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Feb. 7, 2019 — A color choice

Today, I made a conscious choice to wear orange.

It’s not necessarily because of my affinity towards a particular sport or sports team, but it was a shout-out to my graduate school, The Maxwell School of Syracuse University. It has been more or less the top-ranked school for public administration the last two decades.

I have a deep and firm belief in the goodness of governance and public trust. A people, united behind good leadership, can form communities and societies where people take care of themselves and each other, build roads and bridges, and make a good living.

The last week has tested my beliefs, especially when I look at what has been going on in Virginia.

Three high-ranking officials have come under scandalous scrutiny for things that they had done in their past.

As they should.

The thing is, the whole blowup has occurred only a few days before the effective end of the legislative session. There is business to get done, laws to get passed, budgets to be put into place.

After all of the punditry over the weekend and the wailing and gnashing of teeth, I find it interesting that the scandals have not (yet) shifted the focus off of the work at hand.

Which may be the miracle of this entire enterprise. After all, we are in a different era in our national politics.

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Feb. 6, 2019 — A milestone, but for what?

Today is National Girls and Women In Sports Day, and it’s usually a day to celebrate participation in athletic activities by women and girls across the nation.

But I think the state of women’s sports in America is at a crossroads — not because of attitudes, but because of a lack of management capability.

The WNBA still is at the same membership (12 teams) that it was in 1999, and the league has never been in a third of the NBA’s markets after 25 years of operation. Stories of players not being able to earn money in the offseason are legion; Kristi Toliver’s income is capped with her position as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Washington Wizards, for example. And when she plays her WNBA schedule this summer for the Washington Mystics, she and her teammates have to go miles out to a practice facility in Congress Heights, not in the downtown arena where the Mystics were the hottest ticket in town their first two seasons, even whilst losing 57 games.

The world of American women’s soccer is being sullied by a crisis happening in its only USSF-certified Division I league. Just a few months before the United States is going to be asked to win a World Cup in France, the NWSL’s low-budget approach is being challenged by high-dollar teams in Europe willing not only to spend for talented players, but to give them much better working conditions than currently exist in the U.S.

Indeed, the Seattle Reign, not willing to play in a tiny high-school football stadium, moved its operations to Tacoma, and is now simply called Reign F.C. There is also a fan revolt in New Jersey as Sky Blue FC has seen a number of its 2019 draftees opt to play in Europe.

Softball, despite being given back its slot in the Olympic program, had only three professional teams in last year’s league. The National Pro Fast Pitch League had to literally import the national select teams of China and Australia to fill out a 49-game schedule.

And there are still two rival leagues in both women’s lacrosse (the UWLX and WPLL), and women’s ice hockey (CWHL and NWHL) despite the very short history of all four circuits. Women’s tackle football is still a very scattershot prospect, though there are about 70 teams active yearly.

Yes, there’s much more participation in these activities on a national level than there was 20 years ago. But the professionalism in each of these activities has stagnated. Women still have to find money (as well as time) to participate in tackle football. Stipends for most of the other sports barely cover living and travel expenses.

Sponsors and TV networks have yet to come forward, even as a handful of media companies have started monetizing men’s athletic competitions to degrees yet unseen. It’s as if these networks (I’m looking right at you, ESPN) won’t even give women a chance to get their league on TV even as entire men’s leagues are being put behind digital paywalls.

I’ve been upset that many of these great female athletes have not taken a stand on their lot in life.

I think they deserve better. Don’t you?

Feb. 5, 2019 — Expansion in women’s lacrosse is never simple

It was 13 years ago when we wrote this.

Had we written this text for women’s lacrosse, we’d have been right about a couple of these, but the campuses that now have the game — everything from Shepard University in West Virginia to Hampton University in Norfolk, from Millsaps College in Mississippi to the nascent men’s varsity program at the University of Utah — are spreading, albeit unpredictably.

That being said, we’re going to try to take a whack at what we think the next 10 top universities to adopt varsity women’s lacrosse will be:

  1. Wake Forest — Would be an instant contender in the nation’s finest women’s lacrosse conference, plus an instant rival to Duke and UNC.
  2. Michigan State — With the quality of student-athlete now populating Michigan’s campus, I would think adding a women’s sport in East Lansing will go some way in creating a new history for the beleaguered athletic department.
  3. Illinois — Given the expansion of the sport in Illinois the last decade amongst the prep ranks, I’m befuddled that there isn’t a concerted effort to start a team in Urbana-Champaign to rival that of Northwestern.
  4. Tennessee — A school which is the gateway to the Deep South, and one which has always had a strong women’s athletics program.
  5. Georgia — Ditto.
  6. Providence — Given the sport’s reach in the Northeast U.S., it’s befuddling that this Big East school had not had the sport at the varsity level
  7. St. John’s — Ditto.
  8. Arizona — A team which could easily be brought into the Pac-12 to be a rival to Arizona State
  9. Florida State — Given the growth of the sport in the Sunshine State as well as the enormous money being plowed into the school’s athletic department, there’s no reason not to add this ACC school to the lineup.
  10. Miami — Ditto.

Now, I recognize that most of these picks are going to add to already-established conferences instead of a pick like, say, Boise State. But I think these 10 schools would solidify the presence of the sport not only in their conference, but in the location where the school sits.

If only that could happen in California in the next few years, we’d truly have a coast-to-coast game.

Feb. 4, 2019 — The opponent of my opponent …

The highlight of girls’ scholastic lacrosse’s version of “the hot stove” is when the schedule for Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) is posted on the school’s website. It is there where the Eagles show who they think are some of the better teams to play when they make their annual Southern swing.

In past years, McDonogh has played the likes of Vero Beach (Fla.), Milton (Ga.) and even a Novato (Calif.) with the nation’s leading goal-scorer, Charlie Rudy.

On March 16, McDonogh is playing Florida’s super-prep team, Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.). Two days later, it is a Delray American Heritage (Fla.) side with assist record-holder Caitlyn Wurzburger. Moreover, the Eagles make a trip to Long Island for an April 6th tilt with Manhasset (N.Y.).

It’s a challenging national schedule for sure, but the Eagles are more notable for playing in a very tough league, the IAAM’s “A” Flight.

And make a note of last year’s championship rematch as McDonogh visits Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) on April 25th.

Feb. 3, 2019 — NCAA Division III preview

AL’S FEARLESS 5IVE
Gettysburg
Middlebury
College of New Jersey
Salisbury

York

The Gettysburg Bullets won their second straight Division III title last spring, and, while graduating a significant portion of their offense, still brings Steph Colson (50 goals) and Liza Barr (46) to this year’s campaign. Colson and Courtney Patterson combined for nearly 200 draw controls last year, which means that their offense won’t be starved for possessions.

A year ago, the Bullets vanquished Middlebury, which returns all but two of their top scorers. The Panthers are doing to have to find someone on the draw circle to replace the endeavor of Hollis Perticone, who had 150 draw controls a year ago. The key, however, is the goal circle. Middlebury replaced sophomore Julia Keith with junior Kate Furber deep into the NCAA Tournament, and so it will be interesting to see who head coach Kate Livesay goes with this season.

A team which has always been in the mix is the College of New Jersey. But this team could make a deep, deep run in the tournament in an attempt to win its first national lacrosse title in 13 years. The Lions’ top four point-scorers — Olivia Cleale, Kathleen Jaeger, Alexandra Fitzpatrick, and Allie Gorman — return for the Lions. Miranda Chrone will return for her senior season in the goal cage.

If there is a team that could become the danger team, it’s Salisbury. The Gulls are young after having so many senior-laden teams the last decade, and their leading returning scorer, Emma Skoglund, has one career start. The defense for Salisbury is strong, between defenders Anna Wehland, Martha Hutzell, Carrie Hessen and Kendall Bannan. If they can congeal and bring confidence to goalie Skye Graham, watch out.

Another team to keep an eye out for are the York Spartans. Meghan Fox (57 goals) and Regan Cook (40) return, as well as top assister Devin Hursey (32). Nicole Clauter led the team in draw controls a year ago, and she is a defensive menace, helping the Spartans to hold opponents to about 7 1/2 goals a game.

BULLETIN: Feb. 2, 2019 — USA 2, Argentina 2 (Argentina wins 3-1 in penalty shootout)

If you had to make “keys to the game,” for the United States’ FIH Pro League opener against Argentina, the list would have looked something like this:

  1. Let the young players create and make plays;
  2. First tackle, first foul, first goal;
  3. Get a point.

Consider all of them done.

The U.S. women’s national team, having been rebuilt after a 13th-place finish at last summer’s World Cup, went down to Cordoba, Argentina — during South American summertime, mind you — and came out with a point.

And there were opportunities for the points haul to have been two, as the States took a 2-0 lead into the interval with scores by Mackenzie Allessie (her second goal in three international caps) and Lauren Moyer.

The game also saw Kealsie Robles, late of Old Dominion, play splendidly in what was only her fourth international appearance at the senior level.

The road point keeps the United States off the bottom of the league table, albeit China, Team GB, and Germany have not yet played a match. But as crucial as the opener is for this new format for world play, the Americans may look at this match as the most noteworthy shootout loss in 99 years of international play, if this road point gets the States into the Pro League’s top four.

Feb. 2, 2019 — NCAA Division II preview

AL’S FEARLESS 5IVE
Adelphi
Florida Southern
LeMoyne
LIU-Post
West Chester

If it’s possible, the world of NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse has a favorite which may be even bigger than Boston College in Division I.

That’s because defending national champion LeMoyne returns almost all of its scoring, including 75-goal scorers Bryanna Fazio and Nicole Delany. Also returning is starting goalie Hanna George and defenders Jessica Dussing, Kasi Cabrey, and Olivia McEntee.

Hot on the Dolphins’ heels is Adelphi, which returns 85-goal scorer Kole Pollock and 58-goal scorer Lena Riportella. The Panthers seem set in the goal cage with Emma Lemanski, who had a tremendous freshman season a year ago.

Also on Long Island, watch out for LIU-Post, which is going to be transitioning to Division I as its campus combines with LIU-Brooklyn. Top scorers Alyssa Mallery and Brianna Feldman return, but I think the players to watch are the going to be the incoming freshman and the sophomores, who will have to shoulder a lot of the burden in the transition. Look especially for goalies Mackenzie O’Brien and Hailey Duchnowski, both first-year collegians, who will be facing a lot of shots in the next four years.

West Chester retains the services of 50-goal scorers Tatum Altman, Sami Barnet, and Maggie Stella. Barnett, Stella, and returning midfielder Drew McKinney vacuumed up 263 draw controls, so they could be a very dangerous outfit if the defense is able to hold.

Florida Southern, who has been thrilling the collective part of America deemed as “non-traditional” lacrosse territory, could make its fourth straight national title match this spring, but will have to do it without its three leading goal-scorers from a year ago. Dani Bursinger and Marina Jokozos are the co-returning leaders with 34 goals each, with Aubriana Benedetto chipping in with 30. Watch for senior Sam Keesey to lead a young defense.