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.
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.