Archives for posts with tag: Cathy Reese

Memorial Day weekend isn’t just when men and women have traditionally held their respective Final Fours, it’s a time when players, coaches, media and fans celebrate the growth of the game.  But this year there’s no Final Four, while the growth of lacrosse and the stability of college athletics in general faces difficult decisions.  Imagine the Maryland men’s and women’s programs as strong oak trees in a forest of saplings attempting to gain root and thrive in a suddenly unfriendly forest.  “Obviously Maryland lacrosse is a program that’s around for a long time; it’s a very important sport in our state,” Terps men’s head coach John Tillman said. “But we have newer programs- programs at smaller schools. We all want to see those programs succeed and endure. We want to make sure those young people have as many opportunities as possible.”

 

The 21st century has been kind to college lacrosse.  The Division I field grew from 55 to 69 men’s programs from 2000 through 2016 while women’s programs grew from 71 to 110 in the same time.  And 26 schools added programs this year across all three NCAA divisions (Akron women the only new D-I school) plus NAIA.  Ten added men’s programs, 12 added women’s teams, and four schools added men’s and women’s programs.  But this week there became one fewer Division I men’s program with Furman University dropping the sport (the Paladins had been playing in D-I since 2014). “No one wants to see sports cut,” Maryland women’s head coach Cathy Reese said.  “No one wants to see these athletes lose their opportunities that they have to compete collegiately, or coaches and programs lose jobs or whatever it may be.”

   

While each sport deserves its moment in the sun and every athlete merits attention, the primary revenue engines for college athletic departments are football and men’s basketball.  The loss of this year’s NCAA Tournament costs schools roughly 375 million dollars, and the potential loss of the 2020 college football season is estimated by ESPN as up to four billion dollars. “If we don’t have college football in the fall, and we’re going off not having the NCAA Tournament and all of these conference tournaments in basketball, more hits than we probably even realize nationwide,” Reese said.  The revenue drain and potential hit have already taken some toll, with several schools discontinuing programs from Cincinnati men’s soccer to Bowling Green baseball, from both East Carolina men’s and women’s tennis and swimming teams.  “Then you realize that universities are going to have to make some hard decisions in so many ways,” Tillman said. “So we’re certainly hoping for some good things down the road realizing that there’s probably going to be some tough decisions for some colleges to make.”

 

Maryland currently fields 22 sports and has over 700 student athletes participating in those programs.  But the school is no stranger to tightening the belt, having dropped five teams in the department’s most recent reorganization.  And despite the current revenue stream (although it should be referred to as a river given the amount of dollars concerned) from the Big Ten Conference, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that the university might not be spared another reorganization on the horizon.  “I think there will probably a lot of discussion unfortunately,” Reese said. “But it’s something obviously no one wants to see.  We’re hanging on to the hope that we’ll going to figure this out and get through it. Push forward, it’ll definitely be different times.”

 

The NCAA Division I Council has voted to lift a moratorium on voluntary workouts by football and basketball players effective June 1.  A decision on other sports has not been reached.  Meanwhile, a number of schools have announced plans to reopen their campuses for the fall semester.  Ohio State University has even discussed opening its 100,000+ seat stadium to 20,000 or so fans scattered about via social distancing.  “There’s schools talking about different versions of what the fall’s going to look like and if we’ll be back and if we are back how are we going to do this,” Reese said.  “How’s fall sports going to translate in?  We’ve got to wait to see where it goes.”

 

Because even though both men’s and women’s lacrosse plays its seasons in the spring semester, there is a fall practice program akin to spring football.  So while the coaches wonder what the fall semester may bring on campus, they also look at the state of the game.  “We’re hoping that the fallout isn’t bad and people can hang in there, but you are worried about that because we want our game to expand and not get smaller,” Tillman said.  And the longer the big revenue engines stay silent (or at least operating at under 100%), the longer athletic departments tread lightly.  “That’s definitely a concern for most sports at this point,” Reese said. “There’s such big hits for these universities and more specifically athletic departments.  A lot of our funding does rely heavily on sports like basketball and football, and now we don’t know what’s ahead for either.”

Previously appearing on WTOP-

The shutdown of spring sports not only ended the Maryland Women’s Lacrosse Team’s pursuit of a twelfth straight Final Four, but it may also affect the Terps in their pursuit of 2022 and 2023 championships.  The 2020 recruiting class is already signed and on their way to College Park this summer, and according to insidelacrosse.com’s recruiting database eight “commitments” are headed to the school for next year (players can start signing National Letters of intent by mid-November).  But the groundwork for the following classes is still being established and faces multiple obstacles.

Successful recruiting is a combination of evaluating players correctly and then developing relationships with those players.  This year Maryland Coach Cathy Reese and her staff have to do both while being limited by the Coronavirus pandemic: there are no high school lacrosse games to evaluate and scout while in-person contact with recruits is also not an option at this time.  “This is going to be an interesting summer as we prepare to watch the recruiting class,” Reese said. “Without the spring season there’s no lacrosse to watch.  No high school season.  There’s no progress to be made.  No chance for coaches to work with players.”

While the spring high school season is a natural showcase, the summer is where the best lacrosse players gather for camps and tournaments-until this year.  “For us in lacrosse there’s a lot of summer play, a lot of summer tournaments where as college coaches we get to get out and watch players from all over the country play,” Reese said. “At this point so far all of our camps at Maryland have been canceled for the summer so we’re not hosting anything.”

Reese still hopes there will be evaluation opportunities as the spring turns into summer.  “There’s so much that’s not known yet.  We don’t know yet what’s going to happen with these tournaments,” Reese said. “Everyone’s trying to scramble and find alternate dates.”  Still, the mother of four recognizes that as the nation deals with a pandemic there are bigger concerns than recruiting logistics. “We’re all kind of just in this holding pattern,” Reese said. “Just waiting and seeing what happens and what the guidelines that come down from the President, the local state governments and the CDC.”

So while we wait and wonder when or if sports will return and our stadiums and arenas will open again, the calendar still moves on.  And as the calendar moves, so does optimism-even if things don’t return to what they were immediately.  “We’re allowed to talk to kids who become juniors on September first,” Reese said. “Hopefully at some point in the summer we’ll all be able to get out and watch lacrosse and just kind of keep checking on kids who–yeah we’ve got our eye on some-but you know there’s a lot of people out there and a lot of lacrosse players who we would have had a chance to see this spring and summer.”

 

Previously appearing on WTOP.COM-

“In theory” and “in practice” begin on the same road yet often wind up at completely different destinations.  The Maryland Women’s Lacrosse team learned in March that there would be no May when the NCAA canceled the 2020 season.  For the seniors on this year’s roster, it was an unfortunate end to careers that had known nothing but being busy Memorial Day weekend (two national championships in three years).  Maybe.

The NCAA stepped in, offering an extra year of eligibility for spring sports athletes who saw things end in March.  And while that’s a very nice thing to do, many of the student athletes in question were already moving towards the next phase of their lives.  “It’s tough. Kids are a month away from graduation, some have applied for jobs and are looking at what’s ahead for them,” Terps Coach Cathy Reese said. “It is a tough time for these seniors to be faced with that (choice).”

There’s only one senior on the Maryland roster taking advantage of the waiver: attacker Brindi Morgan, who led the Terps with 15 goals in 2020.  One other senior is returning for a fifth season, but it’s via a redshirt year as two-time All-Big Ten defender Lizzie Colson is recovering from an injured ACL torn last summer.  Reese isn’t surprised that most of her players are moving on.  “I would anticipate that’s probably how it is nationwide, you’re not going to see everybody come back to programs just because (they can).  Life has thrown different things at them- whether it’s job opportunities, grad school, financial situations, whatever it may be.”

Even if they had lost Griffin to graduation the Terps would have been well-stocked for 2021.  Freshman Libby May’s ten goals were tied for third on the team, freshman Emma Schettig paced the team in ground balls and draw controls, and sophomore goalie Maddie McSally emerged as the starter between the pipes.  Thanks to the NCAA their eligibility window has increased from four to five, creating an unintentional potential ripple effect. “The interesting thing will be to see how it affects teams down the road. Because anybody that plays this year was given another year of eligibility,” Reese said.

While an extra year of eligibility was granted, scholarship and roster limits did not change in the respective sports. Women’s Division I Lacrosse programs have 12 scholarships to spread between up to 30 student athletes on their rosters.  With many incoming freshmen for this fall signing National Letters of Intent in November of 2019, a vast majority of anticipated available scholarship money and roster spots were already accounted for.   “For a team like mine, that’s thirty other people who could have the choice to stay an extra year,” Reese said. “And so we’ll have to see how that plays out, again for my team but also nationwide because that’s going to affect roster sizes too.”  Because while the desire to play college lacrosse cannot be measured, roster sizes and scholarship money most certainly can.

 

Coming up tomorrow- how the future of a college program is affected by the shutdown of the high school season. Coach Reese discusses recruiting and an evaluation season that’s evaporated.

 

 

 

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

The Maryland Women’s Lacrosse team is in the Final Four–again.  Ten straight appearances in the national semifinals means that, bear with me here, that not only has every senior been on four straight Final Four teams- no senior has played with anyone who played with anyone at Maryland who was on a Terps team that didn’t make the Final Four.  No easy task.  Just like winning a second straight national title this weekend will be no easy task as they battle Boston College at 7:30 Friday in the Semifinals-one year after beating the Eagles in the National Championship Game.

The seeds to this year’s senior class were planted over ten years ago.  Senior attacker Megan Whittle says, “The coolest thing about my class–there’s seven of us now–is that we’re all from Maryland and four of us played on the same club team together.  Since we were eight or nine.” The addition of transfer Kathy Rudkin from Syracuse bolstered a defense that lost plenty of talent to graduation-and gives the Terps eight seniors who contribute on and off the field.  “I’m just fortunate and blessed to have a team full of amazing women,” coach Cathy Reese says, “they’re all just terrific people and that’s what it’s all about.  From Megan Whittle who leads the team with 83 goals to Emma Moss who saw action in just four games this year, Reese’s senior class and team is more than a collection of talent but a group of teammates.  “What Cathy’s been able to do is bring 37 girls together, get everybody on the same page and focused towards the same goal. And have everyone love every moment of it,” Whittle says, “And that is something that is very hard to do–especially with 37 girls of college age.”

This year’s senior class leaves College Park with a 47-0 home record…setting the standard while also laying the groundwork for the 2019 and 2020 teams. “They mean the world (to me)”, says junior goalie Megan Taylor, “I’ve actually been playing with Megan Whittle since Rec (league)–and Taylor Hensh I grew up playing COBRA (travel lacrosse) with. Just being able to watch them grow and watch them become the leaders that they are, it’s really something special.”  But the mood around campus is not one of celebration this week–it’s one of focus.  “This senior class has had such an impressive ride and accomplishment, but it’s important that we don’t take anything for granted,” coach Cathy Reese says, “it took a lot of work to get here and there’s a lot of work still to be done going into this weekend.”  And that’s exactly where Megan Whittle wanted to be-and she gets to be there one more weekend in her playing career.  “When I was 15 years old and decided to commit to Maryland, that’s what I signed up for,” Whittle said, “And here it is, happening. My senior class had a very successful tradition of winning National Championships and Big Ten Championships–but the coolest part is that is isn’t over yet”.

 

In the other semifinal–

#2 North Carolina (17-3) faces #3 James Madison (20-1) at 5 p.m..  After a slow start the Tar Heels enter Memorial Day weekend on a 12-game winning streak that includes an ACC Championship.  The Dukes boast the fourth best defense in Division I and are led on offense by Kristen Gaudian (74 goals) and Katie Kerrigan (53 assists).  Gaudian and Elena Romesburg each scored 5 goals in the February meeting between the two schools that was won by JMU in overtime.