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A New Era of Lacrosse Under Coach - John Sung 2019 Virginia Tech Women's Lacrosse

Virginia Teach Women's Lacrosse

Article by Leigh Ernst Friestedt and Charlie Fix

February 12, 2019

Digital Media Sports by Leigh Ernst Friestedt

A New Era of Lacrosse

Head Coach - John Sung

Head Coach - John Sung leads Virginia Tech at 2018 ACC Championship

Under Head Coach, John Sung, a new era of lacrosse is emerging at Virginia Tech. Entering his third season, the Hokies are reaching new milestones and climbing in the rankings with the goal of winning their first national title.

The Hokies enter the 2019 season ranked #3 in the ACC behind - #1 Boston College and #2 UNC - for the first time ever, Virginia Tech is ranked above UVA. Coach Sung has worked extremely hard to recruit top players, and with his Freshman and Sophomore classes in place, a powerhouse program is emerging: All-American Paige Petty (So Midfield), Emma Crooks (So Midfield), Morgan Berman (So Goalie), Leigh Lingo (So Midfield) and Oregon transfer Julia Bolt (Jr Attack).

Paige Petty (So Midfield)
Julia Bolte (Jr Attack) - Captain
Morgan Berman (So Goalie)
Leigh Lingo (So Midfield)
Emma Crooks (So Midfield)

2018 Record Breaking Season

In a record 2018 season, Virginia Tech Women’s Lacrosse made their first NCAA tournament appearance, advanced to the ACC Semi Finals, and had their winningest season to date. The Hokies finished the season 14-7, advanced in ACC post-season play by defeating Duke in one of the wettest games ever played, and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Tech squad finished the season ranked 13th in national polls and reached several milestones for the first time in program history:

Virginia Tech defeats Duke 13-12 at 2018 ACC

Virginia Tech 2018 Milestones

First NCAA tournament appearance - advanced to 2nd round by defeating Georgetown 13-10
Winningest season to date 14-7 with a 5-2 record in ACC
Beat Syracuse for first time 15-14 in double-overtime
Beat Notre Dame for first time 9-6
Advanced to the ACC Semi Finals by defeating Duke 13-12
Finished the 2018 season ranked 13th in national polls
Enter the 2019 season ranked #3 in ACC - ahead of UVA, Duke and Syracuse

Virginia Tech also saw four players earn All-ACC First team honors: Tristan McGinley (Sr Attack), Kelly Glatthorn (Sr Defense), Meagh Graham (Sr Goalie), and Freshman standout Paige Petty. With three of these top players graduating, Tech will have to rely on a strong class of recruits for the 2019 season.

Tristan McGinley (Sr Attack)
Kelly Glattorn (Sr Defense)
Meagh Graham (Sr Goalie)

John Sung Arrives in Blacksburg

Coach Sung arrived in Blacksburg with eight years of NCAA coaching experience - most recently at Winthrop University. He started Winthrop’s program and rapidly transformed it into a regional powerhouse. Coach Sung led Winthrop to two NCAA bids, and both a Big South regular season and conference championship win in 2015 and 2016. Those successes earned him the title of two-time Big South Coach of the Year for 2015 and 2016.

Coach Sung also has experience on the NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Committee, serving as Chair in 2016. It is a position which undoubtedly provides Coach Sung with the knowledge to strategically build a schedule targeted at an NCAA tournament bid.

Head Coach - John Sung - VA Tech defeats Duke in rain to advance in 2018 ACC Championship

Off-the-Field Strategy

Recruiting

Coach Sung has done an outstanding job recruiting talent to Virginia Tech with top ranked Freshmen and Sophomore classes, earning immediate playing time as underclassmen. Coach Sung recruits top athletes and converts midfielders, like Elena Ricci, into defenders to execute his fast-paced and athletic gameplan.

Coach Sung took over a team with veteran players hungry for a winning season, with discipline to get there, and ready for a coach to guide them to success. Heading into the 2019 season, Co-Captains, Mary Claire Byrne and Emma Harden, will remain with the program for a 5th-year and provide the team with senior leadership. These graduate students have the perspective to appreciate the growth and development of the Hokies over the past few years and opportunity to be part of Coach Sung's vision for greatness in the future.

Mary Claire Byrne (Graduate Midfield)
Elena Ricci (So Defense)

RPI - Strength of Schedule

Coach Sung's off-the-field strategy includes a competitive schedule that positions the Hokies to receive an NCAA tournament bid. The NCAA committee uses the Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI, to determine tournament selection. RPI is calculated by using a team’s record, its strength of schedule, and its opponent’s strength of schedule.

From serving on the NCAA Committee, Sung knows how to achieve a high RPI - a critical behind-the-scenes job of a Head Coach. Paramount to maintaining a strong RPI is winning ‘trap games’ against weaker opponents. Coach Sung stresses the importance of “not falling for the trap". Winning one ‘trap game’ does not boost one’s RPI, but losing them can destroy it. The key is to pad a team’s schedule with enough ‘trap game’ wins to counter the mathematical effects of any losses.

Coach Sung made sure that Virginia Tech prepared and played with intensity for every opponent in their 2018 season. ‘Trap game’ wins (including Old Dominion, Campbell, George Mason, Delaware, and VCU) all helped solidify Virginia Tech’s historical bid in the NCAA tournament. Tech’s key wins against in-conference ACC opponents: Duke, Notre Dame, Louisville, and Syracuse helped to secure Virginia Tech’s ranking, which resulted in a higher seeding over Georgetown in the NCAA tournament.

On-the-Field Strategy

Fundamentals & Fitness

On the field, John Sung values fundamentals and fitness. The fast-paced and competitive Virginia Tech practices typically begin with substantial stick work and end with conditioning. This strategy paid-off, the Hokies stamina and grit on the field was evident all season. The 2018 squad also had Sung’s first Tech recruits on it. Freshman Paige Petty had a breakout performance, ending 2018 as the Hokies leader in points with 65 (58g, 7a).

"Go, Go, Go!"

Coach Sung is running a fast-paced game on both sides of the field. As the Hokies carry the ball through the midfield, you can hear Coach Sung yell, "Go, Go, Go!" to encourage his team to push the ball and run the attack with a sense of urgency. On the defense, Coach Sung is pressuring his opponent to run a fast-paced game by sending a "chaser" out onto the ball. The inverted backer defense pressures the ball at the eight meter and forces an opponent to play a faster paced game.

This aggressive style of play requires tremendous conditioning by the players, and Coach Sung appears to have mastered the science behind the game. During the off-season, the Hokies put a lot of work on conditioning and use heart rate monitors to help the coaching staff gauge how hard they can push the players. Coach Sung also uses the heart rate monitors during games to assist with his subbing strategy and making sure that his players are fresh to execute the fast-paced gameplan.

2019 Season Outlook

Looking on to the 2019 season, the Hokies graduated top starters: Tritan McGinley (Attack), Brittney Vanveldhuisen (Defense), Carly Primo (Defense), Kristen Kohles (Defense) and goalie Meagh Graham. The Hokies will look to experienced Sophomores in the midfield: Paige Petty and Emma Crooks (recorded 4 goals and 1 assist in Bucknell game); Sophomore Goalie, Morgan Berman, who is very athletic with excellent stick skills to come out of the cage and assist the defense. Top Freshmen who will also make an immediate impact on the team include: Jordan Tilley (Defense), Sara Goodwin (Attack) and Grace Nelson with a commanding presence in the midfield.

The Hokies 2018 season broke barriers and repeatedly proved to the rest of the lacrosse community that their success was no accident. Virginia Tech’s 2018 regular season close losses to Carolina and Boston College, by one and two goals respectively, prove the Hokies capable of rivaling Final Four teams and going beyond the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.

JMU vs VA Tech

JMU captures 2018 NCAA Women's Lacrosse title against Boston College

The Hokies take on the 2018 National Champions - James Madison University ("JMU") for the second game of the season. While the Hokies opened their 2019 season with a strong win against Bucknell (14-4), JMU hit a roadblock in their first game against #3 UNC and lost (7-18). The defending National Champions are missing some of their key players who graduated: Haley Warden (NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player), Elena Romesburg, Kristen Gaudian and Corinne Schmidt. JMU does not appear to have transitioned the next generation of players the way Sung has with his undersclassmen - leaving the door open for Virgina Tech to pull off an upset against JMU.

All-American - Paige Petty (Freshman) at 2018 ACC Semifinals against UNC
Digital Media Sports by Leigh Ernst Friestedt

Article by Leigh Ernst Friestedt and Charlie Fix / Photos by Leigh Ernst Friestedt

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