Dec. 19, 2014 — Final Statwatch for 2014

It’s been an incredible field hockey season with record-setting individual and team efforts. Of note this season are not only the feats of Austyn Cuneo and Haley Schleicher, but of teams like Watertown (Mass.) who went through the entire season without yielding a goal.

Below is a list of statistics which are through the end of play last Saturday. These numbers come from, amongst others, Advance Media, The Harrisburg Patriot-News, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, MassLive.com, The Washington Post, The Syracuse Post-Dispatch, Long Island Newsday, The Reading Eagle, MaxPreps, and the Ann Arbor News:

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, SEASON
95 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
60 Caroline Andretta, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
58 Jessica Welch, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
57 Jane Donio-Enscoe, Hammonton (N.J.)
53 Nikki Santore, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
52 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
51 Madison Maguire, Rumson-Fair Haven (N.J.)
49 Elissa Frien, Carle Place (N.Y.)
48 Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.)
46 Mackenzie Karcher, Maple Shade (N.J.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
52 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
40 Melina Moore, Los Gatos (Calif.)
37 Nikki Santore, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
36 Lindsay Alvarez, Bridgewater-Raritan (N.J.)
33 Leah Carderelli, Acton-Boxborough (Mass.)
33 Riley Dolan, Drexel Hill Bonner-Prendergast (Pa.)
32 Kaitlyn McLaren, Los Gatos (Calif.)
31 Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.)
31 Dana Bozek, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
30 Sofia Palacios, Herndon (Va.)
30 Caroline Andretta, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
30 Kayla Jordan, San Diego Serra (Calif.)
29 Bridget Condie, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.)
29 Megan Ophel, Summit (N.J.)

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, GAME
10 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
8 Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.)
8** Bree Bednarski, Exeter Wyoming Area (Pa.)
7 Deja Watson, Bridgeton (N.J.)
7** Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
7 Jordana Ambros, Seabrook Cumberland Regional (N.J.)
7 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
7 Emma Cate Graham, Houston Episcopal (Tex.)
** — done twice

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, GAME
7 Lindsay Andreana, New Rochelle Ursuline (N.Y.)
6 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
6 Jamie Rehus, Whippany Park (N.J.)

CAREER GOALS
328 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
138 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
124 Jane Donio-Enscoe, Hammonton (N.J.)
114 Caroline Andretta, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
108 Jessica Welsh, Morrisville Morrisville-Eaton/Hamilton (N.Y.)
108 Elizabeth Dennehy, Weston (Mass.)
102 Sophia Tornetta, Rosemont Agnes Irwin School (Pa.)

CAREER ASSISTS
150 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
94 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)

UNBEATEN STREAK, TEAM
138 Watertown (Mass.)
106 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
55 Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.)
51 Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.)
51 Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)

GOALS ALLOWED, SEASON
0 Watertown (Mass.)
1 Glastonbury (Conn.)

Dec. 18, 2014 — A Nixonian moment

When I first heard yesterday of President Obama’s announcement of the start of talks to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, all I could remember is seeing video footage of President Nixon descending a staircase leading from Air Force One to the Chinese mainland on Feb. 21, 1972.

When people say the word “Cuba” today, the immediate words that come to mind are either “communism” or “Castro.” It is true that Fidel Castro, a dictator whose aims at total power died with the collapse of the Soviet Union, fashioned a society which tried to fashion an economy and social order on the order of Russia.

However, the ultimate irony is that the Cuban economy never grew out of the import-substitution economy that developed in the pre-Castro age.

You see, Cuba was a prime source of two items: sugar and tobacco. Their growth and exportation paid for everything that was imported onto the island, like food and fuel. In the middle part of the century, Cuba was a resort and vacation destination on the level of a Las Vegas today.

Cuba also had a significant sports presence in American society. A minor-league baseball team played in Havana from the mid-40s until 1960 — first as the Class B Havana Cubans, then as the Class AAA Cuban Sugar Kings.

The Formula One World Championship held three Grands Prix in Cuba; two on the Malecon Avenue street circuit in Havana, and the last one on a temporary circuit at a military airfield.

Even college football got in on the Cuban sports action, as the Bacardi Bowl was contested eight times from 1907 to 1946. In all but one of the games, one of the opponents was a Cuban team, meaning that there was a significant American football presence on the island for much of the early 20th Century.

It’s this kind of cultural imperialism that many Cubans — both pro-Castro and anti-Castro — fear will happen going forward. Will the first wave of development on the island be hotels and casinos? Will deep-pocketed investors buy out the native distillers and tobacconists in the belief that they can somehow automate the processes that have made these products great?

I think yesterday’s announcement has that kind of world-shifting gravitas, and will have a tremendous impact going forward.

But the question I’d like to see answered is whether the Cuban economy will develop beyond import substitution. In other words, will Cuba be able to rely on tourism without sacrificing its unique culture, and rely on income from consumer goods without sacrificing their quality?

Dec. 17, 2014 — The ultimate derby

In the world of field hockey, there are some rivalry matches which have much more of a competitive edge than others because of an accident of geography, the histories between the teams, or the coaches.

The rivalries don’t need fancy or glib titles, or superfluous adjectives; just say the names of the two field hockey teams and it means something: North Carolina-Duke, Cortland-Ithaca, Hudson-Western Reserve Academy, Pioneer-Huron, Serra-Scripps Ranch, Council Rock-Neshaminy, Greenwich Academy-Hotchkiss, and Wyoming Seminary-Crestwood (despite the fact that, due to an odd quirk in the schedule, the latter never got played this year).

But none of these matches have the gravity or the outright anger of India vs. Pakistan. This rivalry’s provenance stems from the end of colonial rule over India shortly after World War II. The partition of what had been British India into four countries exposed a number of religious and social differences between people which had been held together under the force of arms for a century.

After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, millions of Hindus fled Pakistani territory, and millions of Pakistanis fled India. Families were split, some villages ceased to exist. The border region between the two countries is heavily fortified, and the two countries are both rumored to have nuclear weapons.

There have been occasional armed conflicts over territories such as Kashmir, Bengal, and Punjab, one of which interfered with the ability of India to host a three-game series to determine the final qualifier for the 2002 FIH World Cup.

Whenever the two countries have met on the field of play, especially in national sports such as cricket and field hockey, the entire Indian subcontinent holds its collective breath.

The latest chapter in the India-Pakistan rivalry occurred last week at the men’s Champions Trophy. India and Pakistan were in the same half of the knockout phase of the tournament and met in the semifinals.

The game was held in India, and Pakistan managed a 4-3 win. After the game ended, team members celebrated on the pitch, whipped off their jerseys, and taunted the pro-Indian supporters.

The reaction after the game was swift. The Pakistani coach stormed out of the postgame news conference after some aggressive questioning by an Indian reporter.

The FIH came down hard on Pakistan, giving a one-match ban to Mohammad Tousiq and Ali Amjad, while reprimanding a third player. In a sport with only 16 to 18 players on the tournament roster, Pakistan was put at a significant disadvantage going into the Champions’ Trophy final against Germany.

Germany won 2-0 in front of a boisterous Indian crowd rooting against the Green Shirts.

We’re sure to see more of this as the next FIH men’s World Cup is to be held in India. And if Pakistan and India are drawn together again? Hold onto your hats.

Dec. 16, 2014 — Games of the Year, 2014

The 2014 field hockey season wasn’t just about numbers, but it was about the passion displayed on the pitch, the skills of the players, and the tactical moves of the coaches. Some great matches were played during the 2014 scholastic season, and here is a selection of the top 15:

15. Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) 2, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) 1
Nov. 15, 2014
PIAA Class AA final
It was a rematch of the championship final from two years ago, but both teams had to replace legends in the coaching box. For Villa Maria, Daan Polders came over from Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) to take over from the retired Maurene Polley, while Crestwood assistant coach Patsy Moratori stepped into the role held by Elvetta Gemski. But it was the progency of another coaching legend who helped make the difference for Villa Maria. Megan Vermeil, granddaughter of Super Bowl-winning NFL coach Dick Vermeil, leveled the score 1-1 in the second half, setting the stage for Abby Siana’s game-winning corner goal in the 58th minute.

14. Wellesley (Mass.) 0, Walpole (Mass.) 0, Wellesley wins 4-2 in penalty strokes
Nov. 1, 2013
MIAA Division 1 South octofinal
Denise Katskiaris was credited with 25 saves for Wellesley in defeating the Porkers for the first time since 1993. It was a stunning first-round loss for Walpole, which was expected to be the main challenger to Acton-Boxborough for Division I honors.

13. Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Md.) 3, Gaithersburg Quince Orchard (Md.) 2
Nov. 5, 2013
MPSSAA Class 4A semifinal
These have been two of the better teams the last decade and a half in the state of Maryland — not only in terms of winning titles, but in sending players to the next level. The difference in this match was Madison Shaffer’s penalty corner goal with 21.3 seconds remaining in regulation.

12. Dedham (Mass.) 1, Apponequet (Mass.) 0
Nov. 3, 2014
MIAA Division 2 South semifinal
Sam Girard’s goal in the 37th minute may have been the margin of victory, but the Maurauder’s defense in the final three minutes won the game. Delaney Brandon saved a sure goal with a raised stick, earning her a two-minute green card, then, still playing short, absorbed the pressure of the top seed in Division 2 South. Apponequet earned a corner with half a minute to go, then, as the clear of the corner was judge to have been deliberately over the end line, got an untimed corner at the end of regulation. Dedham, somehow, survived all the slings and arrows to advance to the final.

11. Wilmington Tower Hill (Del.) 4, Wilmington Conrad (Del.) 3, 3 OT
Nov. 8, 2014
DIAA quarterfinals
Conrad, one of the few magnet schools playing varsity field hockey in the U.S., had a 3-1 lead in the second half before Tower Hill came back with an Alexandra Butler goal with 22 seconds remaining in regulation to level the match. This allowed the Hillers’ Sawyer Chilton the opportunity to win the game with her goal in the 86th minute.

10. Fallston (Md.) 2, Pocomoke (Md.) 1, OT
Nov. 3, 2014
MPSSAA Class 1A semifinals
This was a matchup of a pair of highly successful coaches as Fallston’s Alice Puckett and Pocomoke’s Susan Pusey were on the touchlines for this state semifinal that was worthy of a final. Both teams had their chances in overtime; Pocomoke had an early flurry of corners, but Liz Hebert of Fallston converted her penalty corner chance to send Fallston to the 1A final.

9. Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) 2, Lake Forest (Ill.) 1, 2 OT
Nov. 1, 2014
IHSFHA final
Lake Forest had a number of good results in their in-season tournaments, and had every design on winning the Illinois state championship. But it was New Trier’s Kitty Kenyon who scored in the final 15 seconds of overtime for the Trevians as they defeated their rivals.

8. Washington Warren Hills (N.J.) 5, Ocean City (N.J.) 4, OT
Nov. 15, 2014
NJSIAA Group 3 final
Ocean City is one of the great “finishing” teams in state championship play anywhere, as once the Raiders make it to the grand stage of the state final, they were 9-0. Warren Hills, on the other hand, was 0-9 in state final play. But Amanda Crampton didn’t care about past history and decided to create a new history for the Blue Streaks. Her flick in the 66th minute sent her team and the assembled crowd into a frenzy.

7. Scarborough (Maine) 1, Skowhegan (Maine) 0
Nov. 1, 2014
MPA Class A final
Scarborough, the last team to have defeated Skowhegan in a state final match, did it in dramatic fashion in 2014. With the clock ticking down in regulation time, a penalty corner was called for Scarborough. The initial shot by Maddy Dobecki was sent into a maze of players. The ball popped into the air, and Kristen Murray picked off the rebound and sent it into the cage. There were just 2.1 seconds remaining on the game clock.

6. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 3, Rye (N.Y.) 2, 2 OT
Nov. 6, 2014
NYSPHSAA Class A Section 1 final

As much as the Hornets’ fortunes revolved around attacking midfielder Dana Bozek during the 2014 season, it was right wing Brianna Muniz who saved Lakeland’s season with her brace. She scored in the 55th minute to tie and in the 78th to win the match.

5. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 1, Oley (Pa.) Valley 1, Donegal wins 4-3 in penalty strokes
Nov. 8, 2014
PIAA District 3 Class AA final
A thrilling, close-knit competition didn’t have any goals in open play, but there was no lack of drama. The teams traded last-minute penalty strokes in each half, the latter with under three seconds left in regulation to level the scoreline to go into extra time. With matters not settled in 7-on-7 play, it was up to Katie Jean, the Donegal freshman goalie, to make a stop in the fifth and final round of the post-overtime tiebreaker.

4. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 3, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) 2
Nov. 15, 2014
PAISAA final
Episcopal Academy took 4-1 and 4-0 wins against its main InterAc rivals in their league fixtures this year. The championship final of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament, however, was a different matter. Notre Dame was on the front foot for most of the match, taking a 2-0 lead deep into regulation. But Episcopal, showing championship mettle, scored three goals in the final 11 minutes, with Lexi Fischer and Angela Rocca scoring the telling goals in the final two minutes of play.

3. Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 3, Georgetown Sussex Tech (Del.) 2
Nov. 8, 2014
DIAA quarterfinal
It was a matchup of the last two teams to have won the Delaware title match, and it was a game worthy of a final. Sussex Tech had a 2-0 lead on the three-time defending champs, but the Vikings’ Tess Bernheimer capped off a three-goal burst, finishing a breakaway with four seconds left, to save Cape’s season.

2. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 3, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 2
Nov. 21, 2014
NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final
This match was anything but a coronation for an Eastern Vikings team that had won the previous two Tournaments of Champions that were actually played out (the 2012 version was lost to Hurricane Sandy). Oak Knoll matched Eastern for pace and skill, but fell just short at the end. Austyn Cuneo finished her brilliant career with a pair of goals from the penalty spot, which gave her 95 for the season. Caroline Andretta, who will be crossing sticks with Cuneo on Tobacco Road the next four years, scored her 60th goal during the game.

1. Chantilly Westfield (Va.) 5, Herndon (Va.) 4
Oct. 8, 2014
Regular-season game
Herndon had a 4-2 lead heading into the final five minutes of regulation when a ball appeared to have been deflected into the goal cage, but the umpiring crew denied Herndon a fifth goal. Westfield, the defending Class 6A state champions, flew into a magenta-clad frenzy with their breast cancer awareness uniforms. Emily McNamara potted a stroke with about 2 1/2 minutes left, followed by Mackenzie Karl’s backhander in the 59th minute. The game was tied. Westfield then earned an untimed corner at the end of regulation, whereupon Olivia Markert deflected a McNamara pass into the cage. As competitive and well-played this match was, neither team made the state tournament; both fell in their “tipping point” games in the VHSL 6A North semifinals.

Dec. 15, 2014 — Heady questions, part 3

This past week, there has been more world-class international soccer in Brazil.

This time, however, it’s a four-nations invitational tournament involving the United States. It’s a U.S. side which is heavy on star-power, but is also experimental on defense. Head coach Jill Ellis brought nine fullbacks, more than any other outfield group, to the tournament.

One of those backs is a player who has not had a U.S. national team cap in five years, and, was seen as being part of a triple-edged sword that would keep the American side in the medals for years to come after the retirement of the likes of Foudy and Chastain and Hamm and Lilly and MacMillan.

Lori Chalupny, however, has not played an international match in five years. That’s because of a number of concussions that she has suffered over the years. She suffered one in the 2008 Olympics, but, after a game’s rest, played in the last four matches as the Americans won gold in Beijing.

In a 2009 training camp accident, she took a ball off her head and had headaches that would not go away. She was not cleared for play for the U.S. team.

That didn’t stop her from putting in service for St. Louis Athletica and the Atlanta Beat of WPS, and sticking with the Chicago Red Stars as they were promoted from WPSL Elite to the National Women’s Soccer League.

Only earlier this year did two independent neurology screenings clear Chalupny to play for the senior women’s national team. It comes at an interesting time for her and the team, as Ellis is looking for a permanent solution at left defense. She’s rotated a number of players into that slot, and is likely to be extending that audition: in a match last Thursday, the lone goal for China in a 1-1 draw with the U.S. came against the left side of the U.S. defense.

Chalupny’s inclusion into the U.S. team is, I think, the perfect argument against the ambulance chasers who are using the fear of concussions to do everything from helmeting players to changing the rules of sport, to nullifying participation in any activity where there is a scintilla of risk of a blow to the head.

Dec. 14, 2014 — Heady questions, part 2

Three weeks ago, the National Operating Committee on Standards of Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) made an announcement that may affect the sport as profoundly as the introduction of the metal stick with the molded plastic head.

NOCSAE, an independent consortium which tests sports equipment for safety, voided the certification for the Cascade R and the Warrior Regulator lacrosse helmet, two of the most popular helmets for male lacrosse players and female lacrosse goalies.

This has sent thousands of boys and men at all levels of the game scrambling for NOCSAE-approved headgear, even as STX and Schutt introduced new entries into the market last month, a week before the decertification announcement.

If you read between the lines of some of the stories on this subject, the NOCSAE threshold is quite high. According to the New York Times, NOCSAE has also come down hard on helmet manufacturers who make claims on concussion reduction, which, as this site has said in the past, is not supported by the current science. Indeed, when you look at the series of stories by the Journal of Athletic Training this site published in 2007, the men’s lacrosse helmet story was particularly galling. It showed that the change of helmet design, from the cap-and-mask design to the closed-head design, corresponded with a huge spike in the number of concussions in the sport

Now, I find it interesting that NOCSAE is going to have the final word on whether any headgear designed for girls’ lacrosse in Florida (and possibly elsewhere) is going to be certified. Given the number of boys’ and men’s helmets which have had their certification voided, I have a feeling you’re not going to see helmets on female lacrosse players in Florida this spring.

After all, the manufacturers’ attention is currently elsewhere. A couple of days ago, Cascade announced an agreement with NOCSAE to make modifications to any and all Cascade R helmets shipped back to the manufacturer and to any R helmets currently in stock and for those to be manufactured in the future.

Dec. 13, 2014 — Heady questions, part 1

As discussions about headgear in lacrosse have led to legislation in Florida, there has been a small and subtle incursion of headgear into field hockey.

This week, the FIH Champions Trophy for men has seen a handful of players wearing more than just the facemasks that have started to become standard equipment for penalty corner defenders. Some defenders are wearing helmets with metal face bars. These are meant for use under FIH regulations for 2015, but are apparently being allowed for this year’s Champions Trophy.

We don’t know whether the rules changes were made because of a pair of reported head injuries to some facemasked players during the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but it’s apparent that, at least in the men’s game, corner defenders are adding more and more protection against the drag flick and against chipped or raised second shots.

On these shores, there actually was one field hockey player who competed for an NCAA championship with headgear. Freshman back Maggie DeFrank was in the Division II final playing for LIU-Post, wearing a hard-shell ice hockey helmet. According to her bio on the Post website, she wears the helmet because of previous concussions.

Of course, as we’ve delineated before, the science behind this reasoning is unproven because helmets were designed to prevent skull fractures. Indeed, you’re beginning to see some equipment manufacturers adding language to their sites and/or their helmets saying something on the order of, “No helmet can prevent every concussion.”

This has led to some interesting blowback when it comes to helmet certification. More on that tomorrow.

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