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Feb. 1, 2019 — NCAA Division I preview

AL’S FEARLESS 5IVE
Boston College
Florida
James Madison
Maryland
North Carolina

In the last three decades, there have been a number of Division I women’s lacrosse teams who have looked so strong in the preseason that you could send the Final Four game program to the printer and make the hotel reservations far ahead of time.

Such is the case for Boston College, who may be the single biggest championship favorite since the University of Maryland in 2000 or 2001, during the Jen Adams Era. The Eagles have been in the last two NCAA title games, have the current Tewaaraton Truphy winner in Sam Apuzzo, and welcome back Kenzie Kent, the fifth-year senior who set the women’s lacrosse world alight when she helped propel the Eagles to the Final Four in 2016 after finishing playing her other sport, ice hockey.

The team that will be hot on BC’s heels not only this year, but likely for some time to come, is North Carolina. That’s saying something when you’ve graduated a player the caliber of Marie McCool, one of the program’s all-time greats. Charlotte Sofield brings a great presence with her intelligence and leadership, Jamie Ortega and Ally Mastroianni were awesome as rookie players last year, and the team is bringing on No. 1 Inside Lacrosse recruit Elizabeth Hillman.

The lone question for UNC is how to fit in game action for three worthy goalkeepers. Elise Hennessy was the starter for the first half of last year, then Taylor Moreno won the job in mid-season, taking the Tar Heels through their unforgettable Final Four run. Add to that incoming freshman Kimber Hower, the No. 4-rated goalie in last year’s scholastic senior class, and you can see that head coach Jenny Levy has a full-fledged goalkeeping glut.

Your defending national champion James Madison University is back for another run at a national championship. Despite graduating senior attackers Kristen Gaudian and Elena Romsburg, the team still has leading attacker Hanna Haven, leading defender Emma Johnson, and a freshman class that includes a number of top players including Mairead Durkin, a 5-foot-10 impact midfielder and a pair of players — Kasey Knobloch and Ava Frantz — from New Jersey state champion Moorestown.

Not to be outdone, Maryland will be back for another bite of the championship apple, but, like JMU, graduated an outstanding senior class. However, the team’s underclasswomen will, I think, step up. Midfielder Kali Hartshorn, one of the best centers the program has ever had (and, given the Terps’ lineage of Kelly Amonte, Quinn Carney, Dana Dobbie, Karri Ellen Johnson, and Taylor Cummings, that’s saying something), will return for another season. I think, however, that the Terrapins’ fortunes will rely on their defense. Goalie Megan Taylor and close defender Shelby Mercer will be paramount in trying to keep opponents off the board.

Seven years ago, the University of Florida was on the doorstep of the national final before an illegal stick kept them out. This year’s team, thanks to the presence of Lindsey Ronbeck and Sydney Pirreca, could very well represent the best chance since then for the Gators to get to the final.


ELSEWHERE IN DIVISION I: Stony Brook, after being the story last year in the women’s lacrosse world, graduated its two main weapons, Kylie Ohlmiller and Courtney Murphy. But the Seawolves could make a comeback with Taryn Ohlmiller and Ally Kennedy as returnees. Watch also for this incoming freshman class, including Shonly Wallace, an attacking midfielder coming in from Canada.

Speaking of Canada, Northwestern’s dynamic talisman, Selena Lasota, returns for a fifth year of eligibility having been granted a redshirt for her injury-shortened 2017 season. And with the graduation of her former U-19 World Cup teammate Danita Stroup, younger sister Brianna will have to step to the fore. So will Taylor Pinzone, who is one of the few people ever to have scored 500 goals in a four-year scholastic lacrosse career.

Syracuse was an enigma last season. The Orange went from Final Four contender to a bubble team, which is stunning because of all the talent that the team possessed. This year, however, Gary Gait has built a team which can withstand the loss of a single key player. Indeed, you could draw the line as to when the team lost its momentum: Feb. 22, 2018, the day that Morgan Widner, the team’s draw-in, run-off (DIRO) specialist. went down with a knee injury. Gait, however, was able to attract Braelie Kempney, the younger sister of all-time midfield great Kailah Kempney.

Speaking of draws, Duke now has an embarrassment of talent in the circle now that Maddie Jenner, the freshman from Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.), has joined her sister Olivia at Durham. The question is, how will Duke do upon getting the ball? Yes, Charlotte North has returned from an outstanding freshman season. And yes, the team will likely rely on the calming influence of Gabbe Cadoux in the goal cage. I think Kerstin Kimel will have done some extra-intense coaching of the defensive backfield for the Blue Devils, and if they find the kind of magic that allowed them to make it into the Final Four, watch out.

Princeton will lead what I think will be a loaded Ivy League, one which could put in more teams into the NCAA Tournament than any conference not named the ACC or the Big Ten. Top scorers Kyla Sears, Elizabeth George, and Tess D’Orsi all return, and that alone could make the Tigers a threat to make the Final Four.

DARK HORSE: Towson gave eventual national champion James Madison a devil of a time during their regular-season matchup, and made it into the octofinal round of the NCAA Tournament, losing 21-17 to Northwestern. Natalie Sulmonte and Carly Tellekamp will return to lead the offense, and junior Kiley Keating returns in the goal crease.

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Jan. 23, 2019 — What eight years means to technology

I received the box, oddly enough, on a Sunday.

Inside was a small device, smaller than your normal smartphone, plus a handful of accessories and a mini-CD.

The device is simple in its fit and finish: three buttons, one mini-USB connector.

It’s a small digital screen which is designed to auto-play video and folders of pictures; a smaller version of those digital photo albums which were all the rage. These started hitting the market sometime around 2011.

I’ve seen these “digi-tags” applied at conventions in order to be able to get attention in the midst of a crowded floor. It is an arresting vision when colored and moving lights emanate from something attached to one’s clothing.

One interesting application of these occurred in June of 2011, when the broadcasters of the NBA Finals used these screens mounted on the microphones of the broadcasters to rotate images of their network, the NBA Finals logo, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

I found it pretty pricey, given the fact they were being used for only a few seconds at the inception of the broadcast.

But it was also in 2011 when the iPhone 4 first hit the market. And with that, three generations of iPhones were left behind.

Some people kept their older iPhones in order to turn them into either music players, but others turned them into rudimentary (and free) video presentation devices that could be worn much like the single-purpose video badge.

What had been a $500 item at full price had come down to my $25 purchase.

When I unboxed and plugged in the USB cable, what played was a series of presentations extolling the virtue of a used-car business. Great.

It took me a while to figure out that I had to upload a movie on it with a certain internal codex, one which I was able to change using a bit of freeware called Handbrake.

Today, there’s a three-minute video on the badge, which features about 40 different representations of this site’s logo. All of the design work had been done on an iPhone, though the final assembly was done through iMovie.

It’s quite impressive, and we’ll be sure to implement this microphone flag in future videos we do for this site.

Jan. 17, 2019 — Unequal treatment on TV, yet again

The Big East Conference has been scrambled and shaken over the last few years, owing to conference reconstruction particularly in men’s basketball.

These days, the Big East does have some good programs; on the men’s side, Denver University won an NCAA championship a few years back, and on the women’s, Georgetown made a pair of Final Fours at the inception of the 21st Century.

But when the television schedule for Big East lacrosse was released today, it was notable for only one thing: inequality.

The schedule has six men’s lacrosse games spread across the Fox and CBS Sports networks, while the women have just one.

One. And it isn’t even a conference matchup: instead, the only time any of the networks are willing to show a Big East women’s team is when Maryland makes the 12-mile drive to Georgetown University.

The student-athletes on the women’s lacrosse teams at Butler, Villanova, Denver, Marquette, and Old Dominion should be up in arms, as they won’t get a single minute of TV exposure in the network schedule.

This space certainly notices the discrimination.

Jan. 2, 2019 — Additions to the sidelines?

There’s been a surfeit of game-changing players who have cantered through the NCAA Division I ranks the last few years. And yet, I haven’t seen a resulting flood of players joining coaching staffs at major U.S. colleges.

There have been a few top players joining Division I programs as assistants such as Gussie Johns (Georgetown), Megan Whittle (Dartmouth), and Kara Mupo (Stanford).

Where’s everybody else? A lot of the graduating seniors have signed with lacrosse companies and are coaching travel teams. That’s how three-time Tewaaraton Trophy winner Taylor Cummings trained up in order to be able to take over the dominant girls’ scholastic program of the 2010s, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.).

But because a lot of the talent in Division I last year was in the junior class, it will be a while before you see Selena Lasota, Sam Apuzzo, and (maybe) Kenzie Kent coaching somewhere.

Then again, Kent’s likely to be somewhere on a rink once her playing days are done at Boston College. The choices are going to be dizzying for this elite two-sport player.

 

Dec. 30, 2018 — Wishes for the new year

There’s been a lot going on in this space over the last year, and, while people are making resolutions for 2019, here are a few things we hope will happen:

I am hoping for the best for a very young U.S. women’s national field hockey side as they begin training for the 2019 FIH Pro League. I hope that the young players, especially Erin Matson and Mackenzie Allessie, show that they belong at this level.

I’m also hoping that the U.S. team finds a good holding midfielder as well as a drag-flick specialist (yep, it’s the age-old problem, but it’s still a going concern).

I hope that U.S. field hockey watchers remember a decade ago when goalkeeper Belen Succi had exactly two international caps when she joined Argentina at the 2008 Olympics, and is now seen as one the Albecelestes’ all-time greats.

I hope that girls’ lacrosse watchers, especially in Florida, are able to appreciate the freight train that is Caitlyn Wurzburger as she is threatening the all-time numbers for goals; she already had the assist mark as a sophomore, no less.

I hope that the Boston College women’s lacrosse team is able to handle all of the scrutiny that will follow silver-medal efforts  the last two years, choosing instead to focus on the next possession.

I hope that the NCAA doesn’t decide to make the women’s lacrosse draw identical to the men’s, making it a more physical endeavor than what it is now.

I hope that the NCAA women’s lacrosse and field hockey tournament committees make it a point to reward mid-major teams for how they do during the season and not create multi-year monopolies which are difficult to compete against.

I hope that Carli Lloyd will have a glimpse at final glory at this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

I hope that a soccer player nobody heard of four years ago, such as an Abby Dahlkemper or Lynn Williams, makes an enormous impact in the U.S. team’s performance this summer.

I hope the tournament also become a great platform to show how good a player Tobin Heath is.

I hope both the WNBA and NWSL establish — and enforce — minimum standards for their teams so that you don’t have the greatest players in the world in their craft having to play in an building one step up from the local high school.

And I wish you, my readers, all the best in health and happiness for the New Year.

Dec. 26, 2018 — Return of a familiar name

The words “Samaras” and “Annapolis” are, together, synonymous with success in girls’ and women’s lacrosse.

Whether it was family matriarch Cathy Samaras running her lacrosse company Synapse Sports, or daughters Cory, Crista, and Stephy earning Division I All-America status after prepping at Annapolis (Md.), there has been a certain magic when it comes to the marriage of the two entities.

In the spring of 2019, there will be a return to the coaching box for Stephy Samaras, who has been the assistant coach for Annapolis for the last four years, but she’s assuming all of the responsibility this coming season. She has no illusions as to how difficult the task is, given the competitiveness in Anne Arundel County as well as the number of backyards rivals who have won championships. The last decade has seen Annapolis Broadneck (Md.), Severna Park (Md.), and Edgewater South River (Md.) win titles.

But Samaras has also noted that the balance of competition has shifted from the quality public-school programs to the schools in the Independent Athletic Association of Maryland, notably Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) and Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.).

“I think if you live in Annapolis and you have money, you don’t go to Annapolis High School,” Samaras told The Capital Gazette. “If everyone who lived in Annapolis went to the public high school, there wouldn’t be a conversation about what’s happened at Annapolis. The connection between Annapolis and the schools and programs that feed into it is lost.”

Finding it again is a mission which will take some time, but it will be fun to see how the program matures with her at the helm.

Dec. 17, 2018 — The biennial solution

A year ago, we wrote this.

Over the weekend, the CEO of FIH, Thierry Weil, told media that the international governing body would start holding Junior World Cup competitions on a biennial basis as early as 2021.

“We need to support youth in sport and give every generation a chance to participate in Junior World Cup,” Weil told media members assembled in India for the FIH men’s World Cup. “If we don’t, we lose a generation of players.”

Evidently, FIH is looking to other Olympic sports for inspiration. FIFA holds a U-20 World Cup every other year, and the IIHF holds its World Junior Championships ever single year.

It would appear as though the International Lacrosse Federation is next.