May 28 / Todd

JMU Lacrosse Wins the NATIONAL Championship!

JMU National Title

National Champs!

Unbreakable indeed. “Unbreakable” is the word JMU’s Lacrosse program used to describe itself all season long and they proved it to the entire country in winning the program’s first, and JMU’s fourth overall, national title this weekend with a thrilling 16-15 victory over the ACC Champs Boston College Eagles. Finishing a remarkable season at 22-1 and a pretty darned fantastic 2017-18 year for JMU Athletics with another Natty is really special stuff. Oh yeah, Sunday’s game came after the Dukes systematically dominated lax heavyweight North Carolina 15-12 in Friday’s semi-final.

You can read all about the heroics of this easy-to-root-for squad over at the official JMU Sports (most of you probably already have), but we’ll try to give a few of our own uneducated insights here for your post Memorial Day pleasure.

First and foremost, WHAT A GAME! Thanks to friends, we watched a few games at JMU in our day, and Rob played the game growing up. But we really tried to learn the game and follow this team closely this season for the first time. In other words, we’re no experts, but this Final Four was a noticeable step up in quality of play, competition, and all-around ferocity from anything we’d seen in the regular season, the CAA tourney, or the two previous wins over UVA and Florida to get to Long Island. In hindsight, it seems that UVA and Florida both changed their games to try and contain the Dukes, leading to (especially against the Gators on a blistering day in the ‘Burg) a bit of a park-the-bus mentality. These two games looked like they were being played at light-speed in comparison, and the Dukes were more than up to the challenge. On Friday versus the Heels, the game was free-wheeling, flowing, and filled with finesse. But on Sunday against Boston College, this was sport, any sport, at its very best. Skilled, fast, and played with a ferocious intensity throughout that was worthy of any title matchup anywhere. Back and forth throughout, the battle featured big runs from both teams and five lead changes. Seriously, it was the type of game where if you were watching the sport for the first time, there’s a 100% chance you’d walk away a fan. And with both teams vying to become the first team in 14 years outside of traditional powers Maryland, UNC, Northwestern, and Virginia to win a title, it was the kind of game that grows a sport and shakes the power-structure. That sounds pretty damned JMU if you ask us!

There were lots of outstanding individual performances throughout the season and the tourney, but as you might expect from a title run, this was truly a team trophy, with contributions coming from ALL over the field. Obviously All-American and Teewaraton Finalist Kristen Gaudian was incredible battling face-guarding as the focus of BC’s defense all game. But she never relented and still found a way to scoop up two critical ground balls late and fire them home. Haley Warden, the rock of this squad, was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after outshining more highly touted players from UNC and BC on draw controls and scoring nine goals in the two games including, of course, the title-winner off another slick feed from offensive maestro Katie Kerrigan (who also caused the game’s most important turnover). Elena Romesburg was the fiery heart of the Dukes’ intensity – her small size belies the most aggressive player in the tourney (and for the Eagles fans complaining about that love tap our mini-Ultimate Warrior gave to that poor Eagle who tried to run her over, well – if you can’t handle the heat….).

Morgan Hardt and Maddie McDaniel chipped in offensively as well. And the player we’ve at times been critical of for her shoot-shoot-pretend to pass but shoot-shoot again mentality, junior (and next year’s team leader) Hanna Haven was probably the most underrated star of the title game. She got the Dukes rolling with the games’ first two goals, bailed out defensive teammates at times, and fired home the most important goal of all after BC had gotten rolling and jumped out to a 10-8 lead after the half. That goal steadied the Dukes and set up all the fireworks to come. One last offensive player that should not go unmentioned is tiny speedster and freshman middie Charlotte Haggerty. She came off a tense bench to put home JMU’s first goal in the semi against the Heels and calm the team’s nerves after a slow start. Then she filled in admirably late when Romesburg cramped up that night and Sunday she scrambled for a huge draw late and in earning a call, helped seal the win. Look for lots more of the killer H’s – Haven and Haggerty – next year.

But in a sport where it can be tough to play D and in a Final Four loaded with offensive talent on every squad, it was JMU’s defense that, as in every sport, won the championship. Led by freshman net-minder Molly Dougherty, who appeared to gain confidence every game, they were outstanding. On Friday, they held JMU in the game early when things were tough. And Sunday, except for a short stretch in the first half where BC went nuts, they used their confusing and difficult (credit to the coaching staff!) zone defense to frustrate everyone. Emma Johnson, Caroline Sdanowich, Lauren Duvall, Corinne Schmidt, and Rebecca Tooker (along with her enormous Long Island fanbase) were all enormous in securing the ‘ship. And with Johnson, Sdanowich, Duvall, and Dougherty all back next year, they will likely lead JMU’s title defense!

Fan Notes

A million great things emerged from this run for JMU Nation. First, the four straight years of overall growth in JMU fandom, mostly thanks to football with an assist from softball, was on full display this weekend. The JMU crowd was intense and exquisitely Dukes! While it wasn’t surprising to any of us who bleed purple, it was pleasantly shocking to see another ESPN crew introduced to what “rootin’ fer Dukes” is all about! (Im)Proper tailgating, ridiculous fan attire, and overall raucousness were music to our ears. It’s also fair to say we’ve never seen the level of fan engagement on social media for a non-football event that we did this weekend.

And we’d politely like to suggest that a couple new traditions be adopted from this magical season. No, we’re not talking about the player’s dad’s non-ironic re-embrace of the Baja Men. But we do LOVE  the “whoo whoo whoo” to finish the fight song! We’d probably spell that “hoo” but that’s not something we can allow.

And we grew to love the “bluestone” white unis over the course of this season. No idea if our beloved campus architecture look was really the inspiration but the results speak for themselves. If we can spread that to other home whites, we’re all in (that’s for you Perrine – nothin’ but love).

Finally, as Rob correctly, and “technically,” pointed out following the win, every JMU Coach who has appeared on the pod in 2018 has now won a national championship! Hopefully we’ll get to break it all down again soon with Coach Shelley, but if you can’t get enough coverage of this extraordinary team, go back and listen to us talking to Coach on the eve of the season. We think you’ll agree it was prescient.

Talk to y’all on the pod and, as always, Go Dukes!

7 Comments

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  1. OBXDuke1983 / May 28 2018

    What an exciting weekend. These women really did get JMU Nation going. I was wearing my JMU shirt in Kitty Hawk on Sunday as i often do, and i couldn’t believe how many Dukes came up to talk about this team and that amazing run.
    Really just started following the team this year. Them beating UNC to open the season got me. But watching the games this postseason made me a lacrosse fan.
    Go Dukes!

  2. Karen Z / May 28 2018

    You guys are the BEST!

  3. ShadyP / May 29 2018

    GREAT JOB by the Lady Dukes W-LAX squad!!!!

    Also kudos to the Sportsblog crew for great coverage of this amazing team.

  4. Todd / May 29 2018

    Z – that means the world coming from you and hope I didn’t botch too much on the actual game-talk ha.

    OBX – we’re with you on becoming real fans this postseason.

    Thanks for the kind words Shady.

  5. Ken / May 30 2018

    Watched the replays (not unusual for me) as I was otherwise engaged — by being in the hospital for a week. I don’t know the rules much at all and learned that the term ‘ride’ applies to more than wrestling.

    Uber-impressed at the speed, finesse, power and skill of this team of athletes.

    Congratulations on a well-deserved championship ladies! Go Dukes!

    Todd and Rob, once again thanks for all you do to connect JMU Nation.

  6. Jackie Papers / May 31 2018

    We’ve got 5 natty’s, don’t sleep on ‘95 Archery

  7. Rob / Jun 6 2018

    Hey Ken. Apologies for the late response, but sorry to hear you were in the hospital. Hope you’re doing better now. And thanks for the kind words!

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