from the examples of Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, and other athletes who have either retired or withdrawn from competitions citing the need for a mental health break, the need for such a break has existed for long, long before.

I always observed, during the early 1990s in covering field hockey, that often the best goalkeepers were burnt-out soccer players. And I knew there were plenty of burnt-out soccer players who were going to camps and training events like the Olympic Development Program, all hoping to become the next Michelle Akers, Mary Harvey, or Lisa Gmitter (the U.S. right winger immediately before a legend named Mia Hamm came along).

I have seen different forms of what could be called abusive behavior. It wasn’t all about raised voices or raised hands, but commenting on appearance sometimes. I have seen more than one Division I athlete starve themselves and overtrain because their coach talked about a player’s baby fat.

And I have also seen overtraining like you wouldn’t believe. I once attended a week-long training camp for first-year students and walk-ons for a college field hockey program. The group numbered more than 60 at the start of the week, but were whittled down to about a dozen in about five days. It’s this kind of “survival of the fittest” which has often claimed promising players because of devastating lower-body injuries borne of overtraining, overstress, and dry, old-style artificial turf laid out on concrete.

Now, we’ve seen a major exodus in coaching in the last two years — not just in terms of field hockey or girls’ and women’s lacrosse, but in sports overall. Great leaders such as Mike Krzyzewski, Anne Horton, John Savage, C. Vivian Stringer, Laurie Berger, Jay Wright, and Karen Doxey have walked away from their coaching positions in the last few months.

I understand that some of them may be seeing the evils of the NLI on the horizon. It’s gotten to the point where high-school students are now receiving money to endorse products like athletic wear.

And maybe, just maybe, these coaches are looking for a mental-health break of their own, given the pressure to build on past success.

BULLETIN: May 8, 2022 — The NCAA Division I goals mark has fallen

With a pair of goals in the Big South Conference final against Mercer, High Point graduate student Abby Hormes has eclipsed the year-old record of Charlotte North for the number of goals scored in a collegiate season.

Her two goals give her 103 on the season, beating North’s mark of 102 from North’s Tewaaraton-winning total.

HPU, however, were defeated in the Big South title match today, and are unlikely to be selected as an At-Large bid to the NCAA Division I Tournament later tonight.

North, by the way, has 75 goals on the season, and could have as many as four games left in her stellar college career.