Aug. 31, 2016 — A focal point of competition moves up a level

This year, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association will have three field hockey champions. The Class AAA level is reserved for schools with an enrollment of greater than 486 students, the Class A level is for schools with fewer than 293 students, and Class AA is for all of the schools in between.

Well, most of them.

According to a list of schools provided by the PIAA, four schools are playing out of their division this season. Jumping all the way from Class A to Class AAA is Factoryville Lackawanna Trail (Pa.). But the other three are jumping from Class AA to Class AAA, and just happen to be located within eight miles of each other along Route 422 in Pennsylvania.

They are three great neighborhood rivals that form the heart of the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference: Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.), Hershey (Pa.), and Palmyra (Pa.).

What I think this has done is make the Class AAA tournament a lot more difficult to win, not only because of their jump, but the resulting redistribution of teams in Class AA and A. Perennial state power Selinsgrove (Pa.) Area now moves down from Class AA to A by one student; the school has just one fewer student than Catawissa Southern Columbia Area (Pa.), the school with the lowest enrollment in Class AA.

Mind you, Class AA is still going to be a difficult classification to win overall, but without the three Keystone schools, it makes AAA all the harder, at least on paper.


Aug. 30, 2016 — A rare decision

When Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) travels to Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) for a preseason game this afternoon, a good chunk of the future of the U.S. women’s national team will not be on display.

Of course, when it comes to EA’s team, the graduation of Margaux Paolino (now at Duke) and Maddie Bacskai (Princeton) means a rebuilding of the InterAc side. But Unionville is going to be without one of its inspirational figures for an entirely different reason.

As first reported in and confirmed yesterday by, Erin Matson, the fine attacking midfielder who has been selected to the United States U-21 Junior World Cup Team, is choosing to forego her high-school season in order to train for the tournament, which is being held in Chile Nov. 24th through Dec. 4.

For the young women who have been selected for the U.S. team, the tournament comes at an inconvenient time. The NCAA Division I final is scheduled for Nov. 20 at Norfolk, Va., and, should Unionville make it to the state final, that game would have been played Nov. 19th. That would give Matson only five days to prepare for a World Cup, one which plays its all of its group games within a space of four days.

And you might say the same for the other two high-schoolers on the current roster. Brooke Deberdine plays for Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.), and the Comets were but one game away from playing for the state title a year ago. Julianna Tornetta plays for Rosemont Agnes Irwin (Pa.), and the PAISAA title match is likely to be the same day as the public-school tripleheader.

Matson is not the first junior player to miss time from high school in order to play for her country. Katie (O’Donnell) Bam had to miss a number of Ambler Wissahickon (Pa.) games in order to play for the senior women’s national team. Kelly Dostal missed portions of her senior year at Hatfield Smith Academy (Mass.) to train with the U.S. program, and so did Anne-Marie Janus during her spring semester at Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.).

I’ll be interested to see how many of the players from the current U-21 national squad will be obligated to stay with their school teams deep into November. I have a feeling there may be a few people late to the tournament in Chile, given the successful teams on which they play.

Aug. 29, 2016 – One of a bumper crop

This year, about 20 new varsity field hockey programs begin play across the United States. From Philadelphia to Denver, each of the new teams have their own story and their own struggles.

Take Manassas Charles J. Colgan (Va.), a fine and performing arts school which opened this year with a multimillion-dollar arts center, as well as Prince William County’s only aquatics center connected to a high school. The population of Colgan is taken from four nearby districts in the county — Manassas Osbourn Park (Va.), Woodbridge (Va.), Woodbridge Cecil D. Hylton (Va.), and Woodbridge Forest Park (Va.), meaning that every class, every activity, every sports team is subject to developing up to four cliques.

But that’s just one of a number of obstacles that inaugural Sharks head field hockey coach Natalie Latimer has had to face this year.

“So far, it’s been a positive experience,” said Latimer, who coached at Osbourn Park the last few years. “We’ve had players with no experience all the way to those with previous varsity experience, and the girls have been putting forth the effort.”

Another obstacle is the fact that there are no seniors at the school, which has forced leadership roles on younger students and student-athletes.

But Colgan’s most immediate concern upon starting the season was the overhead sun. The regular season opener for the Sharks was last week’s Under The Lights tournament at Springfield Robert E. Lee (Va.), which was contested over the course of two days in 93-degree heat. The tournament was subject to Virginia High School League rules on “humiture,” where no outside activity is recommended when a combination of heat and humidity leads to a reading of greater than 105.

It was a hot opening to the 2016 season, with Colgan losing its first three matches. But the Sharks have a number of good athletes, and the simple act matching skills against live competition is one more accomplishment level for this young program.

“Our expectation,” Latimer says, “is continuous improvement.”


Aug. 28, 2016 — Syracuse 4, Maryland 1

POSTGAME That’s all for now; good day and good hockey

POSTGAME You get the feeling, however, that these two sides will see each other again

POSTGAME The ACC came through today against a Big Ten foe, and it was a pretty prominent one after yesterday’s results in Winston-Salem

POSTGAME But as the game wore on, the Syracuse backfield of Webb, Weers, and Lagerweij proved to be too much for whatever the Terps threw at them

POSTGAME Maryland played even for a while with Syracuse, matching their tactics and turning the midfield into a pretty tough place to play

FULL TIME At the final horn, Syracuse wins the game 4-1

66:20 Linnea Gonzales attacks the right baseline and sends a pass to Lepage, who sends it high

64:00 UMD PC Shot is defensed! Clear by Claire Webb

60:00 Syracuse with a free hit in a promising position, but the Orange turn it over for not moving five yards before a circle penetration

59:00 Syracuse tries the right baseline again; Bates says no

56:00 SYR PC and GOAL Nijsje Venrooy finishes the hi-lo from Roos Weers; the Maryland defense got a touch on it but could not keep it out; Syracuse leads 4-1 

53:44 A change in goal for the Terps; Sarah Bates is now in the cage


50:00 That was a bit unfortunate for Holliday, the sophomore

49:22 SYR GOAL Jennifer Bleakney  with a backhand chip that gets through Holliday; Syracuse leads 3-1 

43:00 UMD GREEN Balsdon is off for dissent

43:00 UMD PC Balsdon drag flicks; Spencer says no. Rebound to Balsdon but she is called for stick obstruction, and she is furious

41:00 UMD PC Lepagr’s drag flick stopped by Holliday

39:56 UMD GREEN Anouk van Asbeck is off for two minutes

37:00 And that shot, like so many other chances this game, was generated from the open right wing

36:45 SYR GOAL Elaine Carey pumps in an open shot past a diving Holliday; Syracuse leads 2-1

35:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME The exchange of goals masked a very defensive half on both sides; some wing play was possible with quicker through passes

HALFTIME The horn goes with the sides level at 1

29:15 SYR PC and GOAL Serra Degnan beats a logged Holliday after taking an option-right from Lagerweij; game tied 1-1

18:30 Liz Sack is on a breakaway for Syracuse and has time to fake the goalie, but takes the ball right to her

25:35 SYR GREEN Lise Lagerweij is off for dissent

20:30 UMD PC Balsdon is defensed by Laura Hurff!

18:30 UMD PC Balsdon’s drag flick is tipped over the top of the net

17:30 And just as that happens, the ball falls to an open Welma Luus, who scuffs it wide

16:00 As you might expect, both teams are flooding the midfield and preventing either team from generating much in the attack end

13:40 UMD GREEN Rissinger is off for two minutes

11:30 Syracuse tests the right baseline; Maryland goalie Sarah Holliday says no

6:30 Emma Rissinger with a sling shot; Regan Spencer gloves it aside for Syracuse

2:58 UMD PS Grace Walsdon calmly shoots low in the corner and the Terrapins have a 1-0 lead

2:00 UMD PC Roos Weerts with a defensive save, then takes one off the face mask while on the goal line; a stroke is called!

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME Syracuse is in the white with orange numbers and blue kilts; Maryland is in the red with trim reminiscent of the Lord Baltimore and Lord Calvert patterns on the state flag

PREGAME The teams are warming up on the turf, temperature around 88 degrees

PREGAME I believe the key to this game is going to be how well the foreign contingent executes on the pitch. Maryland has three foreign newcomers to go along with star Welma Luus, while Syracuse has three newcomers as well

PREGAME Both teams are 1-0 this season; Maryland is ranked at No. 6 coming in, Syracuse, your defending national champions, are No. 2

PREGAME Hello, and welcome to Ellen Ryan Field at the McGuire Campus of St. Joseph’s University for this Conference Cup match between Syracuse and Maryland

Aug. 27, 2016 — A pair of cannons over the ACC’s bow

The opening day of this weekend’s ACC/Big Ten challenge saw a pair of pretty enormous results on the part of the teams playing on the Big Ten side of the ledger.

Michigan managed to hold off top-ranked North Carolina, sneaking in a lightly-tipped ball over the goalkeeper on an untimed corner at the end of regulation to take a 1-0 win. Also, Iowa managed a 2-1 win over a Wake Forest team that had come into the game as the No. 7 team in the first NFHCA poll.

This is something unusual for the Atlantic Coast Conference, which has, for the last decade and a half, been the dominant field hockey conference in America. Last year, for example, the ACC sent six out of its seven field hockey teams to the NCAA Division I tournament.

Now, I know two games does not a season make. But there are also going to be a number of other games between the two conferences in the next couple of weeks. Reverse matches in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge are to be held today in Winston-Salem, N.C. Next weekend, four interconference matches including Duke, Boston College, Maryland, and Northwestern are going to be played.

And, just as interesting, will be tomorrow’s Top 10 matchup featuring Maryland and Syracuse, which will be played in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Aug. 26, 2016 — Preseason Statwatch for 2016

This year, we are on the look for more scholastic field hockey records. 

Hence, the list below, the records carrying over from last season, not including games played thus far. These may be different from the Daily Statwatch section, the column just to the right.

Fridays beginning in mid-September, we’ll try to compile and publish some nationwide statistics from available sources. I encourage readers to contact their coaches, athletic directors, and student managers so that they may register for and use the platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your conference, league, or your state governing body to enter field hockey information there, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible.

159 Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.)
109 Julianna Tornetta, Rosemont Agnes Irwin (Pa.)

90 Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.)
66 Kourtney Kennedy, Watertown (Mass.)

160 Watertown (Mass.)
133 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
73 Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.)
71 Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
70 Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.)

100 Watertown (Mass.)
76 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
71 Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)

865 Susan Butz-Stavin, Emmaus (Pa.)
756 Laurie Berger, San Diego Serra (Calif.)
755 Linda Krieser, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)
680 Cheryl Poore, Harwich Monomoy Regional (Mass.)
621 Karen Klassner, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
609 Wendy Martin, Louisville Collegiate (Ky.)
600 Matt Soto, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
596 Eileen Donahue, Watertown (Mass.)

As usual, if you see a number or statistic or even some statistical oddity that you’d like to bring to our attention, please feel to send us an email at Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the adjustment. 

We’ll start our weekly Statwatch in late September.

Aug. 25, 2016 — The national preseason Top 10

Today, we release our preseason national Top 10, based upon last year’s performances, individual players in the club pipeline, and returning players. Because of these and other variables, this is very much of a back-of-the-envelope list.

This Top 10 goes weekly in mid-to-late September once everyone has gotten started. And because of some early-season tournaments and non-conference matches, there are going to be a lot of changes between the preseason and the first weekly Top 10.

1. Emmaus (Pa.) 27-0

The Hornets return senior Meredith Sholder, who is on the U.S. senior indoor women’s national team as well as on the U-19s. Should become history’s third 200-goal scorer by the time the regular season ends

2. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 24-2

Oak Knoll, with a number of superb players returning, actually starts the 2016 season as the favorite in New Jersey. Much like Eastern teams of the recent past, you have younger sisters (Gabby Andretta, Ali McCarthy) who are going to be heard from before the season ends

3. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 27-1

The Indians looked like absolute world-beaters on several occasions last season, including a 7-1 defeat of Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) in the state quarterfinal round. This year, if they win the state tournament, they will have truly earned it because of the teams likely to be in the bracket

4. Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) 20-3

The Indians have not gotten into the second week of the state tournament even with U-21 national teamer Erin Matson in the lineup. That should change this year, depending on the draw

5. Chantilly Westfield (Va.) 20-2

The Bulldogs, winners of the Class 6A state title in 2013, have all of the tools to win it again. Watch for Mackenzie Karl, late of the U-17 national team. She helped the combined Virginia/North Carolina Futures team to the gold medal in the U-19 division

6. Palmyra (Pa.) 25-3

The Cougars may have been about two inches from beating Emmaus in last year’s state title matchup. They return goalie Cheyenne Sprecher, who might steal a game or two for them before the year is out

7. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 27-0

The expectations that this program has put on itself are extremely high. What other field hockey team can you say has produced a 60-goal scorer every year for the past five seasons? This is going to be an uneasy season for the Vikings, but it’s to be expected without a ball having yet been struck

8. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 26-1

Megan Rodgers (60 goals) will lead the attack, but there will be a lot of other players from the San Diego RUSH club program which will help bolster the Conquistadores’ offense

9. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 20-3

The Falcons fell a win short of the Class 6A state championship a year ago, but they are a definite candidate to win the crown this year; a stretch of games in early October could tell the tale of their season

10. Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 23-3

The Comets are the one team that will have to deal with Donegal (in Lancaster-Lebanon play), Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (in District 3 play), and, very likely, Emmaus (in Class AAA play)

And bear in mind: Acton-Boxborough (Mass.) 23-0, Watertown (Mass.) 21-0, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 21-0, East Chapel Hill (N.C.) 20-2, Oley (Pa.) Valley 16-6, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.) 27-2, Rosemont Agnes Irwin (Pa.) 14-7, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 25-0


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