May 17, 2011

Sheehan Stanwick Burch: Suggestions, Surprises and Predictions

by Sheehan Stanwick Burch |

Draw controls will loom large in the Duke-Florida quarterfinal, writes Sheehan Stanwick Burch, where Emma Hamm (pictured) and Kat Thomas are too formidable a duo inside the circle and out.

© John Strohsacker/

Before I get started on last weekend's results and my predictions for what lies ahead, I wanted to take a moment to pass on some simple advice to the young players that I think would make their lives just a tad easier.

First, I have noticed the trend over the last several years of girls choosing not to wear gloves. I know gloves get stinky, but they can make a world of difference if you happen to get your hand checked or your fingers smashed during a shot. Unfortunately, though, I have seen way too many girls holding their fingers in pain throughout the course of the season. Just try gloves. You might like them.

Second, do not tape the leathers to the pole of your stick. Doing so makes it an absolute chore for you or your coach to tighten your stick if it gets soaked or is otherwise illegal. Rather than taping them to your pole, you can cut the leathers so you can wrap them neatly around the front of the head and make two small square knots that can easily be untied and tightened.

Third, it is always a good idea to have multiple sticks checked at the stick check before the beginning of a game. You should also have a backup stick that you bring to games so that, if you break your stick or a leather or get called for an illegal pocket, you will have another option.

These may be simple suggestions, but I've found that they less you have to worry about during a game, the better you can play, which is crucial at this time of year.

Now let's look back on the action from last weekend's NCAA tournament first-round games. There were really only two surprises for me this weekend: Albany beating Dartmouth 10-7 on the road, and Princeton upsetting James Madison 11-10. Albany continues to roll, maintaining its unblemished record in taking down a strong Ivy League team. Princeton, on the other hand, was able to survive another close game -- the Tigers' sixth win in 2011 decided by two goals or fewer.

As we look forward to the upcoming weekend's quarterfinal games, these are my thoughts:

Princeton at No. 1 Maryland

The first meeting this season between these two squads was won by the Terps, 17-10. I see a similar outcome. I don't think Princeton can run with Maryland for 60 minutes, but the Tigers may be able to secure an upset if they can do two things: win the possession battle and get a career day from Erin Tochiarra in the cage.

Prediction: Maryland 18, Princeton 9.

No. 5 Duke at No. 4 Florida

I like this matchup and think it will be a high scoring affair. Florida gets to play at home, where it has an impressive undefeated record in 2011. Duke will make its seventh consecutive quarterfinal appearance. Draw controls will be a huge stat to watch in this game, and I believe the winner in the circle will advance.

Prediction: Duke 14, Florida 11.

No. 6 Loyola at No. 3 North Carolina

Both teams rolled easily into the quarterfinal round. Loyola is on a tear after winning the Big East tournament, but the Tar Heels have the edge here, with too much offensive firepower.

Prediction: North Carolina 14, Loyola 10.

No. 7 Albany at No. 2 Northwestern

Albany is the definite underdog, running on a lot of talent and adrenaline. These teams are not that familiar with each other, but I don't think that Northwestern will take this matchup lightly. For some reason I think this game will be a low-scoring affair.

Prediction: Northwestern 8 Albany 5.

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