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.
RECENT "FALL BALL
BLITZ" STORIES | ARCHIVE
Still Growing: Adrian Prepping for Tourney
|Junior Rachel Johnston posted a 101-point season in
2010. Considering Adrian's offensive mindset, she'll likely near
that mark again this spring. But will the Bulldog defense allow the
fourth-year program to make the tournament?
© Brent Newblom
The bad news for the Adrian women's lacrosse team: it needed to
win the last game of the 2010 season to earn a bid to the NCAA
tournament out of Pool B, and it ended up laying an egg.
The good news? The Bulldogs were able to come within a breath of the tourney in just their third varsity season with a roster comprised entirely of freshmen and sophomores.
"We weren't prepared," said Adrian coach John Sung. "It was just an adjustment for us."
It would be easy for Adrian to brood over the loss to Claremont in the 2010 season finale – a 19-11 setback to the Athenas in SoCal – but Sung knows it's all part of the learning curve.
"We're so young, and I think that's something that a lot of people don't understand," said Sung, the only coach in the Bulldogs' existence. "My first recruiting class is now juniors; they are finally at the point where they've played some top teams and they understand what it takes. We understand all of our holes from last year."
Some of the holes were in conditioning, so Sung brought in a trainer who has worked with Olympic decathletes to whip his charges into shape. On the pivotal trip to California at the end of the season, Adrian clobbered Redlands, 20-6, but on the following day in the most important game of the spring, the Bulldogs were out of gas, allowing Claremont to build an 11-3 lead in the first half.
Other holes were in personnel. To strengthen his defense, Sung brought in another talented recruiting class that will likely boast three starters this spring. While the Bulldogs were a talented offensive team, they couldn't stop the top teams on the schedule.
"We were top 10 [in the NCAA] in every offensive team category, but the defense has to make sure they are ready," said Sung, who watched his team score nearly 19 points per game. "They know we are going to put up points because we like to score, but how well will the defense react?"
Unlike last spring, Adrian will be putting a lot on the line at the beginning of the season. Instead of the tournament-deciding game against Claremont on May 5, the Bulldogs will face-off against Drew on March 1. If Sung's troops can defeat the Rangers – a team that has qualified for the NCAAs out of Pool B the last two seasons – they will be in the driver's seat for the rest of the year.
And if they lose?
"It's tough to be an independent because every loss is liking losing the Super Bowl," said Sung. "The kids know every loss makes earning a tournament bid that much harder."
Regardless of the outcome, Sung is excited just to have players who have three years of experience in his program. It will allow the team to continue on it's upward arc, a route that might even lead to a coveted spot in the NCAA tournament.
"Our program is changing tremendously because we now have juniors," said Sung. "They know what to do now. They are dialed into the system and it's just easier for them now."
FALL BALL BLITZ
Team: Adrian (women)
2010 Record: 14-3
2010 In Review: It came down the last game of the season against Claremont – a game that would determine the last Pool B entrant – and the Bulldogs came up short. Still, the third-year independent program, composed primarily of freshman and sophomores, proved they are on the cusp of the tournament.
Goodbye... to nobody. Everyone's back.
Hello... Jul Tehovnik. Even though she is fresh out of Sewickley (Pa.) Academy, Tehovnik is likely to start the '11 campaign for the Bulldogs. Sung is also high on Hannah Early, a low defender out of Shelburne, Ontario, who was one of the Top 50 players in Canada last year. Mary Accomando from Beverly (Mass.) High School is a name to keep an eye on. Sung said he wouldn't be surprised if all three of the rookies started this year.
Offseason Developments: Adrian found out that its years in Pool B are numbered. The NCAA approved the Midwest Women's Lacrosse Conference as an automatic qualifying conference in 2013. Adrian will join, Albion, Carthage, Concordia (Wis.), Fontbonne, Trine, North Central and Mount St. Joseph's to comprise the new league, all of which will participate in a conference championship this spring. Sung expects the access to an AQ bid to the Dance will boost the competitive level of all the teams in the conference.
Big Question: Will the Bulldogs age gracefully? The first recruiting class in program history are just juniors now, so Adrian will be an incredibly young team yet again in 2011. Sung is hoping one more year will boost the team towards the Promised Land. "Now we're basically standing at the door knowing that we're ready," said Sung. "Last year, we were talented, but we just didn't have the experience."
Fall Schedule: The Bulldogs will be heading to the University of Cincinnati to scrap with the D-I Bearcats on Oct. 12. "We always try to play Division I teams," said Sung, who brought Adrian to Niagara and Canisius last year. "It gives the kids the ability to see the next tier athlete or system and have a point to work off of. Our kids learn so well seeing it happen in front of them. Hopefully we'll go down to Cincinnati and get to learn."
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