Northeast Girls' Regional Report (May 2)
by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com
Taylor Rantfle, Hauppauge (N.Y.)
Amanda Johansen, North Shore (N.Y.)
Catherine Conley, Needham (Mass.)
Games to Watch
Concord at Londonderry – May 4, 5
Greenwich at New Canaan – May 8, 5
Road games against Winchester and Ashland are difficult, but Westwood's toughest in-state challenge may come May 10 against red-hot Needham. Leslie Frank's team has long reigned in Massachusetts, but a loss to Lincoln-Sudbury in Westwood's opener caught some by surprise. No team has come within seven goals of the Wolverines since, but Needham will put that to the test. Last year, Westwood edged Needham twice, but the Rockets are looking to reverse the trend.
1. St. Anthony's (N.Y.), 9-1
A loss to national No. 2 Bryn Mawr (Md.) is hardly a red mark on any team's resume, but St. Anthony's eight-goal loss surprised some. Yet the Friars have come back with gusto, cruising past John Carroll (Md.) Sacred Heart Academy (N.Y.), and upsetting Garden City (N.Y.) on the road. The Friars are still unbeaten within the confines of the Empire State.
2. Farmingdale (N.Y.), 10-0
The Dalers keep racking up the wins, and they've raced to the top of the Northeast rankings. Farmingdale has scored at least 17 goals in six of its eight games in 2012, and has surpassed the 20-goal mark four times this season. Meanwhile, the Dalers have yet to surrender more than 10 goals in a game, and had enjoyed double-digit margins of victory since their tight season-opening win over Wantagh (N.Y.). That was, until an impressive 13-12 defeat of Garden City (N.Y.) on Tuesday evening.
3. Ward Melville (N.Y.), 13-0
The Patriots were one of the few teams in the Northeast to keep their perfect record intact, but it hasn't been easy Ward Melville notched four wins in a row that came by three goals or fewer, including a one-goal victory over Middle Country (N.Y.). Most impressive was Ward Melville's 10-8 win at Bay Shore, which established the Patriots as the top team in Section 11, though East Islip (N.Y.) and West Babylon (N.Y.) could challenge that status. But given the way the Patriots are playing, it's unlikely that Ward Melville will be anything less than perfect heading into the postseason.
4. Garden City (N.Y.), 8-4
Only the Trojans could lose four games in two weeks and still make our regional top-10. In their defense, they fell to two Old Line State powerhouses — national No. 1 McDonogh (Md.) and No. 2 Bryn Mawr (Md.) — and Empire State foe St. Anthony's (N.Y.), fourth nationally. Garden City still merits mention among the region's best, and receives national consideration, but the Trojans aren't in the hunt for the title of the nation's top-ranked team. Before 2012, Garden City last lost a game in 2009 — the Trojans actually lost three straight — but bounced back to win the state title.
5. New Canaan (Conn.), 11-0
The Rams are just two wins away from matching their 2011 total, but New Canaan's gaudy record isn't for lack of competition. Of their 11 wins, the Rams have defeated perennial Constitution State powers Glastonbury (Conn.), Staples (Conn.) and Darien (Conn.) New Canaan has been an offensive machine, posting at least 16 goals in nine of its 11 games this season, including two performances of 20 goals or greater.
6. West Genesee (N.Y.), 11-1
The Wildcats' first foray outside of the Empire State resulted in a loss to Mendham (N.J.), but they downed both John Carroll (Md.) and St. Paul's (Md.) in the New York-Maryland Challenge. Against St. Paul's, West Genesee demonstrated a balanced offense, with 11 different players pitching in for goals. A test against Baldwinsville (N.Y.) comes on Friday, giving West Genesee a chance to pad its already-impressive resume that includes wins over Christian Brothers (N.Y.), Liverpool (N.Y.) and Oswego (N.Y.)
7. Bay Shore (N.Y.), 10-2
The Marauders suffered their first losses of the season, but stand their ground in our regional rankings. Bay Shore's two-goal loss to Ward Melville (N.Y.) was certainly respectable, and the Marauders came back strong with a three-goal triumph at Northport (N.Y.) and a two-goal victory at Wantagh (N.Y.). A 17-6 loss to Smithtown East (N.Y.) on Tuesday evening raised some eyebrows, but Bay Shore has compiled a strong body of work.
8. North Shore (N.Y.), 12-1
The Vikings have scored exactly 20 goals on six separate occasions this season, and at least 11 in every game. Even in their only loss, a one-goal defeat at Sacred Heart Academy (N.Y.), the Vikings scored 15 times. Perhaps the most suspicious entry on these rankings, the Vikings will be tested at the end of the regular season, with games against Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) and Port Washington (N.Y.).
9. Notre Dame Academy (Mass.), 12-0
Notre Dame's 14-10 defeat of Lincoln-Sudbury (Mass.) said a lot about its strength, as the Warriors were the Northeast's darlings after upsetting Westwood (Mass.) in its season opener. The Cougars have made a habit of winning games early in the season — it opened 2011 at 13-0 — and they'll look to carry the momentum for the rest of the season. This year's 12-0 start includes a 9-6 victory over Norwell (Mass.), one of only two schools to top Notre Dame a year ago. A rematch is set for Saturday.
10. Londonderry (N.H.), 7-0-1
Bob Slater just couldn't stay away from the game of lacrosse. After he was supposed to quit coaching the Lancers to focus on his concrete business, he came back for the 2012 campaign. He's feeling pretty good about his decision now, with Londonderry boasting an undefeated record. For all the wins the Lancers have piled up, their tie rings most impressive. Londonderry proved its powers extend beyond the Granite State, holding Duxbury (Mass.) to a 19-19 stalemate. The Lancers still look to exact a measure of revenge against Andover (Mass.), however, after a three-goal loss late in 2011.
News and Notes
Friars On Top: St. Anthony's Surges Past Garden City
Garden City (N.Y.) entered its April 26 contest against St. Anthony's (N.Y.) as the top team in the Empire State. That fact was indisputable. A 56-game winning streak bolstered the Trojans' claim to that title and stood as a formidable challenge to any opponent. The Friars weren't fazed, though, and beat Garden City on the road 14-9.
Previously, the Trojans had piled up at least 17 goals against all of their in-state foes. On Saturday, they scored just nine times, their lowest total against an in-state foe since May 14, 2009.
"They have a great attack and we knew that going in," St. Anthony's coach Corinne Broesler said. "They like to possess the ball so it was about training my kids to be on defense for minutes at a time and still after a few minutes be able to come up with a stop."
For a team that has high postseason aspirations, and whose lofty dreams aren't yet fulfilled, Saturday still represented a time to stop and celebrate.
"For our team, it meant a lot. Of course it meant a lot," Broesler said. "My kids were totally excited to beat Garden City, especially on their home field. To beat a team of such great players and great coaches, my kids were thrilled."
The Friars' upset of the Trojans marked their third straight win after a 15-7 loss to Bryn Mawr (Md.) in the Maryland-New York Challenge. Broesler said her team was stymied by Mawrtians goalie Molly Wolf, as well by its own flat play.
"To come out flat against a team like that, you're not going to get very far," Broesler said. "Bryn Mawr played terrific. They possessed the ball, they won the draws, they really took advantage of their opportunities against us. Their goalie is probably one of the best goalies I've ever seen in high school lacrosse, probably the best. She was that good."
After that game, Broesler said she felt a "turnaround" in the air, and she didn't have to wait long to witness the results. St. Anthony's topped John Carroll (Md.), 13-3, the next day.
"My kids were pretty disappointed with our effort ... against Bryn Mawr and they were out for blood," Broesler said. "They wanted to show themselves and the lacrosse world around us what they know and I know they're really made of."
Londonderry Chases Historic Greatness
Bob Slater wasn't supposed to be coaching this year, but he couldn't resist the chance to lead the Lancers to a fourth straight state championship. More to the point, he just couldn't resist coaching.
"I have 13 seniors this year and four of them have been with me since freshman, sophomore year so it was a big group of kids to walk away from," Slater said.
He was originally supposed to retire from coaching lacrosse so he could focus on his concrete business, but instead he hired a few new supervisors that have allowed him to continue to sneak out of work for late-afternoon lacrosse practices.
Now, Slater won't even commit to leaving after this season, although he hinted that Londonderry does have some candidates lined up to replace him. But whether it's with the Lancers or not, there's no doubt that Slater wants to coach, even if it's on a different level the next time around.
"I do love coaching," Slater said. "I wish I could do it full-time. There may be a college program in my future. I'd consider doing a college program as well in that I really enjoy coaching these young ladies, and I think I'm ready."
Slater has the resume to attract college programs looking to fill a coaching vacancy, as he has turned Londonderry into the top dog of Granite State lacrosse. The year before Slater took over, the Lancers finished 5-11. They've finished with a winning record in the seven years since, including three consecutive state championships and three straight seasons of one loss or fewer.
"Londonderry had never beat Concord, Pinkerton or Souhegan ever in a seven [or] eight-year span, and now we've been undefeated since 2008," Slater said. "It says a lot for the girls and what they do to get up for the big games."
Last year may have been Slater's crowning achievement, as he took a team that had lost seven starters from its undefeated 2010 campaign and led them to a 19-1 record.
"To come back last year and go undefeated again with seven new players on the field, that's when everything kind of hit me," Slater said, "and this year we've been, knock on wood, we've been tearing it up."
Next up for Slater and Londonderry is a home-and-home series with fellow Granite State powerhouse Concord, which has jumped out to a 7-0 start this season. Fairly unique in the lacrosse world, the home-and-home series is hardly new to these two teams, which engaged in a nearly identical series last year.
"We'd just as soon play tough games back to back all season to get us better," Slater said. "I don't think it bothers us or helps us either way. It's just two good games back to back."
The opener between the Crimson Tide and the Lancers last season was a classic — one that Slater described as a turning point and an eraser of all doubts, as Londonderry came back from a 6-2 deficit with 22 minutes to go to defeat Concord, 8-6.
"We never thought we would do that against a team like that," Slater said. "That was probably the worst game of the year we played last year was the first game up at their place. Jenny Thompson, my center, was sick as a dog that day, and then they pulled it together the last 22 minutes and grabbed everything they had."
For Londonderry, it's more than a local rivalry that's at stake. What's at stake is a long in-state winning streak that extends back to June 3, 2008.
"This year we're still running a 58-game winning streak within the state," Slater said. "It's phenomenal these kids can do what they've done. One player steps up, the next one steps up. It's a blast. I really love coaching."
Slater said that he has found many sources of inspiration over the years. He garners strategy from game film, movies and other coaches. Perhaps the most special source, however, has been Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, who he e-mailed back in 2010, when his Lancers were looking to repeat as state champions. With Amonte Hiller's Wildcats in a similar situation, Slater sought words of wisdom from Hiller. The venerable lacrosse coach called him back the very next day.
"She's real high on my list of quality, quality people and she runs a heck of a business there at Northwestern," Slater said. "It's a top-notch business and she's doing a heck of a job as the CEO."
A Model For Success
The way Slater speaks about it, lacrosse is transformed into something as simple as an assembly line, with simple steps leading to positive results. According to Slater, being a good lacrosse player comes down to three simple concepts: knowing your position, knowing when you need to help to your right and knowing when you need to help to your left.
"You got three items to do and that's it, that's your job," Slater said. "Not for her, not for this. You've got three things to do, and if you learn those three things, you'll be a great player."
Slater said that another point of emphasis in his program is making sure that all of his players are capable of doing multiple things. He said that he forces his attackers and defenders to switch positions for eight to ten minutes in every practice. As a result, all of his players are capable of putting the ball on net and all of his players are prepared to run in transition.
"We teach every kid every position," Slater said. "Our midfielders know how to play attack. Our attack knows how to play defense. Our defenders know how to be a midfielder. They all know the positions and the rules of each position."
Rather than simply acknowledge the rarity of his system, he embraces it.
"We'll transition one or two low defenders every once in a while into the attacking zone just to mix things up in a game and now they don't expect that player to be able to shoot on goal," Slater said. "You might take one or two players out but I've got a couple that are coming from the defensive end and I'm going to put a couple of midfielders back to rest them on low D and they're going to score a goal for us. How many teams do that?"
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