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July 21, 2019 — A hard self-reflection

PARENTAL ADVISORY: If you’re a teenager reading this, you may want to have a parent or guardian with you.


A friend of mine, a jazz singer from California, posted an interesting question on social media, in response to the arrest and denial of bail this week of Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who is being charged with sex trafficking.

My friend quoted journalist Sarah Kendzior, who said this on a podcast last December:

Donald Trump is friends with at least five pedophiles, most of whom were involved in sex trafficking or blackmail schemes. There’s (Jeffrey) Epstein, (John) Casablancas, (Tevfik) Arif, (George) Nader, (Roy) Cohn. Who the hell is friends with five pedophiles?

I thought for a second. To nobody in particular when I was reading the post, I said aloud, “Three.”

Part of what this site is about is reporting news and accomplishments in field hockey, lacrosse, and women’s sports in general. But a highly regrettable part of my reporting over the last two decades has been chronicling the arrests and convictions of people in the field hockey and lacrosse communities for various morals charges.

And of the dozen or so people who have been arrested, fired, or outright banned from their field hockey or lacrosse positions because of their actions, I can say that I knew three of them.

Well, let’s be clear: I thought I knew them.

When you’re a writer, in any beat, you get to know a lot of people, from the powerful to the pauper. You talk to coaches, parents, and some outliers — private coaches, trainers, alumni/ae, and athletic administrators.

In athletic competitions, I get to see two stories. One is the coach trying to get a group of 20 players to buy into a competitive vision. The other story is the parent ceding control of the child for a few weeks.

It’s the latter story that has, regrettably, led to many of the dozens of stories of teachers and coaches having sexual relations with students over the years. At one point, there was an average of more than one arrest per day being reported in newspapers around the country. It got to the point where Bob Reno, the editor of BadJocks.com, stopped counting (and, eventually, stopped publishing the site).

Given what I have seen, I ask myself all the time what I could have done to alter or prevent some of this behavior. Then again, even if I had influenced one person or another to not engage with an undercover FBI agent to trade child porn, or to not have sex with his students, or to not interfere with a police investigation, there would be many others.

Our nation, I think, is a sexual cesspool when it comes to adults and minors. The regrettable thing is that it’s taken the lurid tales surrounding the Larry Nassar trial and conviction to bring this to the fore.

Our President’s associates, and their predilections, are just another symptom. Nothing more to see here.

July 20, 2019 — Return of The Sports Curmudgeon

NOTE: Frank Deford (1938-2017) not only wrote articles for Sports Illustrated and was editor of The National Sports Daily, he contributed oral commentaries to National Public Radio for 37 years. The Sports Curmudgeon was a character he invented as a trope to either predict the future of a particular pastime, or to rant about how the sport in question “used to be.”  

OK, people. In about a week’s time, the National Federation of State High School Associations is going to issue its annual press release about changes in the sport of girls’ lacrosse.

The talk around the lacrosse world for much of the last decade has been how to brighten, freshen up, or, for lack of a better term, “sex up” the fastest game on two feet.

I never thought the game ever needed sexing up; it’s a ritual borne from Native American combat, where teams numbering in the hundreds would play in forests, clearings, and the paths in between, hoping to use sticks to propel a ball towards a goal of some kind.

In the men’s game, there were mechanisms to speed up the game if the officials believed that the offense was being passive, including the ultimate punishment of making the attack keep it in an attack box 35 yards long and 40 yards wide. A few years ago, that punishment was changed to a 30-second shot clock.

Eventually, that was changed to an 80-second clock for college, and a clock varying from 52 to 60 seconds in the pro game. For the women, the possession clock is 90 seconds for the NCAA, and 60 seconds for the WPLL pro game.

The problem with implementing a possession clock in scholastic lacrosse — both men’s and women’s — is that the scorer’s table is now responsible for three clocks. With nearly 3,500 schools across America offering the sport these days, finding people competent enough to run these clocks is going to be an absolute nightmare.

Therefore, by the power invested in your Sports Curmudgeon, the National Federation and U.S. Lacrosse (who co-write the rules for the U-19 game nationwide) are directed to implement what I call the “Clock Lock” when it comes to running the game clock, possession clock, and any and all penalty clocks that may occur during the contest.

“Clock Lock” means that the time counts off any and all operating clocks simultaneously, even in situations when the game clock is supposed to be running (such as when one team takes a 10-goal lead). In other words, there should be no reason for the game clock to be running while the possession clock is not, and vice-versa.

Take, for example, when a card is issued. The umpire should be allowed to stop the game and clock, send the player to the penalty bench, record the foul, and ensure that the time is set. This goes even if the game score is out of hand.

I have seen a number of times in the most recent NCAA season, a running game clock has harmed a team’s chances to get back into a game late when the possession clock is not running.

What that does is change the calculus of comebacks: with five minutes to go in the second half, a coaching staff expects four possessions (three full 90-second clocks and about 30 seconds of leftover time). But if one team dawdles in getting the ball back into play while the possession clock is still and the game clock is not, that takes a critical possession away from the team that is trailing.

I think the “Clock Lock” rule simplifies timing for people running the clocks, whether they are parents, student managers, volunteers, or even paid cadet officials.

Your Sports Curmudgeon has spoken.

July 19, 2019 — Games of the Year, 2019

This year has been a difficult one to keep any sort of hold on what makes games great, since there are so many interconference and interstate matches held these days. Sometimes, these lists may wane in their importance, given the passage of time and the changing of perspective.

Here’s our attempt at a list of 10 best matches from this past spring:

10. Bayport-Blue Point (N.Y.) 8, Mount Sinai (N.Y.) 0
April 17, 2019
Regular-season game
When was the last time that you saw a state championship-level team from a national hotbed (winners of the New York state title in 2017, nonetheless) get shut out for all 50 minutes? Give a ton of credit to BBP for the win, but this team and others’ slowdown tactics have hastened calls for a possession clock to be instituted in U.S. Lacrosse and National Federation contests.

9. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 8, Manhasset (N.Y.) 7
April 6, 2019
Regular-season game
Let it not be said that Taylor Cummings doesn’t like a challenge. After a successul Southern swing, the Eagles went up to Long Island and came away with a win over the defending New York Class B champs.

8. Hingham Notre Dame Academy (Mass.) 12, Providence Moses Brown School (R.I.) 10
May 18, 2019
Regular-season game
Nobody knew it at the time, but after a taut and tense matchup in mid-may, both of these sides would win their respective state championships. NDA won the Massachusetts Division I crown, and Moses Brown won the Rhode Island Division I title.

7. Baldwinsville (N.Y.) 15, Bethlehem (N.Y.) 14 (OT)
June 7, 2019
NYSPHSAA Class A semifinal
Bethlehem had come back from a first-half swoon to take a two-goal lead with under five minutes to play. However, the Bees drew level late and won it on Katherine Pascale’s free position 48 seconds into extra time.

6. Cohasset (Mass.) 14, Norwell (Mass.) 13
June 11, 2019
MIAA Division II South semifinal
These two South Shore League rivals knew that a win here was likely the proverbial golden ticket to the state championship. Norwell and Cohasset had met in the previous four sectional finals, with the winner going on to win the MIAA title each of those four seasons. Jane Hansen led Cohasset with six goals.

5. Moorestown (N.J.) 11, Ridgewood (N.J.) 10
June 5, 2019
NJSIAA Tournament of Champions semifinal
These two teams met on April 24 in the regular season with Ridgewood winning 12-8, but Moorestown, the Group III champs, bested Group IV titlists Ridgewood in a game which saw one player ruled out due to concussion protocol, and a late stick check changing possession to Ridgewood for a final attempt to level.

4. Pittsford (N.Y.) 7, Rush-Henrietta (N.Y.) 6, 4 OT 
May 29, 2019
NYSPHSAA Section 5 Class A final
Rush-Henrietta had last year’s champions on the proverbial ropes, taking a 6-4 lead deep into regulation, but Pittsford answered back with two late goals and Ellie Mooney’s goal in the fourth period of extra time.

3. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 5, Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) 4, 2 OT
May 11, 2019
IAAM Class A Tournament final
SPSG came into the IAAM tournament as the sixth seed, but went through a Murderer’s Row of teams to get to the championship. And, thanks to the heroics of goalie Leah Wareheim, almost toppled the Eagles’ dream of regaining the title. It was Izzy Marsh who put McDonogh on top of the nation’s toughest conference with a goal six minutes into extra time.

2. Auburn St. Dominic Academy (Maine) 11, Naples Lake Region (Maine) 8
June 15, 2019
MPA Class C Tournament final
What’s notable about this match is that St. Dominic played the entire state championship without substitutions. That’s right; an injury or an ill-timed yellow card could have left the Saints short not only on the pitch, but on the bench. Yet eight goals from Avery Lutrzykowski sent the team and its campuses into dreamland.

1. Contoocook Hopkinton (N.H.) 12, Derryfield (N.H.) 11
June 4, 2019
NHIAA Division III Tournament final
Hopkinton has had a sudden rise in its fortune over the last three seasons, making its first championship run a year ago. But this title game would be anything but orthodox. The Hawks were a player short late in the first half after receiving its fourth team yellow of the game. Only two minutes into the second half, leading scorer Lyndon Flanagan received her second yellow, and the team’s fifth of the game. It was against this backdrop that the Hawks showed a remarkable resilience playing with just nine outfielders, winning on a pair of goals from center Ellie Morrall. She had five goals in this game, after scoring six against Bow (N.H.) in the semifinals.

July 16, 2019 — Your national scoring champion

In Kentucky, there’s usually two sides in every sports story. And those two sides usually surround the state’s two largest cities: Louisville (which is about 600,000) and Lexington (about 300,000).

But unlike the rivalry in men’s basketball between the two major Division I universities, the world of girls’ high-school lacrosse in the Bluegrass State is at a much lower intensity.

Louisville’s lacrosse culture has been fed mainly by the 18 programs in and around the metropolis. Many of the schools have been amongst the best in the country in field hockey, girls’ volleyball, and girls’ soccer in the last two decades. And since 2001, the teams in the Kentucky Scholastic Lacrosse League have used many of those athletes and have developed into leaders of the game in the mid-South.

The other dozen or so teams in the state, clustered around Lexington, are in the Commonwealth League. Many of these teams did not exist in 2001, the first year the KSLL had its first title game. The Commonwealth League is very much in the shadows of their more experienced counterparts to the west, and, because of that, there’s not much interconference play.

That may change, in part because of the attacking heroics of junior Brittany Sherrod. She is your national scoring champion for 2019, scoring 158 goals and leading a phalanx of six other players nationwide who cracked the Top 12 performances of all time.

“Well, we are going to scrimmage (Louisville teams) next year, but there’s not going to be a merger next year,” Sherrod says.

If there’s one thing that marked Sherrod’s performance in 2019, it was not just her scoring, but the efficiency thereof. She was credited with an unreal percentage of 76 percent from the field as an attacker, plus she was a draw specialist.

“I actually started playing with the boys,” Sherrod said. “At first (in fourth grade) I was scared because the boys’ stick was so much easier to throw and catch with it. But once I transferred over, it was easy. It’s all about soft hands, hand-eye coordination, and all that other stuff.”

But the experience playing with the third-grade boys gave her a different mindset, one which she’s carried through to this day. She made not only all-state, but was invited to the Under Armour All-America games for underclasswomen.

“It helped me with being aggressive, and playing defense, because you’re always fighting for the ball,” Sherrod says.

During the 2019 season, Woodford County had a marvelous run of form, winning all 24 games — and winning them comfortably. The Yellow Jackets 10-goalled their first nine opponents, then won games against out-of-state foes from Georgia, Tennessee, and West Virginia on the way to their second straight Commonwealth postseason championship.

“It was very important for me to share the ball,” Sherrod said. “We wouldn’t have won as many games like we did without us playing as a team.”

Sherrod is heading to Division I Gardner-Webb in the fall of 2020 at a crucial time for lacrosse not only in the South, but at the school. Gardner-Webb had almost as many wins in 2019 (six) than it did in its first five years of existence (eight).

“I always want to get better each year; we need to have goals,” she says.

Sherrod’s total joins a number of top performances from the recent past:

2019: Brittany Sherrod, Versailles Woodford County (Ky.) 158
2018: Charlie Rudy, Novato (Calif.), 147
2017: Charlie Rudy, Novato (Calif.), 160
2016: Bridget Ruskey, Cape May Courthouse Middle Township (N.J.), 135
2015: Sophia Turchetta, Harvard Bromfield (Mass.), 158
2014: Sophia Turchetta, Harvard Bromfield (Mass.), 170
2013: Daniela McMahon, Saddle River Country Day School (N.J.), 143
2012: Emma Lazaroff, Lafayette Centaurus (Colo.), 143
2011: Alex Moore, Allentown (N.J.), 148
2010: Autumn MacMillin, Tecumseh (Mich.), 157
2009: Katie Ferris, Carthage (N.Y.), 138
2008: Courtney Miller, Chappaqua Horace Greeley (N.Y.) 125
2007: Mallori Selliger, Clarkstown (N.Y.) North, 88
2006: Shannon Smith, West Babylon (N.Y.) 129

 

 

 

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 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