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Archive for Lacrosse

Feb. 24, 2017 — To assemble a collegiate schedule

Tomorrow, a No. 1 and a No. 2 in women’s college lacrosse meet up in a pivotal match that could set the tone for the entire season.

A pivotal match in February.

The last quarter-century has seen lacrosse go from an 11- or 12-game season with matches chiefly being held in April and May to a schedule of games played at one-week intervals so that the 18-game season begins in many places where there are feet of snow on the ground.

Wait. Eighteen? Isn’t the NCAA maximum number of games 17?

Well, read up on this story from The Syracuse Post-Standard about how teams have found a loophole in the scheduling rules and are now adding games through the use of doubleheaders.

But what I’d like to see is more of either the Friday/Sunday scheduling that collegiate field hockey has adopted, or more midweek games.

Seriously. With global climate change being the way it is, I can’t see the reason why the U.S. collegiate women’s lacrosse schedule can’t begin in mid-March and finish off its conference tournaments by the first weekend of May, allowing for the Division I tournament to be played over three weekends leading into Memorial Day Weekend for the final.

Feb. 22, 2017 — An age-old problem

This Saturday, the top two women’s lacrosse teams in the country are going to be playing perhaps the single most critical game of the entire season, one on which the balance of the entire narrative may turn. A win by North Carolina would validate its status as the nation’s top dog, but a win by Maryland would validate the youth movement the team has made in bringing in the nation’s finest recruiting class.

A men’s lacrosse game between Yale and Maryland, to be broadcast on ESPNews, will precede this game. Yet, ESPN, your once-proud worldwide leader in sports, is not going to be broadcasting this game, instead handing it off to BTN Plus for streaming.

What’s wrong with this picture?

What is wrong is that it is the very same gripe. Despite the fact that there is more airtime available for collegiate athletics thanks to the proliferation of TV networks, the imbalance of men’s to women’s athletics not only remains prevalent, it has gotten worse.

In 2017, there are going to be 130 men’s college games televised on major, regional, and streaming networks. The women? They’re getting 73, barely half as many.

It’s idiotic.

Feb. 20, 2017 –The stateside superprep

Last Thursday, it was announced that Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.) would be adding a girls’ varsity lacrosse program beginning this fall.

IMG Academy is a fully-developed sports academy formed from the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy that produced players such as Hall-of-Famers Andre Agassi and Monica Seles. The Academy has also gained a certain degree of notoriety for signing on players as young as the age of nine to get them primed for professional tennis careers.

IMG Academy has gotten more recent fame (or infamy, depending on your perspective) for developing high-school all-star teams that play the best competition from all over the nation.

Take, for example, the varsity football team at IMG. Last fall, the school played not only teams from Florida, but teams from Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The Ascenders finished with an 11-0 record and a No. 4 ranking from the MaxPreps computer ranking service.

In boys’ lacrosse, IMG already has a 4-0 record this year, and the team’s regular season, as per usual, stretches only until mid-March. But the varsity season is not the ultimate goal of the IMG program. Indeed, the varsity season is only one of three components for IMG players. There is a box lacrosse season for the student-athletes to work on skills during the winter, and the team also relies heavily on fall ball for development.

Given the growth of the sport of lacrosse in Florida and Georgia the last few years, I’m interested to see how the presence of IMG will affect the competitive balance of the sport. Yes, the fall-ball component, where a lot of the college recruiting currently takes place, will be a draw for some players. But I think the program has a chance to draw players from a nationwide base if the program’s ambition is big enough.

I guess we’ll know once the first group of young women hit campus this fall.

Feb. 19, 2017 — Magic of the Cup

Yesterday, Lincoln City F.C. scored a last-minute header to beat Burnley F.C. in the octofinal round of the F.A. Cup, an annual competition in England for which every single soccer team in the land — from the multimillion-dollar club side to the Sunday amateur pub team — is eligible.

Much of the so-called romance of the F.A. Cup is the theory that any team can win, but it’s a romance ginned up by television, radio, and sponsors trying to focus interest on a match between, as they might say, “chalk and cheese.”

But the last couple of years have been ones in which conventional wisdom — in soccer, politics, and the World Series — have been turned on their heads.

Lincoln City is just the latest sporting upset. To understand how rare their achievement is, consider that the last team outside the main professional group of clubs to make the final eight of the F.A. Cup was in 1914.

The rough equivalent of this in American sports is if, say, a summer wooden-bat league team similar to those found on the Cape Cod League was to make the MLB playoffs.

I’ve always liked to compare the F.A. Cup to the county tournaments in both field hockey and lacrosse in New Jersey. Though the field hockey county tournaments have crowned many repeat championships the last half-decade, the county-tournament in girls’ lacrosse is a relatively new construct, developing its own traditions as well as bracket-busters.

My favorite one to watch, of course, is Mercer County because the capital region’s public, private, and parochial schools all compete for one trophy. Since the first Mercer County girls’ lacrosse tournament in 2007, the trophy has been taken home by one private school, one parochial school, and four different public schools, one of which isn’t even in Mercer County.

And, like in the fall, there will be nine other county tournaments in New Jersey this spring, and each of them will have their own storylines and narrative that are sure to live long in the memory.

Feb. 12, 2017 — The Phoenix rises, again

As much as Maryland, North Carolina, Northwestern, Princeton, and Virginia have dominated the world of women’s lacrosse since 1990, the promise of the democratization of the sport in Division I remains very high.

Many of the improvements have been large-scale, with investments in programs such as Florida, Colorado, Southern California, and Michigan.

And then, there’s Elon University, a small liberal-arts college located a couple of miles off the interstate between Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham in central North Carolina.

A year ago, the Phoenix put themselves on the map with a win over a good Duke side.

Yesterday, Elon did one better, beating a very good Virginia side that had a preseason ranking inside the top 15.

Elon won the game in the final two minutes in a quirk borne from a recent rules change. With the game tied 10-10, Virginia had the ball with 1:50 to go in the game and worked it around the Elon goal, but could not hit the goal frame with a shot, leading to a shot-clock violation with 20 seconds remaining.

The Phoenix took the ball into the attack end and earned an 8-meter free position from the right hash with three seconds remaining. Junior Abby Godfrey arrowed the ball into the cage to give Elon an 11-10 win.

Whereas last year, Elon’s win over Duke didn’t give the team much of an RPI boost at the time of NCAA Tournament selection, it’s going to be interesting to see whether Elon is able to parlay this win into a winning Colonial Athletic Association campaign. The Phoenix do not play a single conference opponent until April 7. That’s when Elon plays all six of its conference rivals in a row before embarking on the conference tournament.

Until then, Elon does have a pretty tough row to hoe. They have Notre Dame on Feb. 23rd, North Carolina on March 14, and Duke on March 29.

This team, with plenty of players from championship-level programs such as Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.), Englewood Kent Denver (Md.), Mendham (N.J.), and Milton (Ga.), is fun to watch. Go and see them.

Feb. 11, 2017 — NCAA Division II preview

AL’S FEARLESS 5IVE
Adelphi
Florida Southern
LeMoyne

Lindenwood
Rollins

After all of the attention paid to non-traditional lacrosse regions since Northwestern started stringing together championships a decade ago, it took Florida Southern to take it to the South.

A year ago, the Moccasins rode their all-around game to a national championship. As a reward, Florida Southern now opens the season against an FIL World Cup competitor, Scotland, in a friendly. Kendall Kerge (53 goals) led the team a year ago, and she returns alongside Meghan O’Brien (35 goals, 37 assists) and Emily Santoli (35-32). Though defensive leaders Gabby Barowski (60 groundball pickups, 33 turnovers caused) and Rachael Griffith (35-44) have graduated, the team has a pair of senior transfers. Into the lineup comes Austin Brown, late of Coastal Carolina, and redshirt senior Kate Gehrdes, who comes from two years at Roanoke College.

Southern’s main competition will likely come from Rollins, who the Mocs beat by a goal in the NCAAs. Kallie German (39 goals, 12 assists) is the Tars’ leading returning scorer, and Lindsay Van Beck (21 pickups, 26 turnovers caused) is their leading defender. But what everyone else in Division II is keeping their eyes on is Rollins’ crop of 10 newcomers. That freshman class includes Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) star Sophie Stavisky, Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) sniper Hannah Ashton, and Meg Bespolka, who is from England.

Adelphi returns its 80-goal scorer, Jacqueline Jahelka. However, only she and Michele Scannell (35) return from the team’s top five scorers. The Panthers’ fate, I think, rests on their group of close defenders. Senior Ryley Weber (37 groundball pickups, 38 caused turnovers, and 60 draw controls), Kaitlyn Stackpole (35-21-11), and Jen Graham (29-27-3) will have to play extremely well in front of goalie Taylor Hayes, who has had a grand total of 144 minutes in net in her career.

Pushing Adelphi for top honors in the New York region of Division II will be LeMoyne. The Dolphins’ two leading point scorers have graduated, leaving Bryanna Fazio (56 goals, 22 assists, 111 draws controlled) as the leading returning scorer. Senior Nicky Graveline (34 gb, 43 ct, 34 dc) is going to be exceedingly important in the defensive midfield along with Kelly Gaffney (35-17-9) and Jessica Dussing (25-19-10).

Lindenwood, from Missouri, is looking to make its second straight trip to the Final Four. The Lynx return leading scorers Allison Hurley (34-32) and Rachel Benzing (32-29) from a team which lost to Florida Southern in the semifinals. Key to their success will be the all-around play of midfielder Erin Abbott (43 gb, 32 ct, 64 dc).

Feb. 4, 2017 — Closing a seven-year loop

It was back in February 2010 when this site named Brooke Kuhl-McClelland, the legendary girls’ lacrosse coach at Ellicott City Mount Hebron (Md.), as Coach of the Decade for the 2000s.

But a series of missed opportunities, plus her departure from Mount Hebron, postponed the presentation of the physical award.

This evening, Kuhl-McClelland returned to her former employer for a ceremony inducting her into the Howard County Women’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

It’s been an eventful seven years for both Kuhl-McClelland and the world of girls’ high-school lacrosse. After the Hebron school district was cut in half for the new Marriotts Ridge High School, she left for a short stint at Brooklandville St. Paul’s School for Girls (Md.).

And after her time at St. Paul’s, Kuhl-McClelland has opted to remain coach of the dance team at Columbia Hammond (Md.). It’s appropriate, given what she helped to give to the game of lacrosse.

During her decade at the Vikings’ helm, she wasn’t just known for taking on all opponents, but she was also known for the choreography of her team’s offense, as well as seeing that the players in the offensive set were accountable to each other to be open at certain times while running a particular pattern.

hebron
This site decided to make the trip down Route 99 for the ceremony. I’m holding her Hall of Fame plaque, but just to the left of it is the striped medallion for Coach of the Decade award.

We’ll try not to let seven years elapse before giving out the next one.