Taylor's Takes: Overlapping Game Times Stunt Women's Lacrosse Growth

PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTHWESTERN ATHLETICS

Lauren Gilbert, an offensive force for Northwestern, is one of Taylor Cummings' top players this week.


Taylor Cummings is a three-time Tewaaraton winner, a member of Team USA and the head coach at McDonogh (Md.) . "Taylor's Takes" is presented by Gait Lacrosse. Be legendary.

What a weekend of amazing lacrosse across the board.

Despite the overlapping game times and zero presence on televised networks, the eight teams who competed this weekend were still able to dazzle their dedicated fans with huge blowout victories, record-setting scoring and even a nail biter between the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds. In the end, North Carolina, Boston College, Syracuse and Northwestern prevailed and will head to another Final Four weekend.

It’s truly unfortunate that the talents of these young women and their coaches were not fully on display for the world to see, as viewers had to continually flip between browsers or split screens — NFL Red Zone style — to catch the beginning of one game and the end of another. With start times beginning at 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. Eastern, fans could not be fully engaged or take in the coaching chess matches occurring. Instead, they were forced to choose which games to watch and teams to support.

If you tuned in to see Jamie Ortega’s spectacular leaping game-tying goal, you missed Lauren Gilbert, Lindsey McKone and Izzy Scane put on an offensive clinic. If you watched Emma Ward have a career day against the Gators, you didn’t have a chance to see Belle Smith’s first-half hat trick or Charlotte North’s insane hesitation step. As an avid viewer and supporter of the sport, I was so disappointed and discouraged to know that so many were missing so much.

Those who make these big decisions — the NCAA, the TV networks, the schools, the selection committee, whoever, really — need to do better by their student-athletes, their fans and the young girls watching who want to be on that stage in a few years. By not having the games televised, by not staggering their start times and by not covering them as highly and in depth as the men’s games, current and future athletes are failed time and time again.

Our game is fast, competitive, gritty, aggressive and entertaining to both watch and play. The women who give so much of themselves to compete at the highest level possible both deserve and have earned the right to have their talents and hard work put on full display for the world to see. We have come a long way as a sport but are continuously reminded that we have so much farther to go.

To all the players, coaches and staffs who sacrificed so much to make this season a reality, thank you. We love watching you compete and know how hard you work each and every day. You are all champions in our eyes.







Taylor’s Top Players

Jamie Ortega, North Carolina

Ortega has been spectacular all season long but may have saved one of her best performances for this past weekend. With four goals and three assists, she was all over the offensive end of the field on Saturday against Stony Brook.

Ortega is one of the slipperiest players I’ve ever seen play and is so much fun to watch. She uses her quick feet, superb stick work and incredible body control to maneuver through defenses and continually find the back of the cage. Jamie’s tying goal — a leaping cross-body catch into a stepback rip — was SportsCenter-worthy and helped snatch momentum for UNC on its way to another victory.

Lauren Gilbert, Northwestern

Gilbert is one of the top two-way midfielders in the country — and for good reason. She is an explosive dodger with a great first step who commands the middle of the field and can play solid team defense, too.

Gilbert had six goals in Northwestern’s route of Duke, many of those coming in key moments when the game was still close. She scored in a variety of ways — off the dodge, off the 8-meter arc, off of cuts — and that’s what makes her so deadly on the offensive end.

Olivia Carner, Duke

Despite losing in the Elite Eight, Carner had a career day for the Blue Devils with five goals on the afternoon.

She was able to use her fast first step and slick stick work to evade the Wildcat zone, step into open spaces and put the ball in the back of the net. Carner’s work around the crease was particularly impressive, as she gave the Blue Devils another scoring threat. Carner is just a sophomore and will be heavily relied upon by Duke in the years to come. 

Madison Ahearn, Notre Dame

Ahearn was very impressive throughout the 2021 season, but particularly in Notre Dame’s loss to Boston College on Saturday. Her ability to be a threat from anywhere on the field is what makes her so dominant on the offensive end.

Ahearn has one of the quickest split dodges I’ve ever seen and used that move to score a beautiful goal from the elbow early in the contest. She is a player that coach Chris Halfpenny and the Irish will look to for leadership and big-moment plays in the years to come.  

Sam Swart, Syracuse

On a team with so much offensive firepower, Swart can sometimes fall under the radar to those not closely watching. Her ability to not only play many minutes offensively and defensively, but do them exceptionally well, is nothing short of impressive and is frankly something I appreciate as a midfielder myself.

Swart is dynamic in the midfield, has great vision and seems to play her best lacrosse when she’s loose and having fun. Her two goals and solid defensive play on Saturday were a direct reflection of the joy she was having on the field as the Orange secured another trip to championship weekend.

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