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July 14, 2019 — To break a tie

In the sports world today, there were two unprecedented tiebreakers implemented in order to determine a winner after a tie.

One, in an individual pursuit, saw the Wimbledon men’s singles final determined by a tiebreaker, the vision of Jimmy Van Alen had finally come to the All-England Club after nearly 50 years. But unlike much of the rest of the world, this 12-point tiebreaker came only after Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic had played to a 12-12 game score in the fifth set.

The institution of the fifth-set tiebreaker came only after a couple of ridiculously long matches featuring U.S. player John Isner affected the scheduling of courts at the Club, including one which went 70 games to 68 in the final set in 2010.

The other tiebreaker came in a team sport, cricket. They held the final of the ICC World Cup, a competition featuring one-day international (or ODI) rules, where teams had 50 overs, or groups of six attempts, at scoring as many runs as they could by running in between two sets of stumps 22 yards apart.

In the final, England, the host nation, played upstart New Zealand. At the end of 50 overs for each team, the score was tied at 241 runs apiece. Now, I thought that perhaps the game would be decided in favor of New Zealand, since they spent only eight outs getting the same number of runs that England did in scoring theirs while expending all 10 outs.

Instead, the game went to what was called a “super over,” which saw each side getting six deliveries to score as many runs as they could. Oddly enough, the two sides each scored 15 runs off their six deliveries in each over, so the winner was determined by the number of times each team had scored either a four (hitting the ball to and over the boundary surrounding the Lord’s cricket ground), or a six (hitting the ball over the boundary on the fly). In the tiebreak, England won 26 to 17 on boundaries.

Now, I’ve seen some interesting tiebreakers implemented in sports like field hockey and lacrosse. But to me, the super over is something that shouldn’t be done just once. Instead, why not go for another super over and get a clear winner?

Or make it a really “super” over and have 10 deliveries per team rather than just six, and restrict the placement of players as in the “power play,” where teams score more runs than usual.

July 13, 2019 — While one league adapts, the other spins its wheels

Last night, the movable feast known as the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League played its penultimate league weekend at the Ridley Family Center at Loyola University, just days after its West Chester University match weekend was postponed due to lightning.

In the games, the Brave and the Pride won their games, moving them to within a game of the undefeated (and talent-loaded) Fight team. Four out of the five sides (with the Command having completed league play with a 1-3 record) will play the last doubleheader of the regular season later this month at Hofstra.

Which brings up one question: what is going on with the league that started pro women’s lacrosse, the UWLX?

I think it’s telling that the last social media post that the league authored was all the way back on Feb. 6, and the last re-Tweet was on May 6th. This was seven months after it was announced that there would be a wave of talent defecting from the UWLX to the WPLL. This included a number of the Syracuse players who were in the league as well as Katrina Dowd, the former Northwestern star.

If the UWLX has truly folded its tent, it’s a bit of a shame. I think there was an opportunity for the league to be the incubator of the proposed international roles for the 2024 Los Angeles Olympics, which mandates seven-a-side play on a pitch about the size of a six-man football field.

Let’s see if, perhaps, a truly united women’s lacrosse competition can expand to about eight teams with the sides representing a city or region, from coast to coast.

July 12, 2019 — United States Coach of the Year, the nominees

The United States Coach of the Year Award is given to a head coach or co-head coaches who made a noticeable difference in the performance of a scholastic girls lacrosse team in a particular season. The coaching performance is not limited to progress made in the year which the award is given.

Here are this year’s nominees:

Lauren Benner, Highlands Ranch Valor Christian (Colo.): Team made its first state final, only to fall to Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.)

Peter Collins, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.): Led the Trevians to their first Illinois High School Association state title, and the program’s first state title of any kind since 2008

Taylor Cummings, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.): Didn’t fiddle too much with the formula that has made this program so dominant this decade. The Eagles ran the table in the nation’s best lacrosse conference, showing a lot of intangibles in coming back from a two-goal deficit in the IAAM final

David Gibson, Fenton Rockwood Summit (Mo.): Embraced its underdog status all season in winning the first state championship for a public-school team since 2000

Leslie Klenk, Auburn Saint Dominic Academy (Maine): While avenging last year’s 10-goal loss to Naples Lake Country (Maine), the Saints were able to do it with no substitutes because of injury and players unavailable due to trips

Rachel Lasda, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.): While the story of the 2019 season may have surrounded the coaches who left rivals Moorestown and Ridgewood, she led the Royals to the Group I and the Tournament of Champions titles

Chris Robinson, Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.): Well, that didn’t take long. In his first season after his year off after leaving former club Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.), he led Lake Highland Prep to a state championship

Brigid Scanlon, Sykesville South Carroll (Md.): Team took a 10-goal loss to crosstown rival Century and turned that motivation into the school’s first state championship in girls’ lacrosse

Michele Uhlfelder, San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.): National Lacrosse Hall-of-Famer had a splendid season as coach, and the team had a dominant run through the CIF San Diego Section Open Tournament

Xan Zimatore, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.): Though a number of other teams in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association may have had gaudier out-of-conference schedules, Zimatore kept focus on the job ahead and guided the team to a win in the state final for private schools

The recipient will be announced July 26

July 11, 2019 — An even longer road to Tokyo

As per usual, the U.S. men’s field hockey team is fighting long odds to make the 2020 Olympics. Its lone chance at getting into the Games is by winning the Pan American Games men’s tournament, which begins later this month.

A couple of days ago, USA Field Hockey and head coach Rutger Hauer announced the roster. Key players will include attacking midfielder Patrick Harris, one of the few U.S.-born players on a European club side (Mannheimer 1907 eV, Germany).

There are a number of expatriates on the team, including striker Deegan Huisman (Holland), brother Aki and Kei Keppeler, and goalie Jonathan Klages (Germany).

In terms of experienced players, there are a number of U.S. men on the Pan Am Games teams with 50 caps or more. There are, however, a handful of eye-opening decisions made by the U.S. selectors. Will Holt, veteran of 142 internationals, is on the list of alternates, while Alberto Montilla has been called in from the U-20 national team and should receive his first senior cap in Peru.

It’s a mixture of young talent and veterans, Americans and internationals, looking for the same goal: qualifying for a world tournament when not the host nation for the first time since 1956.

July 10, 2019 — A long road to Tokyo

The numbers don’t lie.

The U.S. women’s field hockey team, fresh off a two-win, 14-defeat campaign in the FIH Pro League, is going to rely on many of the same players who played on the team during League play at the Pan American Games next month.

Gone are players from the sides that won the last two Pan American titles; the lone holdover from Toronto 2015 is Alyssa Manley. The team will continue its youth movement,  including the likes of Erin Matson, Mackenzie Allessie, and Margaux Paolino. It’s going to fall to veteran striker Kat Sharkey not only for leadership, but for goals.

On defense, the coaching staff is going to build out from Kelsey Bing, the Stanford rising senior. But in terms of backliners, the U.S. is going to have to rely a lot on Caitlin Van Sickle, whose 143 caps lead all defenders.

The U.S. team’s focus, obviously, is a likely Aug. 10 meeting with Argentina in the final of the tournament, although a lot can happen between now and then.

And the American women certainly hope that the team that shows up is the one that drew at full time against Argentina Feb. 2, and not the one that lost 4-0 at Spooky Nook May 12.

July 9, 2019 — The Final Top 50 for 2019

Hi, all.

We were able to sort our our computer, now for the unveiling, after copious amounts of hazelnut coffee with a caramel flavor shot or two:

1. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 21-0

2. Northport (N.Y.) 18-1

3. Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 20-2

4. South Huntington St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) 17-1

5. Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) 17-2

6. Summit Oak Knoll (20-2)

7. Severna Park (Md.) 19-1

8. Hingham Notre Dame Academy (Mass.) 23-3

9. Eastport-South Manor (N.Y.) 18-2

10. Brooklandville St. Paul’s School for Girls (Md.) 12-10

11. Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) 25-2

12. Moorestown (N.J.) 19-5

13. Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 18-0

14. Severna Park (Md.) 19-1

15. Darien (Conn.) 21-2

16. Sykesville South Carroll (Md.) 16-1

17. Bayport-Blue Point (N.Y.) 15-3

18. Walpole (Mass.) 20-2

19. Manhasset (N.Y.) 15-3

20. Ridgewood (N.J.) 21-1

21. Alexandria Bishop Ireton (Va.) 17-6

22. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 17-1

23. Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) 16-4

24. Cohasset (Mass.) 20-6

25. Westminster (Md.) 14-6

26. Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 19-0

27. Haddonfield (N.J.) Memorial 20-4

28. Delray American Heritage (Fla.) 22-2

29. Harriton (Pa.) 24-2

30. New Fairfield (Conn.) 21-1

31. Longmeadow (Mass.) 17-5-1

32. Baldwinsville (N.Y.) 19-2

33. Milton (Ga.) 22-1

34. Mattituck/Southold (N.Y.) 15-5

35. Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) 21-1-2

36. Westwood (Mass.) 22-2

37. Langley (Va.) 18-4

38. Alexandria Bishop Ireton (Va.) 17-6

39. San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 19-2

40. Washington Georgetown Visitation (D.C.) 19-5

41. Upper Arlington (Ohio) 20-2-2

42. Downingtown (Pa.) West 19-6

43. Providence Moses Brown (R.I.) 16-3

44. Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) 18-3

45. East Lyme (Conn.) 17-4

46. Bel Air Patterson Mill (Md.) 11-6

47. Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 21-3

48. Charlotte (N.C.) Latin 14-4

49. Fenton Rockwood Summit (Mo.) 18-1

50. East Grand Rapids (Mich.) 24-2

July 8, 2019 — More than just equality

As much as the U.S. women’s soccer team’s dominating performance at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup served as a platform for pay equity, human rights, and Title IX, there’s so more that needs to be done outside of the stated goals of various team members.

Shockingly left unsaid was the state of the National Women’s Soccer League, the nine-team American league which started in 2012 and is the longest-lasting women’s pro soccer league in U.S. history.

The NWSL has survived by paying its non-Federation based players very low-ball wages, playing in some very small stadia (as low as 4,000), and pretty much tolerating any and all contravention of field, ownership, and leadership standards.

If you remember, the final season of the Western New York Flash was marred by a controversy when a late-season game was moved from Rochester’s soccer-specific stadium to a site with a baseball diamond, resulting in the kind of narrow pitch not seen since the days of the North American Soccer League.

The Boston Breakers played their first NWSL season at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass., on artificial grass which was, according to the players, not very well kept. Too, the capacity was barely 3,500. Boston made a move to Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium at Harvard University, which was only a little larder, then folded after the 2017 season.

Sky Blue FC is a team which is still playing, but is barely hanging on. Ownership issues involving the sitting Governor of the State of New Jersey, plus poor accommodations at Yurcak Field at Rutgers University has hampered this franchise, and the team’s supporters have banded together in protest of the way the team is being run.

Now, the current run of success of the senior women’s national team has gotten the attention of at least one major sponsor: Anheuser-Busch. Of course, given the fact that the beer company has been a major sponsor of soccer back to the 1970s, this isn’t much of a stretch.

But it’s going to take more than just one sponsor to help keep the league going. Major League Soccer, as started back in 1996, had Bud, Honda, MasterCard, and the Bandai toy company, amongst others. The package of sponsors, both leaguewide and within each club, has evolved and expanded over the years.

I’ll be interested to see when and if the NWSL is willing to commit to that kind of finance structure going forward. I think it’s going to require about a dozen more kinds of commitments like this in order to keep the league going.

In other words, there’s a lot more work to do.