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Archive for Lacrosse

BULLETIN: Oct. 3, 2018 — Major merger of athletic programs afoot in New York

New York, as a world financial center and prime real estate market, is used to the concepts of mergers and acquisitions.

Today, there was an announcement that has the potential, if the merger is done right, of making an enormous impact in college sport. It was announced that the athletic programs of Long Island University-Brooklyn and the LIU-C. W. Post campus in Brookville would be merging into a single Division I entity moving forward.

The combined athletics department, with its dual physical plant and combined resources, could represent a significant challenge in some sports for their league and regional rivals.

The LIU-Post women’s lacrosse team has been a force in NCAA Division II in recent years, winning the inaugural championship in 2001 and winning three more titles, and always remaining in the headwaters of championship contention under head coach Meghan McNamara, the former Maryland product.

LIU’s field hockey program, led by Raenee Savin, has been perhaps the hard-luck story of NCAA field hockey across all divisions during the 2010s. Post has made the NCAA Division II final four out of the last five seasons, but has never won.

Now, the Division I programs for field hockey and women’s lacrosse out of LIU-Brooklyn have never finished with greater than a .500 record. But I project that will change with the merger and the move to the Northeast Conference in Division I.

I think, with the resources of two campuses and the draw to the vibrancy of Brooklyn and Manhattan, that could very well lead to a “Why not us?” attitude amongst the people running the athletics program at the school, an attitude that tends to be contagious.

We’ll know starting in September 2019.

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Oct. 1, 2018 — Is women’s lacrosse in the American West about to feed upon itself?

Last spring was the first season for the Pac 12 in women’s lacrosse. There were only six teams competing, mind you, but that didn’t stop the conference from competing in a postseason championship with an Automatic Qualifier bid at stake.

The problem is that the rest of the teams in the old Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) clattered all over the place like an overenthusiastic break at the start of a game of billiards.

Denver University joined the Big East as an affiliate member. Saint Mary’s became a club lacrosse program. Only three MPSF teams remained in operation, and the squads — Fresno State, San Diego State, and the University of California, Davis all finished between 47th and 88th for their Ratings Percentage Index; all far, far out of consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

And now there’s a report from The Fresno Bee that head coach Jessica Giglio and the program are under investigation for having an abusive culture.

This site is not even going to hint at the guilt or innocence of the coaching staff; we saw situations when coaches have been fired, and coaches who have been completely exonerated, even in the last 12 months.

Instead, what should be focused on is the two-track development of organized collegiate women’s lacrosse. Right now, it’s the club lacrosse scene in the western half of the United States that is absolutely blooming. From the University of Washington to the University of San Diego, from Utah State to Northern Arizona, the pay-to-play club sides vastly outnumber their fully-funded varsity sisters west of the Mississippi.

It always seems as though whenever momentum to bring more varsity programs to the region is on the upsweep, the cause takes a step back. I’ll refer you to one paragraph in the linked Fresno Bee story:

The MPSF, according to a conference spokesman, is committed to holding a conference tournament in 2019 at UC Davis and in 2020 at Fresno State, but has made “no decisions” regarding women’s lacrosse beyond that.

I don’t like the sound of that.

Sept. 19, 2018 — Farewell to a valuable source

Three weeks ago, LaxPower.com closed its virtual doors, presumably for the last time.

LaxPower, which was a valuable resource for schedules of everything from scholastic to Division I contests in both genders and for the NCAA and NAIA alike, had been around in some form since 1997, having been started by Larry Feldman.

I got to be a semi-regular communicator with George Hollenbeck, who was the administrator of the girls’ high-school lacrosse portion of the website. It was he who aided me in figuring out the trend which saw an explosion in scoring with the imposition of technology in sticks and new rules in changing the way the game is played.

Through his command of the facts and figures of the game, I was able to figure out the different lay of the land when it came to comparing the game that Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) dominated for a decade to the wooden-stick game played for most of the 20th Century.

LaxPower was not just a source of news and information, but also a substantial statistical picture of the game. Numerous states, such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, used LaxPower to seed postseason tournaments using the usual Ratings Percentage Index formula (1/4 your record, 1/2 your opponent’s records, and 1/4 the record of your opponents’ opponents).

Regrettably, a number of factors contributed to the demise of LaxPower. The biggest one was the corporate ownership of the site beginning a couple of years ago. That put the business onus onto making money, rather than inform the public for simple love of the game, so part of the site had a paywall on it.

(NB: It’s why TopOfTheCircle.com has never partnered with any school sports news publication; we’ve seen too many of them disappear without a trace. Anyone remember SportsHuddle, for example?)

But LaxPower had plenty of die-hard adherents, including communities of people who frequented the lively pHpBB discussion forums. Colorful characters with even more colorful nicknames dotted the space, and many of them displayed impressive wisdom.

I even remember one time when, during a Maryland-Virginia game, I noted that a UVA player left the penalty bench before her two-minute yellow card had expired and predicted the player would be sent off minutes before everyone else on the rail at the Lacrosse & Field Hockey Complex (including a couple of LaxPower denizens) realized what was happening.

For LaxPower forum users, the Final Four was always a great meetup, where stories got swapped about players past and present, and mostly from a neutral perspective (a couple of Maryland fans notwithstanding). Even though there are social media avenues that allow lacrosse fans to connect with others,  LaxPower was a unique community.

And I’m sad that it, and the site, are gone.

Sept. 10, 2018 — Behavior, gender, and officiating

Last Saturday’s U.S. Open tennis final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka has been overshadowed by commentary after the event about the way Serena Williams was treated by the chair umpire after she was caught receiving advice from her coach in the stands, a no-no in International Tennis Federation professional singles events.

Much of the discussion has been about whether a double-standard exists between men and women on the pro tennis circuit when it comes to how penalties are meted out.

In truth, there has been a difference, and it was so stated in a 1982 New York Times article referencing Jerry Diamond, executive vice-president of the Women’s Tennis Association:

Diamond said that the women had always had stricter penalties and enforcement than the men. ”The women players are younger than the men, too,” he said. ”They are more accustomed to accepting a reprimand.”

I’ve been fortunate, in my 30 years of field hockey and women’s lacrosse, to not see more players sent off the pitch. Most have been second yellow cards in lacrosse, which is more akin to picking up a fifth foul in a basketball game.

But I think there’s going to be a bit of a kerfuffle in the next few years when it comes to girls’ and women’s lacrosse in the United States, especially as more men coach the game. That’s because men in lacrosse are more used to challenging the referees and sometimes challenging their integrity, which is a big no-no in the women’s game.

I’ll take you back to the 2010 NCAA women’s lacrosse final between Northwestern and Maryland. Northwestern, recall, had taken a 6-1 lead into the 13th minute of play, and Maryland was looking to get a second goal. The Terps were dispossessed, and Northwestern jetted away with numbers up in the midfield.

Suddenly, there was a whistle from one of the game umpires, and a yellow card was issued to the Northwestern bench. What could have been a 7-1 lead on that fast break became an 8-8 tie at the interval, from which Maryland pulled out a 13-11 win.

Only later on did word get out that the card was directed to Northwestern assistant coach Scott Hiller, who had played men’s lacrosse for Massachusetts and had a six-year coaching run with Boston and Washington/Chesapeake of Major League Lacrosse.

Over the course of the last few years, I have noticed that male coaches in the sports of field hockey and girls’ and women’s lacrosse have tended to receive more sanctions from umpires than their female counterparts. Note: this isn’t a scientific read on data, but just sideline observation.

But there’s also another observation I’ve made when it comes to lacrosse: there have been a lot fewer yellows given to scholastic coaches of both genders, because cards issued to coaches count towards the team total of three, beyond which a scholastic team is obligated to play short for the rest of the game. In other words, the rule which was designed to rein in rough and dangerous play has also seemingly reined in vociferous coaches.

That goal was the goal of the codes of conduct in tennis which were not well enforced in the 70s and 80s, but with the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals in 1990, the rules were more heavily enforced. The McEnroes, Vilases, and Nastases of the men’s tennis world had long since retired, and the tennis world was worried about other types of behavior, including consorting with betting interests.

That is, until last Saturday night.

Sept. 5, 2018 — Two national teams, two very different goals

In the last few days, announcements were made about the United States senior women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams, who will be preparing for upcoming tournament action.

The lacrosse team, off a World Cup/World Games double in 2017, is preparing to play October 6 in Sparks, Md. in the Team USA Fall Classic, a doubleheader featuring the United States playing against the current NCAA champions in fall-ball. The United States team has 12 players from the last World Cup, and 15 more players coming in from the collegiate and pro ranks.

I find it interesting that, for all of the star power that the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League (WPLL) had boasted in its ranks, United Women’s Lacrosse (UWLX) sent seven players to the American roster.

I had prophesied a few weeks ago that, while the WPLL had the known quantities in their league, there was room for discovery on the UWLX side. I’ll focus on two players, Dorrien Van Dyke and Kelly Glatthorn, as examples. Van Dyke is a graduate of Stony Brook, but she graduated in 2017, and did not participate in SBU’s run at No. 1 for most of last spring before running headlong into Boston College one rung short of the Final Four. She coached at Monmouth last year and was hired into the coaching staff of national champion James Madison for next year.

Glatthorn was the co-captain at Virginia Tech, helping steer the Hokies to their inaugural appearance in the NCAA Tournament. A close defender, she had 50 draw controls, 42 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers this past season.

Meanwhile, the American field hockey team has a much younger team for the Sompo Cup Four Nations tournament in Osaka, Japan. Fewer than half of the members of the World Cup roster will be taking part in this tournament, which features Australia, Korea, and host Japan.

And, as it is a tournament being held in the midst of the NCAA season, you’re not going to see the likes of Ashley Hoffman, Margaux Paolino, and Erin Matson, who are currently with their college teams. This means an opportunity for newcomers like goalies Kealsie Robles and Jess Jecko, forward Mary Beth Barnham, defender Carissa Vittese, and midfielder Laura Hurff.

Indeed, I think this tournament is much more of a combine to assess players for the FIH Hockey Pro League, which begins in earnest Feb. 2 with the States traveling to Argentina, then hosting Holland in what could be called the “Koode Oorlog” (Cold War) Feb. 16th in Winston-Salem, N.C.

For the women on the Sompo Cup roster, it’s a reward with a lot of difficulty, but some inspired choices could bear fruit down the road for Olympic qualifying.

Aug. 30, 2018 — An umpiring crisis in Vermont

Usually, this time of year, there is a story published somewhere in America indicating a critically-low number of game officials for scholastic sports.

Another story was published today in The Stowe News & Citizen about a shortage of officials in Vermont.

But the passage that struck me was this one:

After soccer, the ref deficit is worst for girls lacrosse and field hockey, [Vermont Principals’ Association Associate Director Bob] Johnson said.

That’s troubling. Especially if it becomes a nationwide trend.

 

Aug. 18, 2018 — Addition by addition?

This week, the team that polled as the No. 1 NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse team in the country for most of the season, showed its hand as to what it is going to try to do to win a national championship.

Stony Brook, which lost in the quarterfinal round in overtime to Boston College, may have graduated a sizable and accomplished senior class, but it is also welcoming four transfers amongst its newcomers. Nicole Barretta, Kelsi LoNigro, Sara Moeller and Sabrina Tabasso.

“We look at it as a reload,” SBU head coach Joe Spallina tells Long Island Newsday. “We have a ton of faith in the players that we have back, and now the pieces that we added.”

Of the four, Moeller may have the largest impact. She scored 77 goals and recorded 60 assists for the University of Maryland-Baltimore County in the last two years, and was a league all-star last year.

Now, I have seen transfers become bona fide game-changers at times in my three decades of observing the sport. But very few transfers have been the difference in whether a team makes it to NCAA championship level. One of the most memorable transfers was when Dana Dobbie transferred from the disbanded Ohio University program to set records for draw controls at the University of Maryland. Yet Dobbie never won a title with the Terps.

We’ll get an idea about how the transfers affect the team during fall-ball.