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Archive for Lacrosse

August 23, 2022 — Women’s sports making a break for over-the-air TV, but at what cost?

Today, it was announced that two major women’s athletic competitions were going to be showing their grand finals on not some out-of-the-way streaming service, but on network television.

Yep, that’s right — on the Big Four.

The National Women’s Soccer League will be hosting its championship game in prime time on CBS later this fall. This has occurred while most of the rest of the league’s contests have been shown on either Paramount Plus, or on Twitch.

Meanwhile, the NCAA Division I women’s basketball championship is moving from ESPN to parent network ABC for the first time. This, as other women’s championships like lacrosse and softball have been getting record ratings on various ESPN platforms.

There’s just one thing that concerns me, however. Both Paramount and Disney — the parent companies of these two major networks — have seen the reach and pull of the over-the-air network being driven down the last quarter-century, as there is a grappling between cable networks and streaming networks for the viewer dollar. The legacy over-the-air rabbit-ears networks are seen at little more than afterthoughts.

Want proof? Paramount has not shown a single episode of two of its most popular series — Picard and Discovery — on CBS, making fans of the Star Trek universe have to pony up to get the streaming service. Too, Disney is moving its most popular reality show, Dancing With The Stars, exclusively to Disney Plus, making fans of that show pay in order to watch.

So, what’s responsible for the NCAA and NWSL moving championship games to over-the-air TV? A lot of it is, of course, money. Ally, an insurance and banking company, became the sponsor of the 2022 final once it was known the game — and its commercials — would be on CBS.

When it comes to the NCAA, the move to ABC is coming right before a new series of contracts are being negotiated for collegiate sports which are not football and men’s basketball. Rumor has it that women’s basketball will be getting its own multimillion-dollar deal.

Now, with women’s hoops getting a standalone contract, what does that do for the rest of the NCAA sporting universe? What about events like the College World Series, or the Frozen Four? Or, even moreso, the event which set all kinds of records last spring, women’s lacrosse?

I couldn’t tell you what is going to happen to individual championship events. Indeed, I wonder if the playing field will go back to what it was before 2010, when individual networks had the right of first refusal for sports content.

It’s this kind of system which resulted in the women’s Frozen Four appearing suddenly on the Big Ten Network one year because there were multiple Big Ten teams in it. It also resulted in College Sports Television suddenly broadcasting the NCAA Division I men’s volleyball championship in 2003, the year Lewis University won the title but had to vacate because of numerous rules violations.

And there was also 2010, when ESPN, after largely ignoring women’s lacrosse, thought it necessary to broadcast Virginia’s first NCAA Tournament game in 2010 after the murder of Yeardley Love. The coverage did little to counter the perception of ESPN as tabloid sports media. No other first-round games were broadcast that year.

One can hope that the coverage of non-basketball and non-football events won’t go behind the proverbial paywall. But given what we’re seeing (or not seeing), I’m not so sure the next contract will be good for field hockey or women’s lacrosse.

Aug. 19, 2022 — But what if all of the investment in youth sports facilities is missing actual youths?

This week, we’ve touched on various topics involving the building of multisport facilities in many areas of the country with field hockey (and, to be fair, other sports) in mind.

The amounts of the projects range from the sublime ($7 million for the indoor facility at Dover Foxcroft Academy (Maine) to the ridiculous ($1.2 billion for the entire planned sports complex in Kannapolis, N.C.).

It is assumed that there is a market for youth sports like soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, and basketball to keep these places running and well-maintained. The market, however, also assumes that there are sports teams — especially at schools — for youth players to compete and win.

News came out this week that public-school enrollment nationwide has dropped by some four percent in the last two years of the pandemic. It’s not enough that parents are keeping their students at home for virtual learning, but many have either decided to switch to private or parochial schools, or to begin homeschooling.

The numbers are noteworthy: only 72 percent of schoolchildren were enrolled at their public school in the fall of 2020, down from 81 percent before the pandemic. While there has been somewhat of a rebound, we’ve been seeing a number of schools having to either drop teams or create co-op arrangements with nearby schools in many athletic pursuits.

In field hockey, which has a number of teams and localities hanging by a mere thread, a number of programs appear to be close to not having enough players for a full varsity, according to social media posts.

Sure, one can blame an economic downturn on this, but I think there are other factors. I’ve been seeing some public officials turning education into a cultural issue. One state, Virginia, even went as far as to open a tipline for parents to phone in anonymous tips about objectionable content in schools.

Individual school districts have become battlegrounds for everything from objectionable books to in-class mask mandates. (Ironically, a number of the anti-maskers have since died from COVID-19.)

I think some of the politicization of the public-school ethos is creating a flight from public schools that we haven’t seen since the 1960s, when private school creation — especially in the northeast U.S. — was at its apogee. Not surprisingly, white flight to the suburbs practically began with Brown vs. Board of Education, and the creation of “segregation academies” to exclude minorities ensued.

Your Founder attended such an academy, located in Trenton, N.J., which was started by a wealthy benefactor whose husband made his fortune in steel. The school started partially in her high-rise apartment next to a local church, then moved into a purpose-built facility on church grounds the following year.

The current flight, however, seems to be heading towards virtual learning and homeschooling rather than trying to put together faculty, funding, and a facility to start a private school.

And as long as enough leaders in a community continue to frame public education as an enemy of the general society, that trend could very well continue.

Aug. 17, 2022 — A hockey investment with more shovels in the ground

The University of Maryland’s field hockey and women’s lacrosse teams have been amongst the national leaders in attendance in their respective sports during the last decade and a half. Of course, a big part of it is because of their collective success on the pitch, with a combined 10 national titles since The Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex was opened in 2003.

They’ve razed a good portion of the building at the west end of the complex, as part of another major investment in the game of field hockey (and, by extension, women’s lacrosse). According to reports, some $11 million will be spent in order to make a building measuring nearly 17,000 square feet.

The two-story building will include offices, locker rooms, and a sports medicine room. It will also include a press box and a glass-enclosed lobby.

I’ve seen mockups of what the finished build-out would look like, and it is indeed impressive. And yet another investment in the game which should be celebrated.

BULLETIN: August 15, 2022 — Athletes Unlimited confirms Marino’s championship

After a bit of movement over the last 20 hours or so, the final totals for the Athletes Unlimited women’s lacrosse league have been confirmed. A point has been added to leader Taylor Moreno’s total from overnight, and five points have come off second-place Sam Apuzzo’s overnight total.

This makes the final margin 16 points, confirming Moreno’s place as the second AU champion, with her score being 1798 to Apuzzo’s 1782.

The two luminaries had been tied on the scoreboard headed into the final three minutes of play, and finished Matchday 12 almost level on points after the win bonus for Moreno (45 points), the fourth-quarter bonus for Apuzzo (20 points), and the additional MVP-3 bonus (15 points) for Apuzzo.

It’s been an unprecedented 2022 season for AU women’s lacrosse — the only time a post-overtime shootout has ever been used in women’s lacrosse, and the only recount ever used to determine a champion.

Can’t wait for Season 3 next summer.

August 12, 2022 — Towards the future

It was revealed in at least one news report this week that Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse will be returning to its new home at U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md. next summer.

We don’t know yet whether the lacrosse played there will be the same 10-v-10 format that we’ve seen in most iterations of pro lacrosse since 2016, or whether the league will adopt the Lacrosse Sixes format, which is expected to be the preferred format for the sport to enter the Olympic program by 2028.

But there’s one thing that we do know about the site: it’s one which is smack in the middle of mid-Atlantic lacrosse country, right next to Baltimore and within easy driving distance of the complex for a number of lacrosse hotbeds.

That includes the burgeoning lacrosse factory that central Pennsylvania is becoming. Sure, the traditional powers are in the southeast corner of the state, in Districts 1 and 12. But in the last few years, good teams from District 3 and elsewhere are making their way through the brackets.

And I can’t help but think that some kid in the stands at this weekend’s games may get inspired enough to propel her team to a state championship one day.

Aug. 6, 2022 — A tone-deaf response to a #MeToo moment

Today, a student-run Internet newspaper called The Tab published a disturbing account of the cover-up of sexual assault on the part of members of the University College London lacrosse club teams.

The main thrust of the story is that the president of the women’s lacrosse team at UCL attempted to have a female player removed from the club after she went to authorities with an accusation of assault, allegedly by a member of the men’s lacrosse club.

The reporting in this story has uncovered a deeply-entrenched culture of toxicity within the team, which involved plying alcohol to first-year students, which are referred to as “Freshers.”

“Binge drinking is actively encouraged,” according to an unidentified member of the club. “It enables people to act badly because the worst side of them comes out. All the club care about is their reputation. If silencing women is what they need to do then they will do it.”

Reporting on the issue has already resulted in the resignation of the men’s president, and the women’s club president has also been pressured to step down.

“It’s a very laddie culture,” a member of a previous steering committee for the UCL lacrosse club tells The Tab. “I don’t think a lot of the guys understand how their behavior is misogynistic and creates that environment.”

It’s pretty amazing that, several years after the Me Too movement in the United States upended a number of careers in industry, sports, the Arts, and general society, the same behavior is being replicated and extended.

It is, to be sure, discouraging.

Aug. 3, 2022 — Who has the real pulse on scholastic sport in the U.S.?

I wrote yesterday about how USA Today, a national newspaper which is now supported by a network of local papers in the Gannett chain, handed out the awards for the finest high-school athletes in numerous athletic pursuits for the 2021-22 academic year.

You might think that, with 100 affiliates in the daily ranks and 1,000 weekly newspapers, that it would have the kind of necessary reach to pick the best scholastic athletes.

But does that reach actually reach everybody? We wrote a year ago about Fran Frieri, who had just broken the record for the most goals scored in a girls’ lacrosse season. She had mentioned that the local newsgathering organization covering Lockport, Ill. had shuttered during the pandemic.

And I have a feeling Lockport is not alone.

I have seen a number of journalistic organizations come and go over the years. I’ve seen the debut and denouement of numerous high-school sports shows, whether on ESPN and on local TV sponsored by newspapers like The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post.

And regrettably, I have seen more than one field hockey-centric sports website come and go over the last quarter-century.

I’ve been very lucky to be able to put my pulse on both field hockey and lacrosse nationwide over the last 24 years, and to be able to see people who carried the torch for their respective activity either as a player or in the coaching box.

One thing I’m also seeing in the last year or so, however, are players who are literally making themselves into a brand. We’ve seen female athletes making more than a million dollars from telecommunications companies by making content extolling the virtues of mobile technology.

We’ve also seen “influencers” who, by virtue of the number of followers on their social media sites, can not only make money from the companies with which they partner, but can also create worldwide markets for those companies through a well-targeted video or picture.

And you know something? It’s being allowed through the rules of not only the NCAA, but by state governing bodies of sport.

Want some context? Have a look at this map, generated by

In this map, wide swaths of football country from Arizona to Florida up to Ohio do not allow high-school students to make money off their name, likeness, and image. There are, however, some states such as California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which do allow NLI rights.

It’s led to some interesting developments. One saw a top football prospect from Texas deciding to forego his senior year at his local school to sign an NLI deal worth more than $1 million.

We also saw Ashley Sessa, the talismanic forward who has been playing in the U.S. system to the point where she has 11 national-team caps, sign a deal with STX, wearing socks with that logo along with her Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) uniform last fall.

I have a feeling this is going to be the next big thing in scholastic sport.

Aug. 2, 2022 — Some well-deserved hardware

Over the weekend, USA Today presented its annual high-school sports awards, which covers a pretty wide panoply of scholastic sports.

I don’t know if the selectors have been following this site, but I do find it interesting that the national scoring champions for girls lacrosse and field hockey — Fran Frieri and Ryleigh Heck — won the national player of the year in both sports.

Why? If you went by the pool of players listed as nominees for each sport, as well as the three finalists in each sport, you’d be pretty amazed.

Frieri, who wasn’t selected for the Under Armour All-America Game, beat out two players who did: Kori Edmonson of Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) and Peep Williams of Binghamton Seton Catholic (N.Y.). But also in the pool of nominees are a number of players who are going to become part of the national scene very soon, such as Madison Beale of Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.), Shea Dolce of Darien (Conn.), and Caroline Godine of Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.).

Heck, who was just recently selected to the U.S. senior women’s national team pool, had to beat out Maci Bradford of Delmar (Del.) and Alaina McVeigh of Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.) in the group of finalists. But also in the group of nominees was Ashley Sessa of Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) and Josie Hollamon of Delmar (Del.), both of whom are also in the U.S. women’s national team pool. Too, one of the nominees was fellow 100-goal scorer Talia Schenck of Lawrence (N.J.).

Fran Frieri and Ryleigh Heck are headed off to their respective universities to start preseason: Frieri with lacrosse at Notre Dame, Heck with field hockey at North Carolina. Fair or not, both will have outsized expectations on their performances at the college level.

But I have a feeling that a lot of the other field hockey and lacrosse players who were nominated for the USA Today Awards are also going to be preparing for some absolutely boffo debut seasons during the 2022-23 college year.

Aug. 1, 2022 — Some annual housekeeping

Hi, all. As the domestic field hockey season begins this month with college friendlies as well as the Apple Tournament and the Gateway Invitational, our site is going its usual changeover from field hockey to lacrosse.

We’ll have our Fearless 5ive previews for NCAA Division I, II, and III, and we’ll also have our back-of-the-envelope preseason Top 10 towards the end of the month. On which platform we’re going to be releasing these, that’s yet to be determined.

We’re also keeping an eye on the transfer portal, which really altered the landscape of college sports and could give the first-year Clemson program a rocket boost of talent that other recent startups never had.

Now, you’ll notice in our Chasing History section to the right of this story, we’ve changed the listings of the inactive players from orange to black as the achievements of last year’s seniors blend into history.

This includes field hockey’s Ryleigh Heck and lacrosse’s Fran Frieri, both of whom set records during the past academic year.

And it seems these records have gotten their holders a certain degree of attention. More on that tomorrow.

July 30, 2022 — After 132 years, an unprecedented ending

This afternoon’s doubleheader, encapsulating Matchday 5 of Athletes Unlimited women’s lacrosse, saw both games go into overtime.

But the nightcap, the game between Team Moreno and Team Apuzzo, could not be settled after three minutes of extra time with the game tied 10-10.

What happened next is an event which we don’t think has ever happened since women’s lacrosse was played in 1890 in Scotland.

The event: a post-overtime shootout. Each of the two teams, captained by Taylor Moreno and Sam Apuzzo, selected two groups of three players each.

One by one, the players lined up outside the 8-meter wedge and fired 2-point attempts towards a guarded goal. The team ahead after three rounds won the shootout.

But as you might expect in Athletes Unlimited, that initial phase did not decide matters. The teams went into a second group of three, whereupon Team Apuzzo won the shootout 3-2.

Now, I’ve done a little digging into the history of women’s lacrosse, and I have not seen any reference to any kind of women’s lacrosse tiebreaker set out in the rules except for the rules regarding overtime.

This is is marked contrast to field hockey, which has used as many as five different post-overtime tiebreakers to determine a winner in case of a draw.

I don’t pretend to know the thinking of lacrosse rulesmakers over the last 132 years. I just find it fascinating that nobody has come up with this kind of elegant solution before: free positions from the 8 to end a game.

I don’t know whether this will catch on in other levels of the sport, but I get the feeling it just might before too long.