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March 24, 2011

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A-Town Throwdown in Georgia Begins WCLA's Second Season

by Brian Logue | LaxMagazine.com

Michele Manis and 9th-ranked Georgia welcome six other nationally-ranked teams to Athens this weekend for the A-Town Throwdown.

© Cecil Copeland




For many of the top teams in the US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA), the season opened as it always does – with a wild mix-up at the Santa Barbara Shootout. Over the last month, though, there’s been very little change at the top of the WCLA Division I poll.

That could change quickly. This weekend’s A-Town Throwdown in Athens, Ga., opens a three-week stretch that has many of the top teams travelling around the country to face each other in an effort to boost their resumes before heading to their respective conference championships.

Next weekend, seven nationally-ranked teams will descend upon Fort Collins, Colo., for the Rocky Mountain Shootout. The weekend of April 7-10 features six nationally-ranked teams participating in the Lindenwood Invitational.

But it kicks off with the A-Town Throwdown, which features top-ranked Colorado headlining a field that also includes No. 2 UC-Davis Club, No. 3 Florida Club, No. 5 Lindenwood, No. 9 Georgia, No. 10 Texas, No. 13 Colorado State and No. 17 Virginia Tech Club.

At this point, Georgia head coach Adam Weinstein’s number one priority will be dodging the rain. Weather has played some havoc with the event the last couple of years, including a freak snow storm in 2009.

“Last year we dodged the rain until the last game,” said Weinstein. “This year it started out at 30 percent, but now we’re up to a 70 percent chance of rain on Saturday.”

A back-up plan to move some turf fields closer to Atlanta is in place if need be, but that’s just one example of the challenge of hosting a tournament.

“It’s extremely tough hosting, but it’s a really good experience for the girls,” said Weinstein. “They’ve got all their friends involved, their parents. We need people to run the score tables, they’re out there lining the fields. They’re designing t-shirts, they’ve got posters all around campus.”

They’re will be plenty of challenges on the field for the Bulldogs as well, kicking off with a game against No. 2 UC Davis Club on Friday night.

“Friday night we’ll be under the lights, and I think we’ll have a pretty good environment,” said Weinstein. “That’s one of the rewards for playing at home.”

That’s one of five games Georgia will play in a span of just three days. Georgia will also meet up with Colorado, Texas, Colorado State and Boston College Club.

“This is the best team I’ve ever coached,” said Weinstein. “We have pretty good depth at midfield. When you get in a tournament where you’re playing five games, you have to spread [playing time] out and give them some rest. It’s one of those situations where you either sink or swim. I worry about the results, they just want to go out and play and have fun.”

The depth was tested when starting goalie Emily Seidel broke her collarbone before the start of the season. Weinstein was the guilty party, breaking it on a shot when he was warming her up. Senior Sarah Kane, an attack player, had played goalie in high school and volunteered to step up. She more than met the challenge, holding nationally-ranked Central Florida to just four goals in a 12-4 victory and was very solid in a 9-7 loss to Florida Club.

The Bulldogs carry a 7-1 record into the tournament.

The top-ranked game of the weekend is a rematch between No. 1 Colorado and No. 3 Florida Club on Saturday.  Colorado nipped the Gators 7-6 on Feb. 18 at the Santa Barbara Shootout as part of its 7-0 start to the season. It’s Florida’s only loss of the season.

The Gators have welcomed back goalie Marissa Higgins, a two-time all-league goalie in 2008 and 2009 at the club level before moving up to Florida’s varsity team last year. Her return to the club team helped offset the loss of Kate O’Linn to an injury. O’Linn was a finalist for Lacrosse Magazine’s WCLA Preseason Player of the Year coming into the season.  The Gators are hoping O’Linn can return before the end of the season.

Beyond the nationally-ranked teams, two other intriguing competitors will be Boston College Club and Virginia Club. Boston College was a competitor at last year’s WCLA national championship while this will be one of Virginia’s first forays into the WCLA national scene.

Always a strong competitor on a regional level, these will be Virginia’s first regulation games of the 2011 season. They played in the Mardi Gras tournament earlier this year. Its rival, Virginia Tech, began beefing up its schedule a few years ago, helping to pave way to a national championship in 2009.

The Hokies and BC have played just one game so far this season. Combined with newcomer Virginia, it adds an interesting dynamic to the rest of the teams in the field.

“Those are the big question marks and it’s exciting to see,” said Weinstein. “I think Virginia will perform well.”

WCLA Notes

  • Michigan rose to No. 14 in this week’s WCLA Division I poll after beating two nationally-ranked teams  - Pittsburgh and Miami (Ohio) over the weekend. The Wolverines dropped all four games they played at the Santa Barbara Shootout, but have won three straight to improve to 5-4. They’ll get another chance at some top national competition at the Lindenwood Invitational in April.
  • Pittsburgh, which had a strong showing in Santa Barbara, had won three straight before the Michigan loss. The Panthers slipped to No. 11 in this week’s poll, but have a pair of games this weekend as they look to bounce back. Pitt plays Penn State Club and No. 19 Miami (Ohio).
  • Westminster continues to top the WCLA Division II poll. The Griffins are 8-1 with only a loss to BYU (No. 7 in the Division I poll).
  • Last year’s WCLA Division II runner-up, Loyola Club, opened its season with a 16-3 win over Georgetown Club last week. The Greyhounds are ranked 10th.

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