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First-ever women's lacrosse story

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by forever_town, Apr 25, 2007.

  1. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    This was actually the first time I wrote a lacrosse story for publication in a newspaper period. How badly did I screw this up?

    For a team with the championship pedigree of the Maryland women’s lacrosse team, a six-year drought between national championships can be considered a cause for concern. Add to the mix a first year head coach replacing the woman who led the Terps to eight of their 10 national championships, including seven consecutive, and you have the makings of question marks.

    Cathy Reese returned to her alma mater after four years as the head coach of the University of Denver, building the Pioneers into a winner before she replaced Cindy Timchal, who went 261-46 in 16 seasons at Maryland.

    Joining her on the coaching staff is former Terrapin great, associate head coach Jen Adams, who also coached with Reese in Denver. Adams still has the NCAA records for most assists and points (178 and 445), and still owns school records in every scoring category.

    After third-ranked Maryland knocked off then-No. 1 North Carolina, 8-6 on Sunday, and one match before the team faces off against a Georgetown team that beat them 11-10 last season, the Terps jumped out to a 12-2 lead against the Stanford Cardinal before cruising to a 15-7 victory March 28 in front of a crowd of 469 at the Lacrosse and Field Hockey Complex on the College Park campus.

    “I think we did a good job,” said Terps coach Cathy Reese, whose team improved to 9-1 overall after the win. “We forced a lot of turnovers, especially in the first half.”

    Stanford committed 18 turnovers in the first half to eight for Maryland. For the game, the Cardinal (3-6) coughed the ball up 27 times, compared to Maryland’s 15.

    Attack Krista Pellizzi scored four of her five goals in the first half, including the first two of the match. She scored the first goal just 28 seconds after the opening draw.

    Midfielder Katie Doolittle closed out the first half by scoring as the clock reached triple zeroes, drawing talk among some observers of the NCAA’s “mercy rule.” According to the rule, if one team has a 10 goal lead, the timekeeper keeps the game clock running after goals until the losing team cuts the gap to nine goals or less.

    Announcers and fans of many sports at all levels talk about scores just before halftime being momentum changers, but while Doolittle’s goal gave the Terps a 10 goal margin heading into the locker room, the Cardinal came back after the break with the first two goals of the period. They also scored the last two goals of the match.

    “I think Stanford was going hard to goal,” said goalie Allie Buote, who notched 11 saves on 27 Stanford shots. “We were getting a little bit sloppy on defense with our sticks and the refs were calling us on it.”

    “I think we weren’t really doing very well on draw controls,” Reese said. “They dominated the second half on draw controls to their credit.” The Cardinal won eight of nine draw controls in the stanza and dominated the category 16-7 for the game. Reese added that winning draw controls was an area of emphasis for the team.

    “Draw controls create possessions and for them possessions turn to goals. They started really turning up the tempo and going hard to the cage.”

    Despite the Cardinal’s 3-6 record, Buote said the team didn’t let up on them.

    “I don’t think we necessarily let up or anything because they’re a strong team and they have a good goalie and they can come back.”
  2. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member


    Thanks for posting your stuff. I'll try to give you some quick thoughts.

    It's not bad, but you're really backing into your lead. A lot. The history about Maryland's new coaches and its national championships may be important to the story, but it's not the lead. Is this a game story, written for the next day's paper? It seems like it might be a story that appeared in the paper a few days after the game. That's fine, but if that's the case, you may need to take a different angle. Let's, for the moment, assume that it's a game story you watched on a Wednesday and wrote Wednesday evening for Thursday's paper. Even if that's not the case, it the kind of stuff you'll be doing professionally.

    Assuming that's the case, this stuff needs to go down lower, or get cut entirely.

    If you're covering this like an event, this can't be your lead. It's season preview stuff. You say in the story the Terps are 9-1. At this point, the issue of the new coach taking over has already, in some ways, played itself out. I'm not sure it's particularly relevant.

    Here is one thing you should also always, always remember:

    Never put a score in your story higher than the final score. It's too confusing.

    As simple as it may seem, this is your lead:

    The stuff about the team knocking off No. 1 North Carolina and about getting a rematch against Georgetown can still be in the story, but not before you tell your readers what happened at the event you watched and covered.

    You didn't screw up at all, you're just learning the form for gamers. Though I doubt the Washington Post or the Baltimore Sun covered this game, if they did, go back an look at what their stories led with. If they didn't, the next time you're at a game with more than one media outlet, look at the paper the next day and compare your story to theirs. What did they choose to lead with? What quotes did they decide to use? What players did they talk to? It's a good way to compare and learn by watching. I covered an Olympics once when I was very young, and every morning, I'd get up and read what I'd written, then I'd read three or four stories from other papers about the same event. It helped me understand the kind of stuff I should be paying attention to.

    I'm a little bit unclear about this section:

    Was the mercy rule in affect? Did the clock run until Stanford scored to cut it to nine? I don't know what "drawing talk among some observes" means. Also, you don't need the sentence that starts "announcers and fans of many sports at all levels..." It's a little awkward, pretty vague, and a big cliche. Instead, you still make that point, but without having to attribute it to "announcers" (eww...). What if you'd said something like this:

    Terps Midfielder Katie Doolittle closed out the first half with a goal just before time expired, giving Maryland a 12-2 lead. According to NCAA rules, if one team has a 10 goal lead, the timekeeper keeps the game clock running after a score until the losing team cuts the gap to nine goals. Stanford, hoping to change the game's momentum when it came out of the locker room, scored twice to open the third period, and dominated draw control in the second half by winning 8 of 9.

    The pieces are here for a good game story, it's just a matter of getting them in the right order.

    Thanks again for posting, and keep it up.
  3. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    Thanks much for the comments DD. I really appreciate them.

    I suppose I should have added that this was for a weekly newspaper that wouldn't hit the news stands until about a week after the game. Plus, it was the first time my paper was running a story on the women's lacrosse team for the season. In a way it was written to provide some context for readers who are seeing a story on the team for the first time.

    Having said that, I definitely will keep your comments in mind for the next game story I do in this or any sport for the next time out.
  4. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member


    Thanks for the explanation. It makes more sense now. If that's the case, here is what I would suggest: If you have a long lag between the action you covered, and publication, think hard about making your focus completely featurized. If this is the first time you've written about the lacrosse team at all, then you can lead with that Reese/Adams stuff, but then don't switch your focus to an ultimately meaningless game that appeared a week earlier. You can focus your entire story around the new coaches and reduced something like that Stanford game to a line or two. (How are the players responding to the new staff? What expertise do they bring? How has their experience helped them in big games like the win over North Carolina? Do the players look at Adams with some measure of awe?) One thing I think weeklies should always try to do is project forward, not look backward. It's a hard thing to do, no question. But if your editors agree, I'd suggest trying the approach that previews the big game coming up while at the same time putting what's already happened that season in context. Does that make sense?

    A quick example: When I was in college, I covered a football team. Our college paper published Tuesday through Friday. The games were Saturday. So I'd go cover the games, and write a game story that would run in Tuesday's paper, but by the time the readers picked it up, the game was three days old. My advisers tried to get me to featureize the games instead, pick out one particular player or angle, and use it to project what was coming next. There were still results in the story about what HAD happened that weekend, but the focus was on what WAS happening next.

    Again though, thanks for sharing your stuff with us.
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