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May 6, 2020 — Another loss for the field hockey and girls’ lacrosse communities

Remember this?

Yesterday, it was announced that Baltimore Institute of Notre Dame (Md.), one of the longest-serving all-girls’ prep schools in the country, would be closing its doors at the end of the academic year.

Amongst the casualties are the field hockey and girls’ lacrosse teams at the school, both of which competed in the “C” Flight of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland.

The IAAM is the nation’s most high-profile lacrosse conference, and, to be fair, the decade of the 2010s were unkind to IND. The team finished at or near the bottom of the conference table every year except for a fourth-place finish in the “B” Flight in 2013. That year, the team made the postseason semifinals only to fall to The Park School of Baltimore (Md.).

The end of the decade saw the Institute finish with one season in conference play for the last three seasons, and the team was reassigned to the “C” Flight for the 2020 season. This year’s outfit team showed signs of insurrection in a 12-12 draw with The Catholic High School of Baltimore (Md.). But that game was held March 12th, only a couple of days before the nation underwent its COVID-19 quarantine, which continues, more or less, to this day.

For this girls’ lacrosse group, it would have been interesting to see what they could have done in their new conference, but the closing of the school is going to, regrettably, leave that a mystery.

 

 

May 1, 2020 — What might scholastic girls’ lacrosse look like in 2021?

In the last couple of days, the State of New York declared that all public schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. And with that, the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association cancelled all of the rest of its games and championships which had not already been cancelled.

That puts New York in with Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and numerous other states or commonwealths which have called off interscholastic competition for the spring of 2020.

In most areas of the country, interscholastic play had not even begun before orders to close schools and end sports for the season.

This leaves an interesting situation for the players left behind — the classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 who will be filling roster slots next spring. Most of the players in these classes nationwide have never played a scholastic girls’ contest under the new National Federation rules package allowing free movement.

Too, the members of the Class of 2020 (except for warm-weather states) will have to go into their college seasons without a single competitive varsity contest where free movement is the rule. It is going to be a tremendous adjustment for current high-school seniors heading into college without a full senior season.

I project that there will be a number of people who will still reflexively stop in place when the umpire blows every whistle; unshackling players from the original rules is, I believe, going to take some time.

But the Covid-19 cancellation of the 2020 season also delays any kind of evaluations by players, coaches, and umpires as to the efficacy of certain rules, meaning that further rules changes in the scholastic realm (carding rules and the possession clock chief among them) could be further delayed.

Let’s see what happens.

April 25, 2020 — Three field sports, three responses

We wrote earlier this month about the closure of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, a competition which was intended to raise the level of U-19 competition nationwide. But the DA took away thousands of young people away from their high-school teams and, critics charged, turned out players who were not ready for the next level, as exemplified by the failure of the U-23 men’s national team to qualify for Rio 2016 and London 2012, and the senior men’s national team to qualify for Russia 2018.

The worldwide Coronavirus pandemic has stopped youth soccer games and has cancelled the Olympic Development Program (ODP), the direct pipeline for the U.S. youth men’s and women’s national team camps for next year.

The Coronavirus has also affected youth programs in field hockey and lacrosse. The Futures program for USA Field Hockey has gone to a completely on-line program.

“Our goal is to be ready to resume delivery of on-field programming in a revised format as soon as it is safe to do so,” said a USA Field Hockey release earlier this spring.

A long-term plan is for USA Field Hockey to push back its Futures Tournament into mid-July in Virginia Beach. But for that to happen, regional camps will have to be held in various places across the U.S.

But that all depends on when state governments, through state and federal public health guidelines, relax regulations on public gatherings.

One major women’s lacrosse summer tournament organizer, the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Association, came out one week ago with a statement announcing the full cancellation of its entire slate of girls’ lacrosse tournaments through the summer, with full refunds to participants.

The same day, however, Corrigan Sports — the ILWCA’s partner in running these events — announced that the tournaments would go on as scheduled, but without ILWCA involvement.

There is a significant reason for the uncertainty of these tournaments. That’s because another organization, Live Love Lax, has scheduled a tournament in Florida the same November weekend as the scheduled President’s Cup, which is also in Florida.

Of course, we won’t know for some time when Florida will have its quarantine lifted, but what we do know is that the vista of youth sports is going to be altered forever. I have a feeling that a number of the current businesses that help run or promote youth events are going to fall the way of the Development Academy.

 

April 24, 2020 — A reboot, permanently stopped

A decade ago, the women’s lacrosse program at Urbana University, a small liberal arts university in Urbana, Ohio, was disbanded.

Plans had been in place for a return to the lacrosse pitch in the year 2021. A coach had been hired, and the recruiting process had already begun.

That is, until the worldwide spread of the Coronavirus, which cancelled all of college sports since mid-March, including winter championships and the entirety of the spring season.

Sadly, for the students of Urbana University as well as for those who were looking forward to attending this coming fall, the contagion came with an economic cost. Urbana University, citing economic challenges and low enrollment, is closing.

Urbana University had incurred significant debt in the last decade, and it was hoped that a buyout from nearby Franklin University would help its prospects. However, the economic damage from COVID-19 is, apparently, proving too much to overcome.

Urbana is not the only school of higher education to announce its intention to close this spring. An arts college in the Bay Area as well as a Michigan university are also closing, and it’s enough to make you wonder if this is just the start.

That’s because many of the 4,300 college and universities across the U.S. are not sponsored by taxpayer funding, and have to get by on donations and the principle of not paying out more than it takes in tuition and fees.

Yet, a number of private universities, such as Cornell, Columbia, and Harvard, were given grant money in a recent bailout program. Would that Urbana University could have had a fair chance at that government largesse.

April 17, 2020 — Another “what might have been” story

The COVID-19 contagion is leading to a raft of instances in which student-athletes in all age groups are being denied the opportunity to participate in the sport they love.

But especially in the girls’ and women’s lacrosse communities of the U.S., the contagion has cut off the opportunity for some seniors to do something truly great.

For senior Kali Hartshorn of the University of Maryland, that something was an opportunity to not only try to repeat as national champions, but to vault into first place all-time in school history in draw controls.

But that’s not happening, not only because of the COVID-19 epidemic, but because Hartshorn, in a Twitter message yesterday, announced that she would not be coming back for a fifth season of eligibility at Maryland.

In the history of sport, there are certain positions on certain teams which have attained a certain prestige over the years — left-fielder for the Boston Red Sox, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, whoever wears the No. 10 shirt for the soccer teams representing Brazil and Argentina, and, as it turns out, the center for the Maryland women’s lacrosse team.

Since the mid-1990s, there has been pretty much an unbroken tradition of excellence amongst the players who take draws for the Terps. Luminaries such as Kelly Amonte, Quinn  Carney, Acacia Walker, Dana Dobbie, Karri Ellen Johnson and Taylor Cummings have given their respective teams the ball after goals, as well as momentum.

These women incrementally turned draw controls into an artform, changing the way the game was played, leading to rules changes and resulting changes in strategy.

Then came Hartshorn. As a first-year varsity player in 2017, she had 112 draw controls, an outstanding performance that helped the Terrapins win the national final. She helped Maryland to a 2019 national title as well, and it was expected that she would break the school record for draw controls this past spring.

Maryland started slowly, going 1-3 in its first four games. But you got the feeling that the Terrapins were turning a corner by the sixth game of the season. Hartshorn not only led the team in scoring with 10 goals and 10 assists, but she also (again) led the team in draw controls, with 33.

The regrettable thing is, we’re not going to know whether Hartshorn will overtake Cummings for the all-time lead in draw controls at Maryland, nor whether the Terps can defend their 2019 national championship.

Such is the nature of what the Coronavirus has taken away from the sporting world.

April 15, 2020 — Is the COVID-19 contagion a fatal blow for startup sports leagues?

The cancellation yesterday of the 2020 Women’s Professional Lacrosse League season was just the latest event in what is likely to become the Summer Without Sports.

The WPLL, heading into its third season, was doing so with 20 percent fewer roster spots, owing to the contraction of the league from five teams to four. It was also riding the wave of positive news about the development of the sport, including the announcement of the 6-on-6 “Olympic” rules that have been proposed for Los Angeles 2028.

It was speculated that the WPLL would have been trying out this rules package this summer.

But thanks to the worldwide spread of Coronavirus, which reached 2 million cases today, the league opted not to play this summer.

The epidemic, and the stay-at-home measures that many governments and public health officials have put in place to curb it, have affected well-entrenched sports worldwide, including the suspension of soccer in England, which dates back to 1888, and Major League Baseball, which dates back to 1869.

For athletic competitions without such traditions, however, the virus — and the economic collapse that has followed — is going to have a devastating impact. It’s already sunk the reboot of the XFL, which is now in Chapter 11 liquidation.

I think it is also going to give the people who run baseball the perfect excuse to go through with its plan to close up to 40 minor-league baseball teams, including teams in the New York-Penn League, Northwest League, Appalachian League, and Pioneer League.

But for newer leagues running on a proverbial shoestring, such as the WPLL and the National Women’s Soccer League, I wonder whether there will be enough sponsorship for the leagues to survive.

April 14, 2020 — Loss of an umpiring great

It’s hard to imagine, but one of the world’s finest women’s lacrosse umpires over the last 30 years never actually played the sport in high school.

Susie Ganzenmuller, instead, was a field hockey player for St. Louis John Burroughs (Mo.), and when she moved east to Connecticut, she started as a field hockey umpire, but took to officiating lacrosse with incredible ease.

Ganzenmuller died late last week after a long illness. Please read this remembrance as published in Lacrosse Magazine.

April 11, 2020 — Lacrosse on the front lines, too

Turns out that it’s not only field hockey people who are fighting the war on the novel Coronavirus.

Read this story from the Philadelphia Inquirer about a number of women who are not only veterans of the Villanova women’s lacrosse team, but who also attended the university’s nursing school.

April 9, 2020 — Another significant domino for scholastic sports this spring

This afternoon, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association did what it had to do when Governor Tom Wolf closed all of the commonwealth’s schools for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year.

The PIAA not only cancelled the unfinished portion of the winter sports season, but has cancelled the entirety of the spring sports season.

Pennsylvania joins a number of states who have already cancelled their sports seasons, but the Keystone State’s impact, given the fact that it is the nation’s fifth-largest state by population, looms very large not only over its neighbors like New York and Illinois, but also in terms of individual sports.

Even though there are some states which have been making contingencies for shortened seasons (such as New Jersey, Florida, and Ohio), it is plain that, aside from a miracle flattening of the contagion curve worldwide, I can’t see a way for scholastic sports to return this spring.

April 7, 2020 — Once enemies

Later this month, the Home Nations of England, Scotland and Wales were going to meet up with the Czech republic in a series of women’s lacrosse friendlies.

But the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has not only put the kibosh on almost all professional and amateur sports, but it has sent team members into the fight to save lives.

Eleanor Gaastra, Emma Hawkins and Ros Lloyd Rout are part of the Wales side, and all work for the National Health Services. They would have met up against an England side which includes Dr. Rebecca Jordache.

Read this BBC story on the Welsh teammates, as well as this Telegraph story on Jordache’s ordeal on getting the coronavirus.