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Archive for Lacrosse

March 20, 2019 — Selling its soul

Today, a press release came out detailing the possible rules changes for the game of lacrosse to be included in a future Olympic Games.

The new draft playing rules were developed by the Blue Skies Working Group, a consortium of people within the lacrosse community, one which includes Dana Dobbie, one of the finest draw-takers in the history of the women’s game.

As such, it’s curious to see that her specialty — the draw — is being marginalized in the new rules.

Under the Blue Skies rules, women’s draws and men’s faceoffs only occur to start off a period of play, whether in regulation or overtime.

And that’s just the beginning.

The pitch will be 70 by 36 meters, about the size of a Texas six-man football field. There are only 10 players on a roster, six players a side.

But what I think is a shame about the proposed Olympic rules is the fact that a shot that goes out of bounds goes to the team that didn’t touch it last, rather than it being awarded to the team that gets to the endline first. That’s a unique part about the game of lacrosse, one which symbolizes the endless roads and fields of the Northeast and Midwest where baggataway was played 500 years ago.

Instead, the Blue Skies group has bastardized the sport into a small space, following rugby (and quite possibly field hockey) into a Faustian bargain, selling the very essence of the sport in order to get into the Olympics.

March 17, 2019 — A cannonball the size of a bus

As is usual this time of year, a number of girls’ high-school lacrosse teams have been playing games in Florida, taking advantage of good weather and the rapidly-improving culture of the game in the deep South.

A number of interstate games involving Florida and Georgia teams have been taking place, some with more implications than others. One game yesterday, however, was a loud warning shot over the bow of the ship representing the U.S. girls’ lacrosse community.

Yesterday morning, last year’s No. 1 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) was defeated by the No. 1 team in the 2019 TopOfTheCircle.com preseason Top 10, Delray American Heritage (Fla.).

The score: 20-10.

This is not a misprint.

American Heritage, featuring junior Caitlyn Wurzburger, has been running roughshod over its opponents in the young 2019 season. The Stallions are 8-0, and have wins over Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.), Lassiter (Ga.), and now, a win over NDP. The team has averaged 16 goals per game, and has yielded an average of only about four per game.

Tomorrow, the Stallions face the ultimate test: an Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) side from the strongest league in the country which has won 200 out of its last 201 games. In addition, the Eagles have been spurred by a close win in their opener against Severn Archbishop Spalding (Md.) which was only decided in the final minute of play.

We’ll have more on this tomorrow.

 

March 16, 2019 — The Final Third

Join me live at noon for whiparound coverage of three Division I games on what we like to call The Final Third. It will be on our Facebook Live presence at http://www.facebook.com/topofthecircle

March 15, 2019 — Preseason Statwatch for 2019

Hi, all. This year, we’re continuing our tradition of compiling girls’ lacrosse statistics from across the nation with a feature called Statwatch.

As you can see below, however, we have only a skeleton’s worth of returning players because last year’s tallies were very much senior-laden. That will change when the weekly compilations start getting published once most of the nation starts their seasons.

Statwatch is a weekly compilation of girls’ lacrosse statistics from various 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, MSG Varsity, the Ann-Arbor News, and The Washington Post.

I encourage all coaches, managers, athletic directors, and any influencers out there to convince your team, your school, league, or state governing body 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, CAREER
305 Caitlyn Wurzburger, Delray American Heritage (Fla.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, CAREER
337 Caitlyn Wurzburger, Delray American Heritage (Fla.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
38 Upper Arlington (Ohio)
29 Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.)

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

Thanks for reading, and we’ll be publishing Statwatch weekly very soon.

March 13, 2019 — A once-in-a-generation scandal

A couple of decades ago, I first got wind of a group of chemists and bodybuilders who had hit upon a so-called “designer drug” that would be untraceable by the technologies of the time. My first thought was that the ramifications of such a discovery — and its use — was going to be enormous.

The BALCO scandal resulted in the indictment and imprisonment of dozens of professional and amateur athletes and their handlers, as well as the ruination of a number of athletic competitions, including pro cycling and baseball. It also resulted in a very soft ban on the entire Russian Olympic delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics last year.

Which brings us to this past weekend. This site noticed a couple of news items, one at Louisiana State and one at the University of Pennsylvania, which involved bribery and dealmaking in order to get student-athletes admitted to a particular college. Of course, given the cesspool of college athletics these days and the recent removal of Rick Pitino as head basketball coach at Louisville under sordid circumstances, this was to be expected.

But yesterday, there was an indictment involving non-student-athletes. In Boston, an indictment was unsealed in Federal court. The indictment names some 50 people indicted on charges of mail fraud and other types of corruptive conspiracies involving college admissions, including the facilitation of admission for student-athletes, many of whom would never have survived a few days’ worth of practice, much less a season.

In one situation outlined in the charging documents, one parent arranged for his daughter to apply to the University of Southern California with a fake athletic profile showing her as a good lacrosse player. The broker in the deal facilitated the payment of some $55,000 to the university, a sum of money that resulted in an IRS audit about a month after the last payment. The indictment is silent as to whether the student was ever admitted, but it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that the student never got onto the lacrosse team, one of the top up-and-coming programs in the country.

Southern California is one of a number of schools which have been implicated in this scheme. Others include the University of San Diego, Yale, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, and UCLA.

A number of college coaches have been named in the indictment. Mind you, there aren’t any household names in the group like Pitino, but the majority of the coaches named do have a couple of things in common. One was the prevalence of the fraud amongst women’s sports. Also, these were sports like soccer and tennis, ones which student and local media, the general public, and the student body widely ignored, meaning that there would not be scrutiny.

In a couple of instances, the team mentioned is women’s rowing — a sport that has grown rapidly over the last 20 years because it is an expensive sport requiring an enormous investment in equipment and infrastructure, plus sizable rosters that can balance out the lavish spending afforded big-time college football teams.

But that’s not even the most damning part of the indictment. The eye-opener here is the background of the 35 people who engineered the acceptances of their children into these universities on a student-athlete pretense.

Though the media has been fixated on two Hollywood actresses, the rest of the defendants are people of wealth and privilege. There are several entrepreneurs, a couple of professional investors, equity fund managers, investment firm founders, real estate investors, and the co-chairman of a law firm. These are the 1% of American wealth, people who are very casual with other people’s money.

It kind of reminds you of the scandals involving rich and powerful parents who give millions of dollars to universities. Elizabeth Paige Laurie, an heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune, was forced to give back a degree from the University of Southern California when it was proven that she bribed other people to write term papers for her. At the same time, the University of Missouri had put her name on an on-campus sports arena, an arrangement that was withdrawn after the scandal at USC.

And then, there was the story of Charles Kushner, who, after schmoozing with a part of U.S. Senators, gained an audience with the director of admissions at Harvard. That meeting, plus a donation of $2.5 million, resulted in the matriculation of a student that, according to the guidance counselor at his school, was not Harvard material.

That student, Jared Kushner, now has a top-secret security clearance and is married to the daughter of the President of the United States.

And so it goes.

March 12, 2019 — The national preseason Top 10

Hi, all.

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for our weekly look at the Top 10 girls’ scholastic lacrosse teams in the country. It’s an interesting time for being in the higher echelon of teams, since many will be meeting this coming weekend in Florida for a series of games against one another, but I think the regular season hinges on an early April game when Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) travels to Manhasset (N.Y.).

So, here’s our back-of-the-envelope look at what we think is going to happen by the end of the season, with last year’s won-loss records:

1. Delray American Heritage (Fla.) 23-1
2. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 21-1
3. Mount Sinai (N.Y.) 18-2
4. Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) 17-4
5. Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) 19-2
6. Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) 26-4
7, Manhasset (N.Y.) 18-1
8. Alexandria Bishop Ireton (Va.) 18-3
9. Moorestown (N.J.) 23-2
10. Upper Arlington (Ohio) 23-0

We’ll publish our weekly Top 10 when most of the country starts up, which is usually around the second week of April.

March 10, 2019 — The ragged edge of disaster, Part 2

For the second consecutive weekend, the Maryland women’s lacrosse team was taken into overtime by a Top 10 opponent.

Yesterday, it was Syracuse who battled and fought the Terrapins’ skilled attack before losing in double-overtime on a goal by junior Kali Hartshorn.

For all of Maryland’s championship heritage, the team has not found the going easy this season. And frankly, it shouldn’t, having graduated some of its all-time best players the last few seasons.

But with all of these close results the first three weeks of the 2019 season, a picture has emerged of the national Top 10, and we figured it would be just like it is now. Boston College as a clear No. 1, and throw a blanket over the next seven or eight teams because they are so equal.

Indeed, it is going to take increased emphasis on things like goalkeeping and draw controls to win close matches. But I’m also seeing a couple of new wrinkles when it comes to strategy with the new rules:

  1. Race to the endline. I’m seeing more and more defenses gaining possession off of opposing shots than ever before, whereas before, teammates could be counted on to back up an errant shot 95 times out of 100. Why is this? Free movement. Defenders can now slough back towards the endline to chase the ball and
  2. Set plays off the 8-meter. Also with free movement by the defense, you’re seeing shooters having to pull out of direct shot attempts because defenses now occupy the hashmarks immediately to the left and right of the attacker. And that’s what happened on the winning goal in the Maryland-Syracuse game; attacking midfielder Hannah Warther was on the right hashmark, but saw that Hartshorn was going to be wide open for a hi-lo pass, and the play worked.

I think these, along with the continuing epidemic of dangerous-shot cards, are going to be the trends to watch the rest of the year.