Welcome back to the second edition of “A Lacrosse Weekend,” a compilation of lacrosse: thoughts, ideas, history, stories, myths and truths. I hope you enjoy it!
With 2 of the last 3 undefeated teams going head to head, it’s an America East showdown! And speaking of the America East, how ‘bout them Retrievers with the upset over Virginia last night! Back to lacrosse. Chris Feifs, 2nd year Head Coach of Vermont is truly one of the best guys in the sport...sincere, caring, hard working, smart…. as good a dude as you’ll meet. I’m hoping for the upset, but it's going to be a tall order for Vermont if last year’s blowout is any indication. With the way Albany can win face offs, Vermont may not get much of a chance to take advantage of the Albany defense.
Can Virginia win their first ACC game since the 2014 season today? This should be a fun game to watch with the run and gun style of play that coach Tiffany employs and the grind it out style that coach Corrigan employs. Observation on ND: they do like the great defense, control the ball grind it out style of play, but often times when they are at their best and when they’re back is against the wall, they go to a frenetic pace of 10 man rides, double teams, double poles on wings, and transition. I’m not sure when UVA will get their first ACC win, but it’s going to happen and once they get it going, watch out! Lars can coach!
Virginia/Notre Dame Part 2
Lars Tiffany and I were captains together of the 1989 Brown lacrosse team. Funny story: Lars was a T.A. in a class called “The Life of Birds.” So a bunch of us lacrosse players signed up for the class with, you know, some expectations that Lars could hook us up! Understandably, Lars avoided us like the plague all semester! Long story short, my group was to be studying the Finch for the term and coming up with data from various experiments. Well the day before the presentations, we had to do something, and thankfully our teammate, East Meadow D-man and self proclaimed F.L.I.D. ,Dave Kotowski, blurted out a great idea: “Let’s buy a finch!” The rest is history, we got the finch, we did a great presentation, and poor Lars just stood there shaking his head and hoping we didn’t get him in trouble. Good luck today Lars!
This has become one of the better match ups and rivalries in college lacrosse. Both teams graduated a lot of firepower, but are exceedingly well coached with athletes and Canadians. Both teams play a methodical style of play offensively and great team defense. I think Denver’s defense might be it’s strong suit this year…. Watch them win this game in single digits. My prediction: 9-7 Denver. By the way: how good is Ethan Walker? Holy $%#@! He’s more athletic than you would think… the kid has some burst to go with extraordinary shooting/finishing abilities.
Ivy League Play
Princeton/Penn, Brown/Harvard and Yale/Cornell mark the opening of the Ivy League games. The Ivy League is stocked with good teams and some great talent. Here are a few of my favorite players to watch:
1. Jeff Teat, Cornell - I watched this kid play box… you cannot even believe how good this kid is! The way he moves, shoots, and feeds is unreal. He’s skinny and 5’11’’ but scores like none other. He might have the purest scoring ability I’ve ever seen.
2. Ben Reeves, Yale - Lefty slashing, long, skilled, explosive and a great feeder. This kid plus Andy Shay coached team is a great combo!
3. Morgan Cheek, Harvard - maybe the best dodging attackman in DI. This kid is a beast and has had some big games vs. Brown (9 goals a couple years back!)
4. Michael Sowers, Princeton-the sophomore had an easy 3-6 vs Rutgers last weekend. He is a text book X attackman! His quickness and speed are great; his vision is off the charts, he’s got a little Jordan Wolf in him in terms of getting to the rack, and for an undersized guy he is a remarkably physical player.
5. Penn - there isn’t one guy for this Quaker team, but they are very well coached and have a signature win vs. Duke.
Ivy League Predictions: Brown 13-11 , Cornell: 12-10, Penn: 10-9
I'm learning: one of the the coolest things about lacrosse is that it’s totally possible to continue learning new things…. And important new things! I’ll give you an example. A few months ago, I learned an unbelievable new way (for me) to teach finishing. I call it the “Face-dodge Finish.” It must be noted that I had already studied finishing and taught “double fake” finishes of all sorts, with reaches far side and twisters near side. I really thought I had a great teaching model! Then I was watching Chris Cloutier’s highlights from from his 9 goal performance in the 2016 NCAA Final 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ori1FLL2nk4 and I noticed the way he finished when he was right on the crease. It was like he used the motion of a face dodge to hold the goalie on the near side pipe and then reached to finish. Was it because he was protecting his stick in that instance that he face dodged over, or was it a finishing technique? I needed to think about this!
Learning Part 2
So I turned to YouTube and started watching NLL highlight videos and sure enough, the face dodge finish is prevalent in the NLL. But why? Here’s my updated thinking: the shooter can hold the goalie on the near pipe with his stick as it crosses his face just like a near side fake would hold the goalie. The big difference: the goalie can’t keep up with the “reach” as the stick comes back across. Here, check out this “Face dodge Finish” video from some friendly neighborhood “Street Box” and a little small group work. https://youtu.be/PW1edFtXo9M
I’m on a serious kick to bring back the “Sandlot!” This past fall since my daughter played field hockey we decided to take the fall off from organized lacrosse. So we started playing pick up games for an hour each Sunday. From August through December we played many different versions of pick up games: 3x with a 3x3 net, street box with a full on box goalie in a crease, 2v2 games up to 4v4 games too! Here are a few observations:
• The kids got SO much better (actually, even I got better and I’m 51!)
• We played boys and girls from middle schoolers up to several junior/senior DI commits and old men like me and Brendan Bowler Dartmouth ’94!
• The ground ball scraps were epic and when someone came up with the ball, they would be laughing out loud as they ran away with it. Sheer joy!
• We played in the rain, on beautiful days, when it was hot and when it was chilly.
Street Box Part 2
I decided to do a little experiment on this question: how many more touches do you get in a pick up game versus a real game? My editors looked at touches, passes, shots, dodges, off ball movements, along with goals, assists, ground balls. The difference is staggering! Play more pick up games and you will get better at lacrosse faster than playing real lacrosse games.
Stats from a girls game: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NB01P9E1cOgO65Oj-AaYDlaajNqcWTb_j4JRSaPbKpM/edit?usp=sharing
Stats from a pick up game: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/15-3jGOGQ2Jl96td7vxInEh0G4IefLDUjNj5Oy-bqvdo/edit?usp=sharing