Practice pennies, neon green laces, new faces and the promise of a new season not far off -- all signs point to fall ball, college lacrosse's annual rite of initiation.
With 2010 in the books and 2011 in mind, LMO's "Fall Ball Blitz" series checks in with coaches and players around the country for the latest developments.
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Georgetown's Touted Freshmen Learn on the Fly
by Joel Censer | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Censer Archive
Georgetown freshman Kelyn Freedman, pictured here in the Champion High School Showcase in July, headlines the nation's top recruiting class expected to make an immediate impression on the Hilltop.
© Scott McCall
At some point this season, Georgetown women's lacrosse coach Ricky Fried will get upset with midfielder Kelyn Freedman. Maybe the freshman phenom will misplay a ground ball or give up solid position defense to go for a check or botch a gimme 8-meter shot.
Luckily for Fried, Freedman knows exactly where her coach comes from. She has spent enough time in his shoes. Not just walking around in Fried's glossy Nikes, but sprinting end-to-end, shuffling side-to-side and backpedaling in them.
Why would a player be wearing her coach's shoes?
On Saturday, Freedman was one of four Georgetown freshmen awakened and evacuated from Harbin Hall in the early morning hours when police discovered a drug lab on the dorm's ninth floor. Bleary-eyed and a little frightened, Freedman and the other freshmen had to leave their lacrosse equipment and practice uniforms in their rooms to attend the fall tournament at George Mason later that morning.
They texted teammates and coaches, asking them to bring to the bus any extra pennies, equipment, socks, shorts, shoes, goggles and sticks they could muster.
Freedman for her part seemed unperturbed by having to share a stick -- when she'd finish a midfield, she would literally pass the communal wand to junior midfielder Erin Lovett -- and having to gallop around in Fried's kicks.
"You've got to move on, put it aside and focus," Freedman said, "but they were a little big."
Despite the makeshift uniform, the Radnor, Pa., native proved she belonged during scrimmages against Adelphi, Towson, Lehigh and Oregon. She showcased incredible speed and range between the 30s and savvy around the crease in settled offense.
That kind of talent and resiliency will be a boon for a Georgetown squad trying to reclaim a spot amongst the nation's elite. The Hoyas haven't actually been struggling these past few years; most teams who would kill for a 13-6 record and Big East title. But on the Hilltop, expectations are always higher. The Hoyas clearly are not quite the team that went to back-to-back national championship games in the early 2000s.
The key to getting back there seems to be the continued development of the midfield, a young athletic group particularly adept at pushing tempo and taking advantage of transition.
Sophomore speed merchant Sophia Thomas was probably Georgetown's best player during Saturday's scrimmages. Juniors Erin Lovett and Mary Beth Brophy, along with sophomores Dina Jackson and Kelsi Bozel, were also forces. And then there are the freshmen, with Freedmen leading the way and Hannah Franklin, who is transitioning from attack to midfield, not too far behind.
The talent between the stripes isn't surprising when you listen to Fried talk about what's important for the Hoyas to be successful this year.
"Big thing for us is dictating tempo," Fried said. "When we do that, we're pretty good. We want to to be proactive instead of reactive. Because the proactive team always has the upper hand."
Of course, with all that youth (the Hoyas will probably start freshman Barb Black in goal as well), consistency may also be a concern. At George Mason, the Hoyas smacked Towson but struggled with Adelphi and Lehigh.
Then again, speed kills. Especially when you have the proper footwear.
FALL BALL BLITZ
2010 Record: 13-6 (10-0 Big East)
2010 in Review: Georgetown struggled out of the gate last year, losing five of its first eight games against superpowers Northwestern, Duke, Maryland, Carolina and Princeton. But the Hoyas responded, rattling off 10 straight wins and securing the Big East crown before being knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament by conference rival Syracuse.
Goodbye... Losing starting goalkeeper Caitlin Formby hurts, but the biggest challenge will be on the offensive end, where leading scorers Molly Ford and Ashby Kaestner both graduated. The two combined for 36 percent of Georgetown's points last year and set the tone in the half-field offense.
Hello... A whole host of talented freshmen. Of course there's Freedman. But expect goalie Barb Black to start in net and McDonogh (Md.) graduate Hannah Franklin, a polished offensive player with a high lacrosse IQ, to take a spot on the first or second midfield.
Offseason Developments: Take what you want from preseason freshman hype (and the Hoyas have certainly been misled by it before), but having Inside Lacrosse's No. 1-ranked recruiting class seems like a pretty big deal. Fried, though, is doing his best to manage expectations. "People forget they're freshmen," he said. "They're highly touted freshmen, but there is still an adjustment to be made to the college game."
Big Question: Yes, the Hoyas have a bunch of midfielders who can push tempo. But who's going to score in the half-field offense? On Saturday, senior attacker Jordy Kirr showed she could distribute, but it's still unclear who is going to draw a crowd off the dodge.
Fall Schedule: The Georgetown fall slate has been plenty full. The Hoyas went head-to-head with reigning champ Maryland, and played round-robin tournaments at Hopkins, Navy and Mason already. They host Delaware, James Madison and Maryland to complete their competitive fall slate Saturday.