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May 3, 2021 — A few “hot takes” on the Division III women’s lacrosse bracket

The Division III women’s lacrosse bracket is very much a lottery, since the 37 teams selected represent a somewhat broad brush as to the reach of the sport in recent years. We’ve had, in recent history, teams from as far away as California and Colorado make the tournament.

This year, we have the some of the usual powers making the field, such as The College of New Jersey, Salisbury, Franklin & Marshall, Ithaca, and Cortland. But the last two title-holders, Gettysburg and Middlebury, aren’t in the field this year.

Instead, the Division III women’s lacrosse bracket is a chance for debutante programs to make a mark in this season like no other.

I think the survivor of the lower half of the Washington & Lee bubble is going to be a major, major contender this year. In this quarter of the national tournament are the following:

Salisbury State (15-0)
SUNY-Morrisville (7-2)

Washington & Jefferson (10-0)
SUNY-Farmingdale (8-0)

Ithaca College (12-1)
College of Notre Dame, Md. (7-0)

Washington & Lee (13-0)
FDU-Florham (16-0)

That’s six undefeated teams in what we call the “Quarter of Death.”

In the upper portion of that bracket, you will find a pair of Wisconsin teams, in UW-River Falls and Carroll College, as well as two from Illinois, Aurora and the University of Chicago.

In the Colby College bubble, there is a brilliant potential quarterfinal matchup if The College of New Jersey and top-ranked Tufts are able to get through their first- and second-round matchups.

In the other half of that bracket, you have 13 teams, including five play-in contests on May 8th. A potential May 15th octofinal between Franklin & Marshall and Catholic University could very well determine who makes the Final Four from this half of the bracket. But you get the feeling that SUNY-Cortland and Messiah will have an answer for whoever comes out of the F&M quarter of the Colby bubble.

It should be an unpredictable and most memorable championship. Stay tuned.

May 2, 2021 — The Final Third, Epic Edition

Joins us today on our Facebook Live presence shortly before noon for our whiparound coverage of the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I field hockey tournament, plus we’ll document four automatic bids for the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse tournament, featuring the two conferences (ACC and Big Ten) from which the 2021 champion will likely emerge.

We’ll also have bonus coverage of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, where we’ll see Division II’s two best sides, Lindenwood and Indianapolis, cross sticks for the second time in 10 days. Of all of the games today, I think this one might turn out to be the best one.

Let’s see.

April 29, 2021 — A bad situation at a bad time

Yesterday, John Desko, the men’s lacrosse coach at Syracuse University, called a press conference to discuss a situation within his team.

The situation involves one of his best players, junior Chase Scanlan. According to multiple reports, he was involved in a situation which eventually required the intervention by the Syracuse University Department of Public Safety as “a domestic incident.”

The case remains open, and Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and City of Syracuse Police are investigating. Fitzpatrick indicated that the incident involved an unidentified woman.

You can put two and two together.

It’s regrettable that this incident, plus a suspension and what is an increasingly controversial reinstatement, are occurring a few days before One Love Week, the observance of the 11-year anniversary of the murder of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love in a domestic violence incident. Indeed, during last night’s Virginia-Boston College ACC women’s lacrosse tournament, head coach Julie Myers wore a One Love Foundation T-shirt.

Since Love’s murder, the lacrosse community has been very intolerant of violence against women. Indeed, I find it interesting that the reinstatement of Scanlan, the Orange’s leading scorer in 2020, is coming with some resistance within the team. Reports came out that team members were planning to skip practice if he rejoined the team.

Syracuse University is Scanlan’s fourth school in the last six years. He attended Silver Creek (N.Y.) Central, then transferred after his sophomore year to Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.), a super-prep school in the sport of boys’ lacrosse. He chose Loyola University for college, but transferred after one season to Syracuse.

I get the feeling there is going to be one more address change for him soon.

April 28, 2021 — The road to Unitas Stadium

In the next 48 hours, the path that the field of 29 teams in the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse tournament will be paved, as the two most prominent conferences begin play.

Today, the ACC’s eight members play four quarterfinal matches, while tomorrow, six of the Big Ten’s seven entries play three quarterfinal games while top-seeded Northwestern has a bye.

There’s one over-arching reason why you should pay attention to these two tournament: your 2021 NCAA champion is likely to come from one of these two tournaments. The top five teams in the ILWCA poll are all from the Big Ten or the ACC, and 14 out of the top 25.

So, instead of doing individual capsules on each of the 15 teams starting their journey to the Final Four, let’s give you some items to think about before the tournament begin:

THE TOP TWO: North Carolina and Northwestern, the top seeds in each tournament, are the odds-on favorites to meet each other in the national final. Both teams desire the extra in-conference play, especially given the fact that both teams have a week off after the championship final instead of having that extra game just before an NCAA first-round game. They’d both love to win, but also are keeping a wary eye on one another. I would venture that neither team will go very deep into their playbooks for fear of showing the other something that can be exploited should these two undefeated powerhouses meet.

WHITHER MARYLAND? The Terrapins are the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament, but the team is 7-5 on the season and are 2-4 in their last six games. If Maryland was to lose their first-round match against Michigan, it would be highly damaging to the team’s positioning in the NCAA bracket.

THE HURT LOCKER: A number of teams have been dealing with key injuries. Syracuse has lost attacking stars Emily Hawryschuk and Megan Carney for the season, and the replacements in the attacking seven have justified head coach Gary Gait’s faith in his pool of forwards.

ACC’S ACES: The ACC has a number of tremendous and physical forwards, all of whom would not be out of place in a professional league upon graduation. Boston College’s Charlotte North, UNC’s Jamie Ortega, Syracuse’s Maeghan Tyrrell, Virginia Tech’s Paige Petty, and Duke’s Gabby Rosenzweig are all players who have highlight-reel ability and can run off multiple goals with impunity

GETTING MORE: I’ll be interested to see which of these 15 teams are able to get that little extra from their players that the coaching staffs might not expect. I mean, when North Carolina has the ball, everyone and their brother knows that the ball is likely to find its way to Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega. But what if someone like a Taylor Warehime or a Melissa Sconone starts finding the net?

SHOTBLOCKERS: As this site has noted over the years, goaltenders tend to play an outsized role in the outcome of playoff games. Watch especially for Boston College’s Rachel Hall, Johns Hopkins’ Kathleen Garvey, Syracuse’s Asa Goldstock, Northwestern’s Madison Doucette, North Carolina’s Taylor Moreno, Ohio State’s Jillian Rizzo, and Notre Dame’s Bridget Deehan. I believe that in at least one of these two tournaments, a goalie will be named Most Outstanding Player.

INTANGIBLES: There could be a first-year or second-year player who may, in a key moment, have the game of her life. Watch for Notre Dame’s Kasey Choma, UNC’s Caitlyn Wurzburger, Maryland’s Shaylan Ahearn, Louisville’s Kokora Nazakawa, or Northwestern’s Erin Coykendall to perhaps have a Walter Mitty moment.

April 25, 2021 — McDonogh is having its Eastern moment

On Oct. 7, 2016, the field hockey team from Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) was spinning a 144-game unbeaten streak when it traveled to Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) for a doubleheader of interstage games against the hosts and Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.).

The weekend ended with Eastern on a two-game losing streak, something which had not happened in more than a decade and a half with the Vikings’ program, a team which continually renewed and reloaded itself year on year towards an impeccable standard of excellence.

This past week, the girls’ lacrosse team at Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.), after not having lost a regular-season match since 2008, dropped consecutive games to Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) and Ellicott City Glenelg Country School (Md.).

It’s a sudden swoon that comes in the last two weeks of the IAAM Class “A” regular season, a league which is the envy of all others in the country. The 12 schools in Class A all have their own histories, excellent alumnae and current players, and coaching which is more than competent.

McDonogh has been the unquestioned empresses of this league for a decade and a half. Under Chris Robinson, Nancy Love, and Taylor Cummings, the Eagles have played a refined game of lacrosse, one based on solid fundamentals and tactics. Watch a McDonogh game, and you’ll see smart double-teaming on defense, winning draws, good shot selection, and a relentless attitude. Going on a three-goal run, the team culture dictates, is not enough. You’ll often see the Eagles score eight, nine, ten straight at key points of the game.

All you have to do is see what McDonogh did in a two-day stretch of games nine years ago. The Eagles scored nine consecutive goals in a 20-9 win over Garden City (N.Y.), and followed that up with a 14-1 win over Hauppage (N.Y.), a game which featured an eight-goal run. It was a team which featured Sammi Burgess, Megan Whittle, and Cummings, and might have been the finest scholastic lacrosse team of all time.

But you have to realize: this is scholastic sports — a competition involving players under the age of 19 which, by nature, have complete turnover every four years. Coaching scholastic players is a thankless task, especially in these days of social media and the expansion of the sport nationwide.

The school set the bar so high that teams around the nation have adopted the McDonogh formula — win draws, limit turnovers, double-team on defense when you can, shoot smartly, and don’t let up even if you have a substantial lead. The rest of the IAAM — and the country — are catching up.

That being said, I wouldn’t read all that much into these two results from last week. After all, a month after Eastern had its 0-2 weekend in field hockey, the team won a state championship and was an overtime penalty stroke away from winning the New Jersey Tournament of Champions.

The road to the playoffs has just two more stops, and a good Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) side awaits on Wednesday.

April 23, 2021 — Monthly lacrosse statwatch for games played through April 21

It’s Friday, meaning that it’s time for Statwatch, our look at the numbers which define the game of girls’ lacrosse and allows for comparison across miles, across regions, and across time.

Our biggest statistical occurrence thus far this season actually isn’t about the loss Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) suffered on Wednesday. Instead, it’s about a win streak that was broken in Kentucky. Versailles Woodford County (Ky.) had its 43-game win streak snapped when it lost 10-7 to Lexington (Ky.) Catholic.

This compilation is from available sources, including MaxPreps.com, NJ Advance Media, The Harrisburg Patriot-News, The Providence Journal, The Albany Times-Union, Long Island Newsday, The Worcester Telegram, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, MassLive.com, the Denver Post, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Philly Lacrosse, MSG Varsity, the Ann-Arbor News, and The Washington Post.

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
115 Cassidy Jones, Memphis White Station (Tenn.)
100 Chloe Norman, Land O’Lakes (Fla..)
91 Gillian Craig, Merritt Island (Fla.)
85 Sam Stephens, Versailles Woodford County (Ky.)
84 Josie Ward, Franklin (Tenn.)
82 Jordyn Case, Matthews Weddington (N.C.)
81 Prentice Atterbury, Community School of Naples (Fla.)
79 Breylin Bright, Greer Riverside (S.C.)
78 Jamieson Meyer, Sandy Waterford (Utah)
77 Emerson Bohlig, Orinda Miramonte (Calif.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
84 Emily Phillips, Wake Forest (N.C.)
79 Elizabeth Tausig, Charleston Bishop England (S.C.)
77 Caroline Mullahy, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.)
75 Bella Mims, Clermont East Ridge (Fla.)
67 Sadie Salazar, Chapin (S.C.)
66 Taylor McClain, Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest (Fla.)
60 Jaylee Ault, Altamonte Springs Lake Brantley (Fla.)
56 Lauren Koshlap, Merritt Island Edgewood (Fla.)
54 Reese Riezinger, Boca Raton (Fla.)
53 Jordyn Case, Matthews Weddington (N.C.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
45 Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.)

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

But wait, there’s more. We need your help to give this list more completeness and context. if you see something missing or wrong, please send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the adjustment.

As usual, we thank you for stopping in and we’ll see you next month.

BULLETIN: April 21, 2021 — Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) 16, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 9

The girls’ lacrosse teams that have represented The McDonogh School, a team located a few miles outside of the Baltimore Beltway, have been as close to automatic as a high school sports team has been this side of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) field hockey and Carmel (Ind.) swimming.

The Eagles have won 10 out the last 11 IAAM Class A titles, and have been undefeated in regular-season matches since 2009.

That is, until this afternoon.

The 16-9 win on the part of Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) should not have been unexpected. With teams playing under COVID-19 conventions, lacrosse teams are not traveling to Florida, Long Island, Pennsylvania, or Virginia to meet top-level opposition. Instead, the 14 teams in the IAAM “A” Conference are focusing on each other, figuring out different ways to beat one another.

For St. Paul’s head coach Mary Gagnon, it was a matter of taking what made McDonogh great and tossing it right back at them. This afternoon, the Gators won draws, went to goal, and repeated. They rang up the first 10 goals of the match and held on to the end.

“McDonogh set the standard, but this has been coming for a while.” Gagnon tells The Baltimore Sun. Gagnon was a field hockey and lacrosse star at Loyola University, then coached at Annapolis Broadneck (Md.), then after a year as an assistant at Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.), she took the St. Paul’s job in 2017.

Gagnon, a veteran coach in the club ranks, knew that for improvement to happen for her Gators, she had to play the long game. She has kept her team in the headwaters of the IAAM title race, advancing to the championship final in 2019, the last complete season before the COVID-19 pandemic.

This result jumbles the standings and the entire perception of how the seedings for the postseason will look when the brackets are assembled.

It’s certainly a new day for girls’ lacrosse in Baltimore, as well as across America.

April 20, 2021 –Monthly lacrosse top 10 for games played through April 18

Our attempt at a lacrosse Top 10 is back. I say “attempt” because this is very much a back-of-the-envelope ranking, especially given what we’re seeing with the competitive balance along Pennsylvania’s Main Line, with a number of top teams knocking each other off already. I think it will be highly interesting which public and private schools come through their league seasons, and it will be doubly interesting to see what happens during interconference play.

For our honorary No. 11 Team of the Week, let’s give it to Denison University. The Division III college in Granville, Ohio has had only three wins in its NCAA Tournament history, but the Big Red have run out with six straight wins to start the season and a No. 10 national ranking.

1. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 9-0
Eagles have had a couple of close calls thus far, but are still playing that sophisticated brand of lacrosse to which observers have become accustomed

2. Northport (N.Y.) 0-0
Defending state champions begin their season May 5 against Newfield Middle Country (N.Y.), which is a heck of a way to start a year

3. Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 17-0
Highlanders to take on Wesley Chapel Cypress Creek (Fla.) in the regional semifinals of the FHSAA Class 1A tournament

4. Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) 6-0
Managed to get by Lutherville Maryvale Prep (Md.) 10-9 on April 14th

5. Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) 0-0
Seahawks waiting for Fall 2 season to end before beginning their quest for another Class C state title

6. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 0-0
Royals started play yesterday; an enormous game with Chatham (N.J.) awaits tomorrow

7. Darien (Conn.) 1-0
Darien has a big game against New Canaan (Conn.), the latter of which has been under COVID-19 quarantine protocols

8. Manhasset (N.Y.) 3-0
Team ought to be able to reload for this spring despite the graduation of 12 seniors from last year’s team

9. Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) 4-0
Opened the season with enormous wins over PAISAA powerhouses Rosemont Agnes Irwin (Pa.) and Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.)

10. East Chapel Hill (N.C.) 13-0
SEASON COMPLETE: Wildcats beat Matthews Weddington (N.C.) in the final of the NCHSAA tournament

11. Denison 7-1
Only defeat of the season was to Division I Butler last week; Big Red are unbeaten against NCAA Division III teams this spring

And bear in mind: Milton (Ga.) 11-0, Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) 6-0, Annapolis St. Mary’s (Md.) 6-0, Mount Sinai (N.Y.) 0-0, Eastport-South Manor (N.Y.), South Huntington St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) 0-0, Philadelphia William Penn Charter (Pa.) 4-0, Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) 1-0

April 18, 2021 — The Final Third, ADHD Edition

It’s the final stretch for the regular seasons in both women’s lacrosse and field hockey, and we’ll have our whiparound coverage of games starting at noon Eastern time. Join us on our Facebook Live presence, would you?

April 16, 2021 — The 699-day break

One cost of the current global pandemic is the lack of multi-team lacrosse events at the scholastic level. One of the biggest and best is Spring Fling, which is usually hosted by Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.). Split amongst three pitches on campus, the event has brought together regional and national powers and recently attracted a touring team of England U-19 players.

But because of COVID-19, there is no Spring Fling this year. Indeed, the regular-season schedule for the Saints is a mere eight contests, as published on the school’s website. Moreover, we don’t know whether there will be a Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association postseason.

What we do know, however, is that every win posted by the Saints this spring will extend the win total of head coach Kathy Jenkins. She ended the 2019 season (was it that long ago?) with 802 wins, which is more than 100 more than the next-highest known girls’ lacrosse coach.

Jenkins’ achievements on the sidelines of the school are well known. She’s the only coach the school has ever had, has trained her players well by tightening up their skills using wooden sticks rather than the molded plastic heads, and has sent numerous players to NCAA Division I schools.

The journey through the pandemic begins today with the school’s first game in some 699 days, since beating Bishop Ireton in the VISAA final.