WD1 Notes: Temple's Success Sheds Light on Storied History
In the 34-year history of the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse championship, 11 teams have been crowned champions, led by Maryland which has won 12 titles, followed by Northwestern with seven. Two schools have three national titles in their program histories (Princeton, Virginia), while another two have two (Penn State, Temple).
The aforementioned programs – with the exception of one – have remained in the national spotlight as well-known teams boasting talent year after year. Temple, however, is the outlier of the group. In 2015, the Owls finished sixth of eight teams in the Big East, and in the past five seasons, they posted a 41-42 record.
Meanwhile, No. 20 Temple has quietly been putting together a strong 2016, standing at 7-1 before entering Wednesday's matchup against Delaware (7-1).
Owls coach Bonnie Rosen is excited that the team's current success not only brings national exposure as Temple jumped into the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine Top 20 this week, but also sheds light on the history of the program, which won the third-ever NCAA title in 1984 under coach Tina Sloan Green and the school's second title in 1988.
"What the Temple teams have done in the past is truly impressive," said Rosen. "So many people do not know that Temple lacrosse was the best in country. It would certainly be a dream come true to have the opportunity to coach Temple to a national championship one day, and be a part of providing that special experience to our student-athletes. Right now, we are just trying to get better every day, put our best foot forward on game day, and enjoy the journey."
The Owls' lone loss this spring came at the hands of Louisville (7-1) in their home opener – and only by three goals. In the Cardinals' seven wins thus far, only two teams have performed better than Temple – Boston College and Notre Dame, each which lost to Louisville by one. The up-and-down Duke squad is the only team to beat the Cards.
Falling 8-5 to Louisville was a confidence booster for Temple. The Owls came back from a four-goal halftime deficit to win the second half 4-3. They had more saves and more ground balls than the Cards. Senior attacker Rachel Schwaab had a team-high two goals for Temple, while junior midfielder Morgan Glassford had two points.
"I knew [Louisville] would be a challenging game for us when I scheduled it, but I also knew that it was the right way to start our season," said Rosen. "Through playing that game, our team recognized that we could compete at a high level."
Since their season opener, the Owls defeated its six next opponents by a combined 69 goals. They have the third best scoring defense in Division I, allowing 6.13 goals per game, trailing just USC and UMass. Senior goalie Jaqi Kakalecik is second in the country behind the Trojans' Gussie Johns for goals-against average. Within the top 10 statistically, their offense is ranked seventh, scoring an average of 14.38 goals per game, while also tallying 20.25 points per game, which is the eighth-best nationally.
"Teams win when players play well. What the statistics can't show is all of the teamwork that goes into those individual performances," said Rosen. "Polls represent (to the best of their ability) what has happened in the recent past. We are focused on the present."
Temple turns its focus toward the Blue Hens with the hopes of recording its eighth straight victory in the midst of its longest win streak in 14 years. With both programs performing well, the winner of this matchup will earn the edge in the all-time series as it currently stands tied at 14. The Owls won last year's meeting 11-6.
The game is dedicated to Lax 4 Life, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and support for adolescent and young adult suicide prevention after one of the team's defensive leaders Kara Stroup shared her personal story of mental illness this past fall. Among her fellow leaders are Schwaab, who has a team-best 19 goals and 12 assists for 31 points, and Glassford who has taken charge in the midfield with 44 draw controls.
While the 2016 Temple Owls would like to continue into the postseason and reach the same success of their predecessors in the early '80s, Rosen, a 2010 US Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee, has learned through her playing and coaching careers (she helped lead Virginia to its first NCAA Division I National Championship in 1991 as an All-American) that "looking ahead is not the best way to perform well in the present." But the team is appreciative their play has warranted some national recognition.
"It is really nice that people are paying attention to Temple lacrosse," said Rosen. "There are no real secrets to our success to this point. This is a team that has come out day after day after day, ready and willing to work hard, focus in, learn and grow, and enjoy the process."
"When you prepare like that, good things happen."
In Detroit's 22-1 win over Delaware State, sophomore Jordyn Beam became the first Titan to score one goal and make one save in one game. (Detroit Athletics)
The Unheard-Of Attacker-Goalie
As women's lacrosse continues to grow and adapt to the pace of play, specialization has become an increased focus for many players, including midfielders who hope to become one of the top draw specialists in the country.
Then, there are goalies like North Carolina junior Caylee Waters. In a day and age where more shots – and faster shots – are taken and saves percentages are rarely seen above .500, she has a training regime specially-designed by Team USA strength and conditioning coach Jay Dyer.
U.S. assistant Jess Wilk said that Waters, who will travel to England this summer with the U.S. women's national team alongside fellow goalies Devon Wills and Liz Hogan, has been made "aware there's a whole other level of fitness for a goalkeeper" just "being around Devon."
Wills has been defined as an athletic goalie, one that can play both in and out of her crease to contribute to Team USA's full-field, high-pressure ride.
It's also been known that she likes to play midfield and attack just for fun at the Vail (Colo.) Lacrosse Shootout and during on-field demonstrations, like she did this past fall in the NCAA rules scrimmage at the IWLCA convention. She even scored a goal.
But when was the last time fans ever saw a goalie score a goal in a Division I contest?
Per NCAA rules, women's goalies are not allowed to shoot despite carrying the ball past midfield on occasion because the deep pocket would provide an advantage, which posed some cause for concern with safety.
"I'm saying to my kids, shame on a team who lets another team's goalie score and the Albany goalie goes down and scores in the men's game [in 2015] and I'm like, 'Oh my god! That's not supposed to happen!" said NCAA rules committee chair and Virginia coach Julie Myers following the announcement that a 90-second possession clock was approved. "We did say not only can the goalies not score, but they're not even now allowed to shoot."
But what if a goalie also played attack?
In what may be a first-ever occurrence, sophomore Jordyn Beam became the first Titan to score one goal and record one save in Detroit's 22-1 win over Delaware State. She had a total of four saves in the final 24:04 of the contest.
Program history had been made. Did she make Division I history as well? It's hard to know with 111 women's teams currently playing at that level, but Detroit coach Laura Maness doesn't know of any current college players who play both positions.
"But if you have an athletic, fearless player, it may be worth giving them a shot in net," Maness said. "Hopefully, we have the next Devon Wills, but we aren't there yet. Laurie Merian, my assistant, has done a great job training Jordyn so far, so we will have to wait and see!"
Beam, an Ontario native who attended the Hill Academy, began playing lacrosse in eighth grade, but just added the goalie position to her repertoire this year.
When Detroit senior Lexie McCormick graduated and last year's backup keeper, freshman Julia Darroch, decided to transfer to Division II's Young Harris, a spot opened up on the roster. The Titans had only one incoming freshman goalie in Vero Beach grad Allison McDonough.
"Jordyn always joked about going in cage, so when I approached her about it potentially being a reality, she was absolutely excited," said Maness. "I believe Jordyn played goalie for her ice hockey team growing up."
Beam has also played box lacrosse for the past few years, both offense and defense, which made her a tougher athlete with the physicality allowed in box. Growing up with an older sister and two younger brothers, they all took their turns in net.
"One of my younger brothers one year volunteered to be goalie for his hockey team who did not have one and I thought that was super cool," said Beam. "[When] they actually did ask me to be goalie, I jumped to the opportunity right away."
Playing attack her entire lacrosse career has its benefits. She knows what shots players like to take and which shots are harder to save. It works both ways – to make a better save or take a better shot against her opponent.
But for Beam, the most transparent crossover between the two positions are the stick skills required to succeed – for dodging and shooting on offense versus saving and clearing as a goalie.
"I am not very familiar with Devon Wills, but I am sure we do have many similarities," said Beam. "I'm sure if she got the opportunity to play attack in a game, she would take it, just like I got the opportunity to be a goalie in a game."
Junior attacker Olivia Mattyasovszky leads Cornell with 10 goals for a team-high 11 points, tied with Taylor Reed. (Larry Palumbo)
The Wild Card of the Unbeatens
After No. 15 Towson fell to the Gators 15-7 on Monday, only four teams remain undefeated in Division I – No. 1 Maryland, No. 2 Florida, No. 6 USC and Cornell.
The Big Red have yet to be ranked this season, but have been considered for the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine Top 20 with its strong 5-0 record and a key 9-5 win against Albany, which was ranked No. 20 in IWLCA's preseason coaches' poll.
They have defeated their four other opponents – Villanova, Yale, Colgate and Columbia – by a combined 40-27 score. Their next Top 20 opponent is the No. 1 Terps, the two-time reigning NCAA champions, on April 2.
"We are comfortable flying under the radar, and we recognize that we're learning valuable [lessons] while still winning, which is a luxury," said Cornell coach Jenny Graap. "Beating a quality Albany squad was definitely a highlight, but Cornell hasn't battled any other Top 20 teams yet."
Cornell currently leads the Ivy League as the only undefeated team with both in- and out-of-conference play, but has only won one conference title back in 2006.
Last year, the Big Red was in a similar scenario, starting out at 5-1, but fell to the Great Danes by one. By the beginning of April, they sat comfortably with an 8-2 record as one of three undefeated Ivy teams in what was developing into their best season in nearly 10 years.
"Cornell had a strong squad last spring, but we remained a bubble team and missed out on the 2015 NCAA selection," said Graap. "Having graduated only three seniors from last year's squad, we return a lot of hungry players."
Graap drew parallels between the 2015 and 2006 Big Red, the latter which won the program's only Ivy crown. But with more experience and leadership from the upperclassmen, she finds more similarities between the 2016 and 2002 teams.
Fourteen years ago, Princeton won the Ivy title en route to its second overall NCAA championship, but Cornell (then 16-2) advanced to the semifinals with losses to the Tigers and Georgetown, the latter in an overtime final four thriller.
"In 2002, we had Carrie Giancola in the net, now a Hall of Famer, and [current junior] Renee Poullott is a similarly aggressive and active goalie," said Graap. "Yes, we [also] had Jaimee Reynolds in '02, who was a truly exceptional talent and unfortunately broke the mold for tall, quick defenders converted to middies, who can grab draw controls out of the air yet scoop ground balls like a vacuum cleaner."
"Our 2016 team may not have an identical 'hoover' (Jaimee's nickname), but we have three players who do what Jaimee did – Caite Smith on the defensive end getting blocks, interceptions and checks, Maddie Kiep using her basketball savvy to box out and win draw controls, and Liv Mattyasovszky using her height to snag feeds and finish over most defenders' heads," Graap added.
Mattyasovszky has a team-high 10 goals for the Big Red and ties Taylor Reed for first with 11 points. Smith boasts a team-best nine caused turnovers, while Kiep controls the midfield with 16 draw controls.
Poullott, "one of the most talented" goalies Graap has coached in her tenure, has a .515 saves percentage, ranked 10th overall in Division I as one of only 16 goalies to break even. The Big Red also have the sixth-best scoring defense, allowing 6.40 goals per game.
The 2016 Big Red will have to get past its toughest Ivy rivals – Princeton, Penn and Harvard, which are undefeated in conference play – but also its next conference opponents, Brown on March 26 and Dartmouth on April 9, before thinking about postseason play.
"Just like our legendary '02 team, Cornell's 2016 squad has already faced hardships, but has remained unified," Graap added. "Embracing the underdog mentality and being willing to outwork more 'talented' teams is a formula we can recreate this spring."
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