Leading off today:
As sympathetic as I am to the Sauquoit Valley girls soccer team, the purported remedy to an unfortunate situation they experienced in NYSPHSAA Class C quarterfinals is straight out of Fantasy Island.
Here's what happened during a 2-0 loss to Elmira Notre Dame as told by Syracuse.com:
Trailing by a goal early in the second half, Sauquoit Valley's Adrianna Grande broke behind the defense with the ball and was 1-on-1 with the goalie inside the penalty area. As she prepared to attack, a whistle could clearly be heard -- but the whistle came from the stands, apparently by a fan in the Notre Dame section.
Grande stopped. The Notre Dame defense hesitated, then caught up and cleared the ball to the side, at which point game officials stopped play to sort out what had happened. Ultimately, they awarded the ball to Notre Dame on a throw-in.
Tim Clive, who has coached Sauquoit Valley for 21 years, said it was unprecedented and that his team should have been awarded a penalty kick. Clive told the website fans were warned before the game that a noisemaker would lead to a penalty kick.
I'll gently disagree about the unprecedented part, though such glitches are admittedly rare, and I'll vigorously protest the idea that any action by a fan should be grounds for any "solution" as drastic as a penalty kick. Here's why:
There are no absolutes in sports in large part because no two situations are identical. No one in his right mind should expect a penalty kick to be called over a stray whistle if the ball is 75 or 50 yards from the goal. Nor should it happen 30 yards from the goal. Maybe you start the discussion if the ball is inside the penalty area as in Saturday's case, but does that apply if the offensive player is going 1-on-1 against a defender? How about 1-on-2? What if it's a clean breakaway, but heading toward a showdown with a goalie more skilled than the attacker? What if the whistle didn't come from a fan of the defending team?
More importantly, a whistle from the stands can certainly create chaos; the awarding of penalty kicks for such infractions guarantees chaos. The alleged offender in Saturday's game was an adult (treat that as an observation about his physical age and not his maturity). Once you start telling fans that they can drastically affect the game by means of penalty kicks for bad behavior, you're practically inviting such shenanigans, especially by younger spectators.
What happened to Sauquoit Valley was certainly unfortunate, but it's also unreasonable to assume it was a game-changer or impossible to overcome given that it took place with about 35 minutes left in regulation. Notre Dame was already leading and went on to gain breathing room with another goal midway through the second half, well before a team on the short end of the score has to start taking risks leading to counterattack breakaways.
Eye-opening numbers: With numerous athletes signing scholarship papers this week, Mike Dougherty of The Journal News took a look at the harsh reality of college lacrosse: Lots of kids earn scholarship money, but few pull down amounts of aid that can put a huge dent in the bill mom and dad will end up paying.
Though NCAA statistics show Division I and II schools dole out $2.7 billion to athletes each year, some sports are more blessed than others. A fully funded college lacrosse team has an average of only 3.15 full scholarships available per year, to be distributed to as many as 10 or 12 recruits. Three-point-something divided by 10 doesn't go very far.
"It becomes a realization at the beginning of the recruiting process," said John Jay senior attackman Matt Lupinacci, who'll attend Colgate next fall. "You hear a lot from kids who