May 23, 2013

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Kid Reporter Takes in Final Four Preparations

by Olivia M. Koch | LaxMagazine.com

Olivia Koch with Maryland's Katie Schwarzmann on Thursday at Villanova Stadium.

Olivia Koch, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Montgomery, N.J., took in practice and media day Thursday at Villanova Stadium ahead of this weekend's women's final four. She plays lacrosse for Ultimate Lacrosse and Princeton Lacrosse Club (PLC).

While booming music projected out onto the field, the energetic Orange began their final practice before Friday's semifinal game. All of the girls were positively ready and fired up for tomorrow's challenge as they stretched and ran some passing and shuttle drills. Even Division I college lacrosse players begin practice with a few shuttles. Seeing these girls and their talent was a real inspiration for me as I progress in this thrilling sport of lacrosse.

Both Maryland and Syracuse practiced scrimmaging. Maryland emphasized the draw by replaying and resetting to perfection while Syracuse took the scrimmage play by play. There are so many teaching and coaching styles of the game and varying perspectives. You can learn many different ways of the game just by watching a few practices.

For many college players, such as Katie Schwarzmann, it is a dream come true to be where they are now. They look up to previous players such as Jen Adams just like youth players like me look up to these final four teammates. The faster speed of the game, advanced stick skills, and aggressive play is maybe different from youth lacrosse, but every lacrosse player has a dream or a goal they try to reach in the same way.

Taking the time to notice small but key aspects of the game can really improve how quick you react on the field. I've learned from these players that it's not only stick skills, speed, and aggressiveness on the field, but there are also many other variables you need to adapt to as well. Players talked about adjusting to slightly different field sizes, bad weather, unique playing styles, and their opponent's habits. Villanova's field is smaller than most of the fields that the final four teams are used to playing on. Players mentioned watching hours of game footage to gain an extra advantage over their competition.

While talking to some of the players and coaches like UNC head coach Jenny Levy, I learned mental preparation is important leading up to the games throughout the season. Using key words and strategies you've been working on in practices are crucial so once game time comes there is a familiarity and comfort in playing.

Attack player Abbey Friend from University of North Carolina says, "Her team's pre-game practices are consistent throughout the season. The Tar Heels have grown and matured as a unit." I think having close relationships with your teammates is critical in games and practices. This was a common theme that many players had expressed in their interviews. Syracuse attacker Kailah Kempney stated, "We communicate around the circle and we learn to read each other's minds and throw each other some signals," while strategizing about how she would take possession from Maryland on the draws.

The final four teams filled the stadium with their confidence and their excitement was almost tangible. Although the weather was not consistently cooperative, nobody could rain on their parade. The words of Maryland coach Cathy Reese, "Have fun and play hard," transcend lacrosse through all ages.

LaxMagazine.com will have complete coverage of championship weekend, continuing Friday at 5 p.m. with live blogs of the NCAA Division I women's semifinals, post-game reaction and more. Be sure to follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter for instant updates as well.


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