Oct. 25, 2014 — The latest Walter Mitty pitch invasion

One of the great things about this job is witnessing good players in good competition, as well as chronicling their achievements.

But there are also the achievements of players who are hard workers, those who put the time and dedication into the sport, and who come through with an effort that saves a goal, a game, a season. They can be reserve players, they can be corner flyers, they can be holding midfielders.

The football announcer Keith Jackson called these kinds of players “Walter Mitty” figures, because they came out of nowhere to do something incredibly heroic.

I’ve seen this on a number of occasions. In the early 1990s, an NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse final featuring The College of New Jersey saw a little-used bench player have to sub in for a starter who suffered a torn ACL during the game. The sub was the difference in that contest.

Back when Emmaus (Pa.) ended the 153-game unbeaten streak of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), a major factory in the victory was the three-assist effort of Sarah Jones, who played for a short time at Michigan State.

Thursday night, in Oakton, Va., a field hockey game was played to determine the champion of the Concorde District. This postseason championship served to seed the two participants, Chantilly Westfield (Va.) and Herndon (Va.) in the state Class 6A North bracket.

The last time these two schools met was an absolute firecracker of a match, one which saw Westfield come back from a 4-2 deficit in the final five minutes to win 5-4 on an untimed penalty corner at the end of regulation.

The rematch was just as dramatic, with Herndon winning its first district postseason championship in its field hockey history with a 3-2 win. Both teams will be in the 6A North bracket and, if they each win their next three games, would meet each other again in the final, by which means they would both make the state Final Four.

But one particular talking point was the defensive play of senior Tess Jacobson. In the second term, with Herndon holding on to their lead, Jacobson made two defensive saves to keep the Westfield attack at bay.

One of the stops was a goal-line stick stop. The other came when she outran a Westfield shot attempt from behind, picked it out of the air, and sent the play back in the opposite direction.

“I’ve been playing all over the place; wherever they needed me, I played,” Jacobson said. “Sort of like a utility player.”

The Herndon season has not been without its pitfalls; after the Westfield loss and a subsequent one to Chantilly (Va.), the team needed to regroup and refocus.

“We had to take a step back,” she said. “But it was hard for us because we were doing so well all season.”

The decision was made to go out and play freely, to have fun again.

“We were having fun and playing a good game of hockey,” Jacobson said.

One other thing was noticeable amongst the Herndon team members. When they conceded Westfield’s second goal midway through the second half, the team didn’t point fingers or get into a huddle. The defenders seemingly gave out random hugs to each other.

“We realized that we have to stick together as a team, and not to turn our backs on each other,” Jacobson said. “When we’re hugging each other, we’re telling each other that it’s going to be OK, that we’re going out there to score and to defend.”

It’s helped Herndon win a conference championship; it’ll be interesting to see how far they go.

BULLETIN: Oct. 24, 2014 — Central Bucks West’s shame

The first fall I worked for the dailies, I was asked to cover a football game featuring one of our local teams. The opponent was somewhat of a celebrity, Doylestown Central Bucks West (Pa.). The team was in the midst of a 53-game winning streak at the time I was to report on the game. The team later embarked on 59-game winning streak in the 1990s, one which ended in early 2000. In a 10-year period, from 1991 to 2000, the Bucks made six PIAA Class AAAA finals, winning four times.

In truth, when I watched the game, nothing remarkable stands out about C.B. West and how they played. They were not flashy, but were extremely effective. The players carried themselves well, didn’t strut and preen, and comported themselves professionally.

Which makes the news that came out yesterday about the suspension of C.B. West’s football season because of a hazing scandal, just three days before the derby match with Buckingham Central Bucks East (N.J.) all the more shocking.

Mike Pettine, the team’s head coach during both winning streaks, struck me to be the kind of person who would not allow even the appearance of impropriety touch his program. This has been borne out by articles written over the last few hours as to how the team handled itself internally. Sure, the seniors might have bossed around the underclassmen, such as making them carrying water or having them stand up at a table to sing.

But something darker has happened within the West program in recent years. Reports  portray a program where the coaches looked the other way while forms of sexual hazing and simulated torture have taken place. Not only that, the product has suffered on the field, with the team only winning twice this year.

The reaction has been troublingly slow from law enforcement. The police chief of the school district, after originally determining that no crime had been committed, backtracked after school superintendent David Weitzel sent a letter out to parents announcing the cancellation of the football season and the reasons for so doing.

That backtracking is, to me, a red flag. Since 2001, a number of school districts have hired their own police forces — not just security guards, but actual weapon-toting officers trained to do police work and to patrol the schools.

Yes, it is easy to link this football scandal to that of Sayreville (N.J.) War Memorial, whose season was suspended because of a hazing scandal.

But this is different. This is a program which was supposed to have a moral compass, a legendary coach whose legacy was playing football the right way, winning with integrity, and being one of the three best-known exports of Doylestown, along with author James Michener and pop singer P!nk.

If the C.B. West program can be derailed by a hazing scandal, is any high-school team safe?

Oct. 24, 2014 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Oct. 22

Hi, everyone, and welcome to Friday Statwatch, our look at the numbers when it comes to field hockey across the country.

One item of note this week is that junior Nikki Santore of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) became the latest member of the 30-30 club — players who have more than 30 goals and 30 assists in one season, a remarkable achievement.

You might also notice that we’ve added a couple of categories to the Daily Statwatch on the right. Watertown (Mass.) is making headway in terms of the number of consecutive shutouts as well as the number of consecutive games without a loss, while Emmaus (Pa.) embarks on another run towards history — not just a state championship, but for head coach Susan Butz-Stavin to overtake Nancy Williams for career victories.

Here’s what we’ve compiled thus far through the end of play Wednesday, thanks to, 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:

58 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
42 Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.)
42 Jane Donio-Enscoe, Hammonton (N.J.)
40 Jessica Welch, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
40 Jessica Welsh, Morrisville Morrisville-Eaton/Hamilton (N.Y.)
40 Elissa Frien, Carle Place (N.Y.)
39 Kathryn Roncoroni, Glen Gardner Voorhees (N.J.)
40 Bree Bednarski, Exeter Wyoming Area (Pa.)
39 Mackenzie Karcher, Maple Shade (N.J.)
37 Caroline Andretta, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
36 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
37 Bailey Quinn, Phoenixville (Pa.)
36 Mayv Clune, Bethlehem Moravian Academy (Pa.)

44 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
30 Nikki Santore, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
27 Dana Bozek, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
27 Erin Matson, Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.)
26 Leah Carderelli, Acton-Boxborough (Mass.)
26 Bridget Condie, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.)
25 Megan Ophel, Summit (N.J.)

24 Sofia Palacios, Herndon (Va.)
24 Kelly Hanna, Ocean City (N.J.)

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

7 Lindsay Andreana, New Rochelle Ursuline (N.Y.)
6 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)

291 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
123 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
109 Jane Donio-Enscoe, Hammonton (N.J.)
106 Jessica Welsh, Morrisville Morrisville-Eaton/Hamilton (N.Y.)

140 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
84 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)

132 Watertown (Mass.)
92 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
51 Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.)

Not all of these are going to be 100 percent correct, so if you see a statistic that needs to be corrected, send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Please include a bit of documentation (a website will do) or someone that can be called to double-check. Friday Statwatch is a living, breathing feature that can be augmented or altered at any time. Thanks for reading, and we’ll do it all over again in seven days.

Oct. 23, 2014 — Ben Bradlee, 1924-2014

The news business, for most of the 20th Century, was permeated by gruff, grizzled editors with hearts of gold.

The prototype of all of these was Ben Bradlee, who, during his decades at The Washington Post, was well-heralded as an editor who helped his reporters get the story right, and stood by the reporters when stories such as the Watergate cover-up and the Pentagon Papers were published, even against denunciation by the Nixon Administration and the invocation of the 1917 Espionage Act.

Now, while most of you know the events of the Watergate break-in and subsequent coverups (including the resignation of the 37th President of the United States), many of you may not remember the Pentagon Papers.

The Pentagon Papers were a series of technical reports commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to detail the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. What the papers showed was that not only were there secret military campaigns all over Southeast Asia throughout that period, but that four Administrations — Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson — had misled the public and Congress about their intentions.

What resulted was the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans in an unpopular war which, combined with blowback from the civil rights movement, created an era of unrest in the late 60s and early 70s.

The Washington Post, The New York Times, and 15 other newspapers began publishing excerpts of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and assistant U.S. Attorney General William Rehnquist sought an injunction against the publication of these articles.

A rejoinder came from Judge Murray Gerfein: “A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.”

It’s a description that perfectly described Bradlee.

For more information on Bradlee’s career and impact, check out this video from C-SPAN. It runs nearly two hours, and there is also an interesting question-and-answer sequence at the 1 hour, 24 minute mark regarding WikiLeaks.

Oct. 23, 2014 — About that win the other day …

This space listed Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.), the No. 4 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, with a 14-0 record heading into this week’s slate of games.

Make that 13-0, however.

That’s because tomorrow afternoon, two of Virginia Beach’s best sides meet up at the National Training Center to finish off a game which, theoretically, hasn’t been finished yet.

The game in question took place Oct. 2nd between Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) and Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.). These two sides, having finished regulation tied 3-3, went into overtime. After 15 minutes of extra play, the teams went into a second period of overtime, during which First Colonial won the game.

Only the rules of the Virginia High School League only provide for one overtime period, so the teams are going to go to a penalty-stroke shootout on the shimmering turf of Landstown Road in an exercise which could change the entire course of the season — not just the Top 10, but seedings for the conference tournament, which could alter the entry points for both teams into the Class 6A South Tournament.

To me, it’s odd that such a decision was rendered. Most times, the result — as imperfect as it is — is left intact. Sometimes, as was the case several years ago in an Ohio playoff game, the state governing body will revert to the sentence, “The decision of the umpires is final.”

In the case of Virginia, Lee Tolliver of The Virginian-Pilot has pointed out that the ordering of this tiebreaker contradicts Virginia High School League rules, which say that “no protests will be considered which are based upon the real or alleged failure of contest officials to interpret or apply game or contest rules properly, or to render correct decisions in matters of judgment.”

I do wonder if the implications of this exercise are going to reverberate much longer than the 10 minutes that the shootout will take.

Oct. 22, 2014 — A curious resignation (and an un-resignation)

Less than three weeks after leading the India men’s field hockey team to the 2016 Olympics by winning the Asian Games, Terry Walsh tendered his resignation yesterday.

Walsh cited, in his letter, his “considerable difficulty adjusting to the decision-making style of the sporting bureaucracy in India” plus a desire to spend more time with his family.

That may be all well and good. But The Times of India has learned that there was a dispute with the Indian government over the tax deductions on his salary as well as those of his support staff.

This is the same Terry Walsh, you remember, who was brought in to improve the fortunes of the U.S. team as technical director. He was paid more than any other technical director amongst Olympic sports. At the same time, he was able to enrich himself from royalties from a video software package from a company with which he worked. He left after the U.S. women’s program, less than a year after winning the Pan American Games, imploded from poor performances at London 2012 and an email scandal that forced the resignation of assistant coach Nick Conway.

Now, I’m not an expert on the Indian tax code, nor am I an expert on the requisition process within the Sports Authority of India. But if you’re a country that has gone through five coaches since 2005 — Jose Brasa, Ric Charlesworth, Gerard Rach, Michael Nobbs, and Walsh — you’ve got more problems than just whether the product on the pitch is successful. It’s a matter of management and stability.

As the resignation leaves India without a head coach ahead of India’s participation in the Champions Trophy in December, it  makes me wonder if the resignation is nothing more than a bargaining tactic.

UPDATE: Apparently, it was.

Earlier today, he met with SAI representatives. According to multiple sources, issues on the agenda included more leave for him to visit his family in Australia, and more discretionary authority to make decisions.

According to multiple sources, Walsh will be offered a new contract before the old one runs out November 19th.

Oct. 21, 2014 — Top 10 for the week of Oct. 19

This week saw losses to two high-quality teams, as Emmaus falls within the Top 10 to No. 8 after a 1-0 loss to a good Stroudsburg (Pa.) team. In addition, our former No. 2 Episcopal Academy got shut out by No. 1 Eastern on Saturday night. The interesting thing to note here: between No. 5 and No. 8 in this week’s list are four teams eligible to play for the PIAA Class AAA title — meaning that only one of them can actually win the title match on Nov. 15th. There will be a lot of jumbling the next four weeks.

For this week’s RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Team of the Week, let’s give a call to the Whitman-Hanson (Mass.) junior varsity team. Why a JV squad? Consider the fact that the school, located 15 miles southeast of Boston, has not had field hockey since 1984. After years of not fielding a sport because of Proposition 2 1/2 cuts, the school sent out a survey to gauge interest in the sport. The program now has 31 players and a converted ice hockey coach in Todd Humphrey. This is a group that has made remarkable progress this season.

1. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 15-0

Eastern, in one of the most anticipated matches in several years, shut out Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 8-0; the job isn’t over yet as the Vikings have Ocean City (N.J.) and Moorestown (N.J.) in the next fortnight

2. Watertown (Mass.) 14-0

Raiders on a 129-game winning streak and have shut out 16 consecutive opponents

3. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 14-0

Beat Mamaroneck (N.Y.) 1-0 last Wednesday

4. Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 14-0

Bested Norfolk Granby (Va.) 3-0 last week

5. Stroudsburg (Pa.) 19-0-2

After last week’s win over Emmaus (Pa.), the Mounties don’t play until this Saturday in the District 11-AAA Tournament

6. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 16-0

Needed overtime to get by Vista Rancho Buena Vista (Calif.)

7T. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 19-1

Falcons take on Birdsboro Daniel Boone (Pa.) in tonight’s second-round District 3-AAA Tournament game

7T. Palmyra (Pa.) 17-1

Cougars took on Elizabethtown (Pa.) in this evening’s second-round District 3-AAA Tournament game

8. Emmaus (Pa.) 19-1-1

After last week’s loss to Stroudsburg (Pa.), the Mounties don’t play until this Saturday in the District 11-AAA Tournament

9. North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 14-0-1

With a 6-0 victory over Montclair (N.J.), the Knights won their fourth straight Essex County Tournament title

10. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 14-1

With a 6-1 win over Summit Kent Place (N.J.), won Union County Tournament

11. Whitman-Hanson Regional (Mass.) JV 6-3-3

Scheduled to return to varsity level in 2015

Who’s out: Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.), 8-0 loss to Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)

And bear in mind: San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 12-2, Los Gatos (Calif.) 9-0, Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 14-0, Wilton (Conn.) 9-1-1, Lakeville Hotchkiss School (Conn.) 9-0, Greenwich (Conn.) Academy 10-1-1, Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 11-0, Lake Forest (Ill.) 20-4-1, Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 22-2-2, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 10-0-2, Severn Archbishop Spalding (Md.) 12-1, Severna Park (Md.) 12-2, Orange Mahar (Mass.) 13-0-1, Acton-Boxborough (Mass.) 14-0-1, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.) 19-1, Farmingville Sachem East (N.Y.) 14-0, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 18-3, Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) 17-1, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 17-1, Phoenixville (Pa.) Area 17-2, Collegeville Perkiomen Valley (Pa.) 16-3, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) 18-0-1, Chantilly Westfield (Va.) 14-2


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