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Mar. 23, 2017 — Back across the bridge

The first time I met Shaunessy Saucier was in 1999 at the National Futures Tournament in College Park, Md. On a hot afternoon on the University of Maryland’s recreational turf, I sat down to talk with her mother Dorothy, a field hockey coach from Old Town, Maine.

Old Town is a village of about 8,000 located in the center of the state, a few miles from the University of Maine in Orono. It’s a place which is not for the faint of heart when it comes to winter weather; most every car has a block heater, most every house has some sort of heating gadget to melt snow off the roof before it got too heavy.

Dorothy Saucier, who has coached at Old Town for decades, told tales of the program at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, which had a team since the inception of World War II, and had a distinct home-field advantage late in the year, when snow would pose an occupational hazard for the players.

Shaunessy Saucier was at the NFT, playing for the New England Region team and doing pretty well. Little did I know that, a decade later, she would become an NCAA Division I coach at Bryant University.

Bryant, a financially foundering school in the mid-1990s, made strong infrastructure investments and increased endowment towards the turn of the century. In addition, the school made a bid for admission to NCAA Division I in 2007.

It’s while the school made its move that Saucier made her impact as head coach of the Bulldogs. Recruiting heavily from her home state, she made the team a factor by the time the 2013 season unfolded. The Bulldogs went 11-7 that year, all the while riding the ragged edge. In October alone, Bryant went into overtime five times.

The wheels fell off the last few years; Bryant went 4-14 last fall, but did have the fourth best GPA of any NCAA Division I team.

Saucier announced her resignation today to become the head coach and owner of the Black Bear Elite field hockey club back in Orono. In point of fact, she is crossing the Piscataqua Bridge to go back home.

I have a feeling she’s going to do great things while she’s there. She’s too good a hockey mind not to.

Mar. 22, 2017 — A significant opening

What has distinguished the Walpole (Mass.) field hockey team from most others in the U.S. — aside from its ersatz nickname — is stability. The Porkers have had exactly three coaches since 1967, all of whom have contributed to the legacy and legend of this powerhouse scholastic program.

The first coach was Sue Brainerd, who coached the team to its first MIAA state championship in 1984, then retired. Penny Calf, who played under Brainerd, would win seven more state championships until turning over the reins in 2002 to Marianne Murphy, who also played field hockey under Brainerd.

Murphy, through her use of enterprising and quick players, won four state championships, including one just this past fall in the MIAA Division I bracket.

But there will be a different set of footprints in the technical area this coming fall, as Murphy announced that she would be stepping down.

“I have enjoyed all 15 years,” she tells The Walpole Times. “I had great kids, they really went on after high school and excelled on the field and off the field. It gives me great pleasure to see them as young women today, but I have other things I want to do in my life before I get too old.”

 

Walpole, a town of about 25,000 located halfway between Boston and Providence, R.I., has developed a significant field hockey subculture over the last five decades. The team received raucous support at its old ground, The Porker Pen, a grass pitch that played to the team’s strengths.

The addition of artificial grass in recent years only added to the program’s significant home-field advantage, especially with a quick team.

But it’s going to be up to the next Walpole head coach to keep that championship form and that civic pride alive.

Mar. 21, 2017 — Business as usual

Over the weekend, two major national record performances were each extended by three games as Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) ran its record win streak to 158, and Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) coach Kathy Jenkins won three games to bring her coaching win total to 722.

These two lacrosse titans are a mere 50 miles away, and both have tremendous traditions of excellence, standards of play that are far above most of the rest of the 3,300 schools that play the sport, and Division I players who have been at the highest echelon of the sport.

And yet, the two sides have not met on the field of play since April 18, 2009. That’s when today’s seniors were entering middle school.

Truth be told, it’s a shame these two sides aren’t meeting this year. It would be an absolute flamethrower of a game that would bring a couple of thousand people if the game was promoted correctly and put in a fan-friendly venue.

Seriously — how about it? The fans are clamoring for a showdown.

Mar. 20, 2017 — Jimmy Breslin, 1928-2017

In the gradual shift from typewriters and lead linotype machines to white film optics to computer layouts, the curmudgeon has been part and parcel of the newspaper business. Usually a growling, gray-haired male with a cigar stub in his mouth or within easy reach of while typing, the aging newspaper columnists of a golden age would take a riff on popular culture, politics, and the news of the day, offering opinion and insight.

Today, this is most often done in debate-style shows on cable news networks.

But Jimmy Breslin is likely to be the last of his kind: a writer who linked daily events to the reader through a common touch. He wrote about the sorrow of the Kennedy assassination through the eyes of a gravedigger making $3 an hour in Virginia.

He was also the kind of tabloid writer who would inject himself into a story. Such was his role in the Son of Sam murders, when a raging lunatic named David Berkowitz killed six people and wounded seven others in a deadly game of cat and mouse that alternately fascinated and terrorized the city.

Breslin published one of Berkowitz’s taunting messages, then wrote a column asking him to turn himself in. Kind of reminds you of the big-city journalists that would serve as a conduit to the police, offering a safe space to surrender, but the stakes were much, much higher in mid-70s New York.

This was a city which went all but bankrupt in 1975, saw many of its minority neighborhoods crumble and burn in rioting and unrest after a 1976 blackout, and saw its police department fall under a cloud of corruption, leading to a poor quality of life for the average citizen.

And it was a life, a vibe, on which Breslin thrived.

And given the gentrification of big-city America these days, his like is unlikely to be seen again.

Mar. 19, 2017 — Chuck Berry, 1926-2017

Several times a year, your Founder helps organize the volunteers to put on dance events at a national park near the nation’s capital.

At least once a year, the main attraction is a boogie-woogie pianist whose name is Daryl Davis. He also had a unique insight into the life of music legend Chuck Berry, who died yesterday. Davis was one of Berry’s sidemen during some of his most troubled times, when he was dealing with the effects of alcohol and drugs.

As such, Davis had gotten to learn several of Berry’s guitar licks — and learned them very well, to the point where if Berry couldn’t complete the show, Davis would pick up a Gibson guitar and go right on playing.

While you might get to know the rock-n-roll legend through his variety of songs, I got to know Berry through Davis and his storytelling, which is captured brilliantly in this story. Have at it.

And make sure sometime soon, you take a ride in your automobile, cruise and play something on the radio, with no particular place to go.

Mar. 18, 2017 — Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 17, Vaughan Hill Academy (Ont.) 3

FULL TIME That’s all for now; thanks for tuning in

FULL TIME Though the McDonogh win streak has now hit 158 games, it doesn’t get any easier for the Eagles. They have five IAAM Class “A” league games in nine days, including playing both ends of the Northern Parkway derby on the road

FULL TIME After all, it bears reminding that the game of girls/women’s lacrosse came to America through Canada. How? Rosabelle Sinclair of Scotland learned the game from Louise Lumsden at St. Leonard’s School of St. Andrew’s. Lumsden had brought lacrosse to Scotland after watching a men’s game between Montreal L.C. and the Canghuwaya First Nations team

FULL TIME Long term, however, I think this game is a marker. Hill Academy, and, I’m sure, the forthcoming Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.) team are likely to keep improving over time, and with financial backing and a commitment

FULL TIME Hill was definitely hobbled by its short bench, but I think the team also ran out of ideas how to deal with Maddie Jenner on the draw controls, often having to create a foul to allow the rest of the team to set up for the inevitable entry into their defensive end

FULL TIME Over the course of the last eight years, McDonogh has put together a number of victories which once can file under the dual categories of “unexpected” and “comprehensive.” Only this time, there was an international dimension to this contest

FULL TIME The final whistle sounds with McDonogh winning the game by a 17-3 score

49:47 There was an officials timeout to re-synchronize the clocks

48:00 McD GOAL Rachel Ward, on second attack, gives McDonogh a 17-3 lead

46:10 McD GOAL Lila Huddles takes them on and beats them all; what an effort! McDonogh now leads 16-3

45:45 HS FP Peyton Curtis with a good open shot, but it goes wide and backed up by McDonogh; nothing has gone right for Hill today

42:30 McDonogh, still attacking, finds pipe with their second attack line

37:00 HILL GOAL Cordingly puts the ball in for the Pride, but at 15-3, you can’t help but think the Pride won’t be able to get back into this, especially since there’s no possession clock in the National Federation

31:55 McD GOAL May with the EWO goal; wow, is she something? The lead is 15-2 and there is still penalty time to serve

31:03 HILL YELLOW A rash challenge on the draw control; this isn’t what you want with such a short bench

29:59 McD FP and GOAL Jenner finishes off the possession she helped to start and McDonogh leads 14-2

27:01 Jenner wins the next draw to herself; she is having a field day in this skill

26:59 McD GOAL Hoffman, who is having a fine match, slings one past the past and the lead is 13-2 for the Eagles

25:03 Oddly enough, the Eagles don’t win this draw control

25:00 The second half is under way; Kameron Hallsell is being pressed into service in the Hill goal cage

HALFTIME I credit McDonogh for their usual relentlessness. They turned a 1-0 lead into a 4-0 lead in about 30 seconds, then finished off the half with an 8-0 run

HALFTIME I was expecting a bit more fight from Hill this morning, especially seeing how well they came together in the overtime loss to Vero Beach. However. if you have a game-changing midfielder like Maddie Jenner in the draw circle with only two wing players allowed to charge the ball, the odds are definitely with the physically imposing junior

HALFTIME The whistle sounds with McDonogh leading 12-2

23:35 McD GOAL Rachel Anderson scores off a Dorsey feed; McDonogh leads 12-2 and the clock runs

23:20 McD FP A well-worked passing play is sent wide of the goal cage

22:55 Dorsey, the McDonogh sophomore held out of last game because of illness, gets the ground-ball pickup on the next draw

22:51 TIMEOUT, HILL

22:51 McD GOAL Hoffman with the goal to give the Eagles an 11-2 advantage

21:10 Cordingly with the ground ball pickup after the initial draw win for Jenner

21:07 McD FP and GOAL Blair Pierre with the goal from the center hash and McDonogh leads 10-2

19:46 Jenner wins the ball to Aldave, who gives her teammate the return pass

19:44 McD GOAL Schettig with her second for McDonogh and the lead is 9-2 for the Eagles

13:56 TIMEOUT The Florida State High School Athletic Association mandates a water break during each half, no matter what the temperature is (it’s barely 60 degrees in Vero Beach today) and no matter how many timeouts are afforded each team during the game

13:56 McD GOAL Maddie Jenner scores and the McDonogh lead is 8-2

13:30 Hill is able to get possession for the first time in a while on a crease violation, but immediately coughs it up in the midfield

12:30 McDonogh is maintaining possession in the attack end against a very aggressive Hill defense that is not afraid to throw checks on the edge of legality

9:18 McD GOAL Blair Pierre with the goal that brings the Eagles to a 7-2 lead

8:18 McD GOAL Catie May scores from a Hoffman assist; the McDonogh lead is 6-2

7:56 Jenner wins the next draw; she is getting hammered in the midfield on the catch; that seems to be the only way that the Pride think they can stop her

7:54 McD GOAL Blair Parre responds for the Eagles; McDonogh leads 5-2

6:58 HS GOAL Cordingly scores for Hill to bring the lead within two

5:40 HS FP and GOAL The chase is joined; Hill puts the ball into the goal for the Pride and the McDonogh lead is compress to 4-1

4:51 McD GOAL Hoffman with the ground ball again, but hits the pipe; Schettig manages to get the ball into the cage, and that’s three goals in less than a minute for McDonogh; the lead is 4-0

4:38 McD GOAL Hoffman wins the ground ball off Jenner’s draw and takes it right in on the goal cage and scores; McDonogh leads 3-0

4:24 McD GOAL Maddie Jenner takes the entry pass and finishes over Van Kessel; McDonogh leads 2-0

3:30 Cordingly wins the draw this time for Hill

3:28 McD GOAL Rachel Anderson puts the ball into the cage; the Eagles lead 1-0

2:00 Van Kessel has made a couple more saves for the Pride; she had a fine game in an OT loss to Vero Beach, and head coach Chris Robinson has said that he fears a hot goalie in a close game

1:10 McD FP Emily Van Kessel makes the save for Hill

0:02 Maddie Jenner wins first draw for McDonogh

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME McDonogh is going to be wearing their gray uniforms with orange and black trim, and Hill is in the red with white and black numbers and trim

PREGAME The teams are warming up with temperatures around 60 degrees

PREGAME All that being said, McDonogh should win this game; the Eagles are a very deep team and should be able to keep fresh while Hill, which only brought a squad of 15 players (including two goalies) is just two yellow cards away from having a one-player bench. This happened in their game a couple of days ago against Vero Beach, when Cordingley got her second yellow of the game in just 20 minutes

PREGAME But Hill’s young women are made of sterner stuff. They have the same aspirations as their boys’ lacrosse team, which graded out as the No. 1 team in several polls of the best U.S. lacrosse teams — despite the fact that they are from Canada

PREGAME For McDonogh, this is the third of a three-game road trip in Florida, having beaten Milton (Ga.) and Vero Beach (Fla.) by a combined score of 39-6. If you’re a team later on McDonogh’s schedule, this has to leave you quaking in your boots

PREGAME A little buildup here: this is not the first time Hill Academy has crossed the border looking for good varsity competition, but the Pride came up empty on last year’s spring tour. They’re looking for a change in fortunes today

PREGAME Hill Academy is a superprep team, founded by Canadian all-time great Brodie Merrill, which has started to attract boarding students for the girls’ lacrosse team. This includes Briana Stroup from British Columbia, the younger sister of Northwestern star Danita Stroup. Hill also has a brilliant attacking midfielder, Aurora Cordingley, who is committed to Johns Hopkins

PREGAME McDonogh, which has won its last 157 games, is led by forwards Catie May and Andie Aldave, and center Maddie Jenner. Jenner is going to be the straw that stirs the drink in this game, I think, because of her ability in in the draw circle and the new NFHS rule allowing only two midfielders in the middle third of the field to go after the draw along with the two centers

PREGAME McDonogh is 2-0 this season, Hill is 0-1

PREGAME Hello, and welcome to South County Park in Vero Beach, Fla. for this international girls’ lacrosse game between The Hill Academy and The McDonogh School

Mar. 17, 2017 — Where’s the accountability?

Yesterday afternoon, Steve Penny tendered his resignation as the president of USA Gymnastics.

The resignation came after months of investigative reports on the part of the Indianapolis Star, focusing on lax policies that allowed a team doctor named Larry Naser to have access to hundreds of young women in his job with USA Gymnastics as well as with Michigan State University.

The numbers, as reported by the Indy Star, are staggering.

But the ramifications could be even greater.

Just look at what happened this week in the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. If you remember, the first drips of the scandal occurred in November 2011, when charges were leveled against PSU athletic director Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, the school’s senior vice president for finance and business. Curley and Schultz, just this week, took a plea deal for their part in the scandal. And next Monday, the president of Penn State, Graham Spanier, is to go on trial for his part in the abuse.

Penn State, in the intervening 5 1/2 years, undergone a lot of fraught changes. Football coach Joe Paterno was made to resign, and died only a few months later. A statue of him was removed from the area around the football stadium. Some 112 coaching wins were stripped, then reinstated just two years ago.

I have a feeling that the affairs surrounding Larry Naser are only beginning. The gymnastics are just a sideshow; what did people at his other employers — Twistars, the City of Holt., Mich., and MSU’s athletic department — know, and when did they know it?

This is a powerful question, one which we’ll be following with some interest.