Crum Lives Up to Hype; Texas Surges into Top 10
by J. Jude Hazard | LaxMagazine.com
Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year Clayton Crum has 73 goals this season for Texas, which is ranked ninth in the latest WCLA Division I poll.
© Dirk Dewachter
Clayton Crum and the Texas Longhorns emerged from the inaugural Mile High Invitational two weeks ago in Boulder, Colo., with plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Women's Collegiate Lacrosse Associates Division I National Championship next month in nearby Colorado Springs.
Texas (13-5, 4-0 TWLL) was 3-1 in Boulder, losing its only game to defending national champion Colorado State in a 15-5 one-sided affair. The Rams' 4-0 dominance in the tournament boosted Colorado State's national ranking to third in the latest WCLA Division I top 20 poll.
"None of us really agreed that the score was indicative of how hard we played," said Crum, a senior midfielder. "We were on such a high from the first two wins that nothing could really put us down, even if it was a loss by 10. We really fought all the way to the end and we were proud of ourselves on the weekend as a whole."
Texas' 3-1 weekend improved its ranking to ninth nationally. The Longhorns conclude their regular season against Southwestern on Satruday before heading into the TWLL conference tournament. Like many club teams, Texas relies on tournaments throughout the year to face top competition in the country and prepare for the national championship.
"Because competition in Texas usually is pretty different than the competition that we face at nationals, we have really placed a big priority on going to these out-of-state tournaments," Crum said. "These tournaments have not only boosted our confidence but have helped us prepare for once we are at nationals."
Texas had a trial by fire at the A-Town Throwdown tournament in Georgia earlier this season. Inclement weather forced the postponement and ultimate cancellation of its first game, and the Longhorns ended up having to play four games in a 24-hour period. They went 1-3 that weekend. The schedule was particularly grueling for Texas because of its high-intensity style of play on both ends of the field.
"While we did come out 1-3 on that weekend, we were still able to make some good plays throughout the tournament and we realize nationals will be one game per day, so we'll have more time to rest," Crum said. "Hopefully we will be able to sustain that high-pressure defense over four days."
One of those three defeats was a narrow 7-5 loss to Florida. The Gators are ranked second in the country and will be among the top teams at nationals this year.
"Our game against Florida was a turning point in the season," Texas had coach Brandie Leach said. "We had a little lapse on offense there after we'd controlled the ball, and we've learned from that big time. We worked on that the whole month before we went to Colorado to make sure our pace of play could keep up on both sides of the field."
Crum is the keystone of the Texas offense and has 73 goals this season, nearly a third of the Longhorns' scoring. She's also second on the team in assists with 13. She was named the Lacrosse Magazine WCLA Division I Preseason Player of the Year and has lived up to that hype so far this season.
"She's the most unselfish player I've ever met," Leach said. "She talks to a lot to the girls and teaches them a lot through practice. She's always helping everywhere that she can."
This year is Crum's last chance to "Light the Tower," a University of Texas tradition of lighting the school's Main Building Tower in orange following significant sports accomplishments and other university-wide events. The tower would be bathed in orange light if the women's lacrosse club program won a national championship.
"We have really good captains, very good leaders. We have a lot of nice kids that really just want to work hard for each other," Leach said. "We're just trying to keep everyone helathy and motivated and excited."
The biggest losers from the Mile High Invitational were Santa Clara (0-4) and Brigham Young, which fell four spots to No. 7 in the rankings after going 1-3 in the tournament. Most teams have either finished or will wrap up their regular season play within the next two weeks heading into conference tournaments and nationals.
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