Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for Lacrosse

March 24, 2023 — Another reboot, coming soon

The third season of Athletes Unlimited women’s lacrosse has been teased in ads in the last few days, and it appears as though the first match weekend will begin Thursday, July 20th. The format, apparently, is identical to 2022, where four teams play three games each during a weekend, a total of three doubleheaders per weekend.

At the end of play on Sunday, the four players who have the most points for ground-ball pickups, shots, goals, and saves will get to choose the next week’s teams.

As far as we can tell, all games this year, as was the case in 2022, will be at Tierney Field at U.S. Lacrosse headquarters.

We know that there are some athletes which have already been signed up for the season, including the players in last year’s recount, forward Sam Apuzzo and goalie Taylor Moreno. The two luminaries had been tied on the scoreboard headed into the final three minutes of play, and finished Matchday 12 almost level on points, but after the post-game vote and re-checking of the results, Moreno won the second-year championship by 16 points over Apuzzo.

Moreno and Apuzzo are two of 14 players who have signed on for the 2023 season, but we don’t know who else will be added as the spring and summer evolve. And we don’t know whether a certain Charlotte North will be one of them.

March 23, 2023 — The next big thing, augmented

Last year, the Next Collegiate League brought together six historically-Black colleges together for several weeks’ worth of 6-v-6 lacrosse action, leading to the crowning of a champion at U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md.

This year, the league will be adding two new teams: Norfolk State and Howard University. They join Morgan State, Coppin State, Lincoln University, Bowie State, Delaware State, and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore in the 2023 version of the league. As far as we know, the league consists of eight weeks of round-robin play, with a championship weekend to be determined.

I’ve always thought it was pretty cool that HBCUs have been coming together in this league, and there have already been bonds and friendships made though not only gameplay, but in league administration.

The match tickets are $10 for each octupleheader, which has to rank as the greatest bargain in sports. I think it would behoove any of us near there to make a pilgrimage to Tierney Field for a match weekend.

March 21, 2023 — A second mid-season coaching announcement

John Sung has been an up-and-coming women’s lacrosse coach who has done stints at, amongst other places, Winthrop University and Virginia Tech before his most recent position in as a coach and administrator at Carthage College, a Division III institution in Kenosha, Wisc.

After a career with the Firebirds and a record of 21 wins and five defeats, Sung posted his decision to step away from coaching today. His Instagram post doesn’t mention whether or not the departure was with immediate effect; as of today, the school’s website shows that he is still the head coach as well as assistant athletic director for external relations.

It is in this role, I think, which Sung is taking pride. On another one of his Instagram posts, he has a picture of a 2022 national championship ring, one of 23 that the university athletics department holds.

Sung has been respected enough within the women’s lacrosse community that his Virginia Tech teams evolved away from the “easy win” category. In addition, he was hired to be a coach in the second and final year of United Women’s Lacrosse.

I’m interested to see how the team responds to this news.

March 20, 2023 — Who’s No. 1 now?

Yesterday, the No. 1 teams in Division I and Division II women’s lacrosse lost, knocking them off their perches at the top of coaches’ and media polls.

In Division I, it was North Carolina losing 13-9 at Northwester, its first regular-season defeat in more than a thousand days. And in Division II, Indianapolis lost to Regis University 14-12.

It’s not that often when two defending national champions, much less two that hold down the No. 1 ranking, lose on the same day.

But that’s the nature of the game of women’s lacrosse, where any team can win on any given day. But you can make the argument that the “any given day” trope is not well-proven in the postseason.

When you look at the history of Division I women’s lacrosse since 1990, exactly seven schools have won the tournament. And none of them are named Syracuse, which is a team that just about everyone is tapping for the D-1 title this year. In Division III, since 2010, five schools have won the titles on offer.

In all three NCAA divisions, the lack of parity has been on display. The domination of teams like Maryland, TCNJ, Northwestern, Adelphi, and Middlebury have manifested themselves every May. These are programs that have the institutional knowledge of how to win games, win tournaments, and win in the final two minutes of games.

A lot of this is because coaches have instilled winning traditions into generations of student-athletes. For successful programs, winning is a habit as well as a tradition. This is very difficult to do in stick-and-ball games such as field hockey and lacrosse, which are complex to learn and master but when careers in the sport span roughly from ages 14 to 21.

March 17, 2023 — Another course-correction

It was announced yesterday that Youngstown State women’s lacrosse coach Kendyl Clarkson, a scant seven months after being named to the position, was being relieved of her duties.

Clarkson, who came over from St. Bonaventure, had a 2-5 record in 2023 as head coach. She had won her most recent game against Gardner-Webb on Tuesday, and had a full Mid-America Conference schedule ahead of her.

This makes Clarkson’s dismissal incredibly curious in terms of timing. Usually, if an athletic department fires a coach in midseason, there had to have been a very serious cause to do so. Absent a cause, especially in the first year, a precipitating event could be the discovery of some kind of misconduct or resume-padding in the hiring process.

But has learned of a recent incident involving alcohol and some of the players. We don’t know if any of the players on the team were suspended formally because of this incident, but we did notice that there were two Penguins who started the first six games of the 2023 season but did not play at all against Gardner-Webb.

This story has yet to be fully written, so we can’t verify a lot of the more tabloidesque assertions about why Clarkson was fired. However, it will be interesting to see what allegations are proven to be true.

March 16, 2023 — A needed course-correction

Remember this?

Yesterday, a story came out on that the Collegiate Women’s Lacrosse Officials Association and the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association made the tightening of safety rules in women’s lacrosse agenda items in recent meetings.

In particular, the discussion surrounded stick-to-body contact, especially in vulnerable areas of the torso.

“I think this injury caught everybody by surprise,” said IWLCA executive director Liz Robertshaw. “You don’t hear about this kind of thing often.”

Apparently, neither did the NCAA. According to the ESPN story, the classification of women’s lacrosse as a non-contact sport necessarily means that there are fewer medical personnel at women’s games than there are at men’s games. According to Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron, the 90-minute delay before the diagnosis of Taylor Everson’s kidney injury came from the fact that there was no foul called on the play and the game was not stopped. There were two physicians staffing the game.

Now, I’ve never seen, in the third of a century I’ve covered sports, a mid-season course-correction of this type when it comes to officiating. Usually, the preseason interpretation meetings are enough to get the information from the central rulesmakers out to umpires and game officials.

And most decisions that rulesmakers make often take time to filter down to teams and groups of officials. Let’s hope what they do will mitigate the potential for another major injury.

March 15, 2023 — Lacrosse’s lows and highs

In the last few days, the first-year women’s lacrosse program at Clemson has felt the polar opposite of emotions.

Monday, the Tigers were feeling great. Coming off a win over nationally-ranked Duke, Clemson was afforded the status of being ranked in both the US Lacrosse and the IWLCA polls.

Yesterday, however, the program released a video message recorded by head coach Allison Kwolek.

In the message, Kwolek revealed that she has breast cancer and would be away from the team periodically during treatment.

“I have full faith in my incredible staff and our athletic department support system to carry on our standard and continue to move this program forward,” Kwolek said in her remarks. “I know there will be good days and bad days, but I will fight.”

Former Rutgers men’s goalie Bill Olin and former Penn State attacker Madison Carter will be taking on parts of Kwolek’s duties during treatment. Both have had varied coaching experiences in the last few years.

But I’m pretty sure that neither have had to become an interim head coach in a situation like this.

Somehow, I think the Clemson program will find its inner fortitude during this time of trial.

March 13, 2023 — Has a third pro women’s lacrosse promotion materialized?

Over the weekend, a select group of players from the Premier Lacrosse League, a well-backed professional men’s lacrosse circuit soon to be playing a fifth outdoor season, took its act overseas to play a Japanese all-star team under the proposed Olympic rules.

But one hidden aspect of that venture is the fact that there was a group of women playing a Japanese women’s team, also playing under Olympic rules.

Huh? What’s going on here? Isn’t the PLL a men’s-only promotion?

Well, there they were, a group of women wearing uniforms with the same uniform sponsor (Champion) as the men, and the same number font as what the men were wearing. The names on the back of the jerseys should be familiar to you: Growney, Watson, Gilbert, Ortega, Mastrioenni, Colson. The team, called “Unleashed,” beat their Japanese opposition by a score of 11-7.

If the PLL is going to start a women’s promotion, it would be a third professional women’s lacrosse effort, alongside Athletes Unlimited and By The Pros.

I’m amazed at this feeding frenzy for companies and venture capitalists looking to give female lacrosse players an opportunity to make a living playing the sport they love. I would like to think it is more than just an altruistic notion.

March 7, 2023 — Light on the details

I’ve been seeing a number of good lacrosse stories about African-Americans in the game. The focus of competition has remained on the Next Collegiate League for men, and the NCAA for the women.

This brings me to what could be a sticking point for the NCL’s eventual mission: will the league start a women’s competition?

I know that there are not many pockets of female lacrosse players at the nation’s historically-Black colleges and universities, but there are enough, I think, for lacrosse sixes if enough interest is shown.

Take, for example, Morgan State. The women’s club team seems to have enough for a full-field squad, if not a sixes team to get their competition in until the time of becoming a varsity.

I’d like to see, perhaps, smaller HBCUs with enough interest to start sixes teams under the Olympic rules. And, as Kelly Amonte-Hiller showed to devastating effect two decades ago, athletes can be converted and adapted to lacrosse in a remarkably short period of time.

All it takes is initiative.

March 6, 2023 — Finding the form in Division II

You wouldn’t have blamed the University of Indianapolis for starting its 2023 season slowly.

The Greyhounds, your defending NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse champions, graduated all-time great Peyton Romig, arguably the finest Division II female lacrosse athlete of all time. Too, head coach James Delaney was released last August. Delaney was the architect of Indianapolis’ rise to prominence in Division II and as a beachhead for lacrosse in Indiana.

But last weekend, UIndy came up with its fifth win of the season, beating the University of Tampa by a score of 12-11. Indianapolis stamped its authority on the game with eight first-half goals, including the first four of the match. Two were scored by junior Joey Fowler.

Tampa kept digging away at the Indianapolis lead in the second term, but could not manage to pull ahead in the final five minutes.

“The players had this date circled and marked from Day 1, and they were prepared mentally and physically to play today,” said current UIndy head coach Elaine Jones. “Although we still have some areas to work on as the season moves along, I am really proud of the effort they gave in earning this win today.”

The Hounds have their greatest league rival this Saturday, playing at Grand Valley State. It is GVSU which has given Indianapolis its closest games over the last five years, and this one should be no different.