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The Lacrosse Front

May 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Denver vs. Johns Hopkins, May 21, 2011

This is the time of year when I write a post (or more) about the NCAA men’s lacrosse championships. I let last weekend’s action go by without a post. Time to catch up.

First, my traditional stage setting. Until recently, seven schools dominated the sport: Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, North Carolina, Princeton, Syracuse, and Virginia. They were the only schools to win the championship. But more than that, they accounted for almost every championship game appearance, the only interlopers until 2005 being Maryland schools, once each: Loyola, Towson, and Navy. And the super seven accounted for almost all semi-final appearances as well.

But the game is changing. It is a growing sport at the high school level across the country. As a result, there is a larger pool of talented players, and more schools are competitive. As one example of the sport’s move westward, Notre Dame was a quarterfinalist in 1995 and 2000 and a semi-finalist in 2001. More recently, it has joined the super seven as a power, making the quarterfinals in 2008, then going undefeated in 2009 and being ranked #2 but being upset in the first round of the tournament. As for their performance last year and this year, more in a moment.

The school that has been on the verge of breaking into the elite throughout the last decade is Duke. They were runner-up to Hopkins in 2005, losing by a single goal. 2006? Well, you know. There was that scandal that dominated the national news, and the program was shut down in mid-season. In 2007, they returned to the championship game, losing once again to Hopkins by a single goal. Another one-goal loss to Hopkins in the 2008 semi-final and a blowout loss to Syracuse in the 2009 semi-final added to their frustration. But last year, they upset #1 ranked Virginia by a goal in the semi-final, landing in the championship game opposite Notre Dame.

If you’re following, you understand that this means the two teams who had been knocking at the door had simultaneously arrived in last year’s championship game. One of them would break through. After 60 minutes of regulation play, they were tied 5-5. Finally, Duke scored, winning their first championship and joining the super seven as a member of the new elite eight.

Then there’s Denver. Bill Tierney, the long-time Princeton coach, shocked the lacrosse world by uprooting and moving to Denver before last season. At Princeton, he had won national championships in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2001, the team finishing as runner-up in 2000 and 2002. This year, in only his second season at Denver, they were one of the top teams in the country. Might they be knocking at the door next?

Well, there you have it. The setup. Let’s turn to this year’s tournament. The NCAA invites 16 teams, 8 of which are seeded 1 through 8. In the first round, the 8 seeds play at home, each hosting one of the unseeded teams. That took place last weekend. The quarterfinal games are played at two neutral sites, two games at one site and two at another. Then the semi-finals and finals are held on Memorial Day weekend, in recent years at some NFL football stadium — the home of the Eagles, the Ravens, or the Patriots.

Of the elite eight, only Princeton didn’t qualify for the tournament. It was an off year for them. Joining the other seven elite programs were Notre Dame and Denver. These were the top 9 teams, but only 8 could be seeded and thereby get to host their first-round game. Maryland had won the ACC tournament, beating North Carolina and Duke. Yet, they were the odd team out, not being given a seed. The seeds in order, 1 through 8, were Syracuse, Cornell, Hopkins, ND, Duke, Denver, Virginia, and UNC.

Last Saturday, Maryland wasted no time showing they should have been seeded, beating host UNC handily. The other seven seeds all won, Virginia having the toughest time, eking out an overtime win over surprising Bucknell. That set up this weekend’s quarterfinals. Yesterday, at Hofstra’s stadium on Long Island, Cornell (seeded 2) would play Virginia (7) and Hopkins (3) would play Denver (6). Today, at the Patriots’ stadium in Foxborough, Syracuse (1) would play Maryland and Notre Dame (4) would play Duke (5) in a rematch of last year’s championship game.

I watched parts of all four games. In yesterday’s opening game, Cornell opened a 4-1 lead, but Virginia came back with 10 consecutive goals to take a 10-4 halftime lead. Cornell fought back, outscoring Virginia 3-1 in the third quarter before succumbing 13-9. The second game was stunning, as Denver flew to a 6-1 lead early in the second quarter with 6 straight goals. Hopkins settled down and closed to within a goal at 8-7 midway through the third quarter, but Denver responded with a 5-goal run to make the score 13-7, finally winning 14-9. This was a landmark in lacrosse history, a team from the mountain west making the semi-finals, and doing so by beating the team with the greatest tradition in the game. Unbelievable.

Today, Syracuse and Maryland opened the action at Foxborough with a hard fought defensive struggle. Syracuse started the scoring with a goal late in the first period and another late in the second. But Maryland, held scoreless for the first 26 minutes of the game, finally got two goals of its own in the final four minutes of the first half. They followed with 2 more in the first half of the third quarter to open a 4-2 lead. Syracuse closed to 4-3 late in the third period and then Maryland scored a shocking goal with 1 second left in the period to lead 5-3. Syracuse fought back, shutting out Maryland in the fourth quarter and getting the tying goal with 1:03 left in regulation. They had the momentum and looked poised to win, as would befit their #1 seed. Alas, Maryland controlled the ball throughout the first overtime period, scoring the winning goal three and a half minutes in.

The last quarterfinal was Duke vs. Notre Dame. Another low scoring game, tied 4-4 through three periods, at which point Duke started to take control, scoring 3 goals to open up a 7-4 lead. ND got a goal with 16 seconds left, by which time the result was determined.

Great weekend. Four great games. And all four top seeds lost. Next week, Virginia will take on Denver in one semi-final, with Maryland and Duke in the other. Two schools from the old super seven, one from the new elite eight, and one taking center stage far earlier than anyone would have dreamed. After what Denver did to Hopkins yesterday, no one will be counting them out.

I wouldn’t dream of predicting the results. I know only that we’re in for three exciting games. I suggest you watch.

Categories: Sports

iPad News

May 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I suppose this post may have limited interest, but I just want to comment on four improvements the last ten days have brought to my iPad life.

1. OmniOutliner for iPad. Two Thursdays ago, The Omni Group brought its indispensable OmniOutliner program to the iPad. OmniOutliner for iPad was originally due to come out last summer. Those of us whose lives depend on OmniOutliner and who use iPads have been desperately waiting for months. There are workarounds, like converting outlines on the Mac to opml format, then using some other program, such as Carbon Fin, to upload the outline to their server and then pull it down to one’s iPad or iPhone. Doing this means sacrificing a lot of OmniOutliner’s formatting options, but it works for simple outlines. Now there’s no longer a need for these workarounds. Hooray!

I have to confess, though, that I haven’t yet integrated OmniOutliner for iPad into (what I’ve learned to call) my workflow. I love having it. I’m just not using it much. Part of the problem is that although there’s no need to change the format of an outline, one still has to upload it somewhere, to one’s iDisk account for instance, then import it into OmniOutliner for iPad. This is an impediment.

2. The New Yorker. The iPad implementation of The New Yorker was supposed to be well done, a sign of things to come, both for other Condé Nast magazines and for magazines in general. But I wasn’t going to pay $6 to find out. I mean, I already subscribe to the print edition, I can read it online in a browser, so why pay again for the iPad version? The broader issue was the Apple Store’s lack of a magazine subscription option, so that one had to buy each issue of the New Yorker for the iPad separately. That changed last week. I awoke Monday morning to news from The New Yorker that iPad subscriptions were now available, and that moreover print subscribers were eligible to get iPad subscriptions for free. I downloaded the New Yorker iPad app, opened it up, and signed up immediately. This was a bit cumbersome. One needs to enter one’s address, the subscription number off a magazine label, and one’s online login name and password. Then, once eligibility was verified, I had to log in again using the login name and password. I didn’t realize at first that this last step was needed, so I was confused about why I couldn’t download any issues. But once I figured that out, I downloaded the still-current issue.

In the past, I wasn’t too thrilled about the online availability on a Monday morning of the New Yorker issue dated the following Monday, the print version of which typically wouldn’t arrive until Thursday or Friday. What was annoying was that by mid-morning on Mondays, I’d be reading on various blogs about some article or another, and I could either find it on my computer and read it on the big screen — not my idea of how to enjoy The New Yorker — or wait until later in the week, ignoring all the online discussion of the article in the meantime. Well, now I can just download the latest issue Monday morning and start reading on my iPad, a much more pleasant experience than reading at my computer. And sure enough, last week there was an article that made a lot of news, Jane Mayer’s piece on Obama’s war against whistleblowers. I could read it right away.

As it turns out, I decided to wait on reading Mayer’s article until the print issue came. And then when it did, I went ahead and read the article on my iPad, which made no sense at all.

I should add that being able to download and read new New Yorker issues on Monday mornings is a mixed blessing. it kind of gets in the way of getting on with the week.

3. OmniFocus for iPad. When it comes to workflow, OmniFocus is the center of my life. I won’t try to explain why. See my post on The Toad from almost a year ago to learn why. Suffice to say that all the facets of my life are organized on it. And what really makes it work is how the data syncs across all platforms — my iMac at home, my iMac at school, my MacBook Air, my iPhone, and my iPad. I always know what I need to be doing, wherever I am.

And last week The Omni Group brought us a major update to OmniFocus for iPad, for free. It has some wonderful new features. Organizing my life was never more fun. Indeed, the real danger of OmniFocus is that you fall in love with organizing life rather than living it. But that’s a problem I had long before OmniFocus showed up.

4. iPad 2. To top off an exciting week of iPad developments, last Thursday morning Gail and I received our new iPad 2s. (We’ve passed our iPads on to the kids.) I got mine synced and ready to go right away. I chose the white one. Gail got a traditional black one. Has this changed our lives? Well, I have to admit, not much. Yet. They are noticeably thinner and lighter. They have built-in cameras. But for the most part, I do with the new one what I did with the old one. It’s still a little too large to hold comfortably in one hand when I’m lying in bed, which I mention only because this means I still prefer reading books on my Kindle.

Okay, that’s the news.

Categories: Life, Magazines, Technology