Sept. 2, 2015 — A familiar face returns to Rt. 322

Hershey (Pa.) is a field hockey program which has had great success in its league and in Pennsylvania’s tough District 3. But the team has never won a PIAA state championship.

The Trojans have had the talent, but have never had the good fortune. In 2008, they had the misfortune to run into a Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) team with future national teamer Jill Witmer on it, losing 4-0 on the day. Hershey threw every ounce of sinew, motivation, and commitment into a return to the final in 2009, only to come up a goal short against Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.), a school located about 4 1/2 miles west along Rt. 322 in central Pennsylvania.

So, who better to take over Hershey’s field hockey program than someone who knows the ins and outs of playing in the Mid-Penn Conference than former University of Maryland star and graduate of Palmyra (Pa.), Bri (Davies) Price?

Price, after all, helped Palmyra win the 2005 state championship with a dominating 4-0 win over Oley (Pa.) Valley. Playing alongside classmate Kelly Fitzpatrick, Price fed her and her teammates laser passes for goals. Fitzpatrick had 66 goals that fall to lead the country as the Cougars dominated their competition.

What kind of coach will Price be? Well, knowledge of the U.S. high-performance system will help; she was on the national team for two years.

But I think there will also be a change in mentality. On the web page advertising her services as a personal trainer, Price has these words:

The only one who can tell you “you can’t” is you. And you don’t have to listen.

Words to live by.

Sept. 1, 2015 — Anniversary memos, memoirs, and memories

It was in a basement near the nation’s capital when the first words of this website were first authored 17 years ago this month.

So much has happened as this website has grown, changed, and evolved over time. The basic thrust of it has not changed; bringing you stories about field hockey and lacrosse that seek to find trends instead of creating vapid drivel or clickbait.

This site has gone through a lot, in seeing the changes in rules in both sports that have altered the way that the game is played and coached. It takes very special people to be able to respond to these changes, to make themselves and their teams competitive.

We’ve gotten to see the likes of Austyn Cuneo, Lexi Smith, Meredith Sholder and Haley Schleicher in field hockey, and Shannon Smith, Corinne Wessels, Carly Reed, and Sophia Turchetta in lacrosse just shooting the lights out when it comes to national records. They play a game which, I’m sure, neither Constance Applebee nor Rosabella Sinclair could have possibly imagined a century ago.

In both sports, we’ve also seen a bit more tension between high-school and pay-to-play club ball, much like what goes on in other athletic endeavors like swimming and soccer.

But throughout our travels, we’ve noted that perhaps the single most important people on the field are the coaches. I’ve been fortunate to get to know people like Cindy Timchal, Cathy Reese, Chris Robinson, Brooke Kuhl-McClelland and Jen Adams in lacrosse, and Danyle Heilig, Beth Anders, Nancy Williams, Missy Meharg, Susan Butz-Stavin, Steve Jennings, Elvetta Gemski and Karen Klassner in field hockey. And, of course, there are rare people such as Eileen Donahue, Sharon Pfluger, and Diane Chapman who coach both sports. These are men and women who completely understand what their roles are in terms of winding their players up and preparing them before gamedays because they know that the work occurs between games, not during them.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next year as a team has to get used to life without a national field hockey record holder, while the lacrosse record-holder exits the stage next spring.

Should be fun.

Aug. 31, 2015 — Dunn and Della Donne

If you haven’t been paying much attention to the WNBA and NWSL seasons this summer, you’re missing a pair of breakout seasons by two female athletes who are going to be wearing the red, white, and blue very soon.

And everyone knows it.

During an on-field interview after the U.S. victory in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Abby Wambach mentioned one of the players who did not make the American roster. That player, Crystal Dunn, has been lighting up the fields of the NWSL this summer as a member of the Washington Spirit.

Dunn, originally drafted as a defender/defensive midfield, has found her niche as a field-stretching scorer. Last evening, in a game against Portland, she scored her 14th and 15th of goals of the season. The latter came less than a minute after the Thorns took a 3-2 lead deep into regulation.

That, to me, is part of what makes a champion. It’s not about the volume of goals scored, it’s when they are scored. Dunn has completely reversed the fortunes of Washington this season, and the other eight coaches in the NWSL know it.

“There’s not a player in our league who has been more consistent and in form than her,” says Houston Dash head coach Randy Waldrum. “Every country, every pro team, every college team dreams about having a player who can score goals. It would be crazy not to have her in.”

Dunn’s versatility should stand her in good stead with Jill Ellis and the rest of the U.S. coaching staff as the Olympic roster comes into focus over the next few months. Only 18 players go to Rio instead of the 23 for the World Cup.

Now, on the basketball court, there was another World Cup that didn’t have nearly the television ratings, but the result was expected; the United States ran the table in pool qualifying and the knockout rounds to win the FIBA World Cup.

And just like in the FIFA competition, the winning American side did not have the player who is having a breakout season in the pros.

That player is Elena Delle Donne from the Chicago Sky. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard/power forward/small forward/center has absolutely maddened opponents with her game this season. According to the Player Efficiency Ratings that take into account several individual metrics, Delle Donne is having a basketball season unlike any other. Her PER is higher than that of any of Michael Jordan’s championship seasons, or even the season when Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points per game.

The Sky, currently second in the Eastern Conference, may be the one team that nobody in the playoff bracket wants to meet. Especially with the ball in Delle Donne’s hands late.

With both of these star players ready to break out on the international stage in Rio next year, there’s only one thing to say about anyone about to face the Americans in women’s basketball and soccer:

They’re done.

Aug. 30, 2015 — For UNC, the answer is 2

Numerologists could have a field day with this set of coincidences from the opening weekend of the NCAA Division I field hockey season.

The University of North Carolina was the No. 2-ranked team in most polls coming into the 2015 seasons.

The Heels played 2 games in its opening weekend.

UNC went 2-0 on the weekend.

In both games, they posted 2-1 victories.

I don’t know whether this is a sign, but it is notable that junior Lauren Moyer did start both games.

Wearing jersey #2.

Aug. 29, 2015 — The national preseason Top 10

Today, we release our first draft of a national Top 10, based upon last year’s performance, individuals in the club pipeline, and who’s coming back after graduation losses. Of course, this list is going to be far from perfect; it’s the teams themselves who will help determine their own fates when it comes to the weekly Top 10s. Those will be published on Tuesdays beginning in mid-to-late September.

The thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of important matches in the next three weeks that will jumble the order quite a bit. If you want to go see some good field hockey, you don’t have to wait until your respective state tournament.

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

Nice to know you can graduate one 50-goal scorer (Austyn Cuneo) and return another (Nikki Santore). Vikings have a veteran goalie in Cassie Kincaid and senior Madison Morano at the midfield

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

The Royals, starting five freshmen, were just one goal short of Eastern in last year’s Tournament of Champions final. The teams meet again Sept. 19

3. Emmaus (Pa.) 24-2-1

Hornets are not just playing to get Susan Butz-Stavin the wins needed to make her the all-time leader in coaching victories; they are looking to rebound after a shock 4-0 defeat to Palmyra in last year’s Class AAA semifinal. Junior Meredith Sholder is slotting in attacking midfielder and will be that late player coming into the attack

4. Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 20-3

FC was doing so well until running into Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.). The Colonials, however, are looking to bounce back in a big way; they have some major tests the first few weeks of the season. Haley Schleicher, the only player in National Federation history to score 50 goals and assist on 50 others in the same season, will be counted on a bit less heavily as last year’s young team has matured

5. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 26-1

The defending PAISAA champions return game-changing talent such as Margaux Paolino and Maddie Backsai and have some players in the younger grades who could make a difference as the season progresses. Early games against Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) and Warrington Central Bucks South (Pa.) in a three-day span next week will set the tone for the season

6. Palmyra (Pa.) 23-2-1

The Cougars have targets on their backs because of their co-championship last fall in Class AAA, and they are candidates to do it again. Many of the core of their back seven return, and they’ll have their usual rough league schedule to deal with. Katie Dembrowski, the senior, is an absolute talisman

7. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 23-0

The Hornets have it all: a lot of talent, a tough interconference schedule, and a Bozek at the helm. Dana Bozek will have it all to do in order for Lakeland to win a sixth straight New York public-school title

8. Watertown (Mass.) 23-0

With a cadre of seniors graduating, extending this group’s shutout streak for very long may be a tough ask. But they could break the existing undefeated streak record if they are able to run the table in their regular season. After that, a seventh straight state title may beckon

9. St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.) 24-1

Bridget Condie leads MICDS in search of a third straight postseason title; Rams are 62-7 in her three years with the team

10. Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) 21-2

There has not been as much excitement about one field hockey player at Unionville since the days of Kate Barber. That’s because of the presence of phenom Erin Matson, who has been selected to the U-21 national team as a rising sophomore

And bear in mind: Los Gatos (Calif.) 18-0, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 26-1, Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 19-0, Skowhegan (Maine) Area 15-3, Charlotte (N.C.) Country Day School 13-2, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 24-4-1, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) 23-1-1, Houston St. John’s (Tex.) 15-2-1, Norfolk (Va.) Academy 14-5-1, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 21-2

Aug. 28, 2015 — Preseason Statwatch for 2015

It’s time to start thinking about some of the major milestones that could very well be crossed in the 2015 campaign. There are a number of major records set to fall, including most coaching wins, longest undefeated streak, and most consecutive shutouts.

But I think the record which will hold the most attention this season is the continuance of Haley Schleicher’s assist record. She broke the National Federation assist record last fall and goes into every match with Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) knowing that she will have a chance to break her own assist mark every time she steps onto the pitch. The attacking midfielder, who has committed to Duke, is capable of putting the ball on a dime from 60 yards as well as executing precision penalty corners.

We’ll be keeping a running count of the major career records just to the right of this column in the “Daily Statwatch” section. What we have below are some of the current records which we’ll be adding to this season. Fridays beginning in mid-September, we’ll try to compile and publish some nationwide statistics from available sources.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, CAREER
139 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
102 Jessica Welch, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
95 Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.)

90 Kathryn Roncoroni, Glen Gardner Voorhees (N.J.)
83 Bridget Condie, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, CAREER
151 Haley Schleicher, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
68 Bridget Condie, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.)
49 Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.)

GAMES UNDEFEATED
138 Watertown (Mass.)
106 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
54 Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.)
51 Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
36 Los Gatos (Calif.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
78 Watertown (Mass.)
51 Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
49 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)

CONSECUTIVE SHUTOUTS
25 Watertown (Mass.)

COACHING WINS
838 Susan Butz-Stavin, Emmaus (Pa.)
719 Linda Krieser, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)
666 Cheryl Poore, Harwich Monomoy Regional (Mass.)
610 Karen Klassner, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)

Aug. 27, 2015 — NCAA Division I preview

The Fearless 5ive

Albany: The Danes’ three leading point-getters — Laura Page, Paula Heuser, and Fiori Van Rijswijk — return. This is a confident team that could be on the top step of the podium in November. They’re that good
Connecticut: Huskies are extremely strong in the back seven and have plenty of flair and creativity. A third straight national title is not out of the question
North Carolina: It’s the last go-round for Team USA’s Emily Wold, and the first go-round for National Federation all-time leading scorer Austyn Cuneo. But there’s only one ball to go around, and it will be interesting to see how the lineup evolves over the fall
Penn State: Lions should benefit from a pair of transfers, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year Moira Putsch, who was at Maryland last year
Syracuse: Jess Jecko and Alyssa Manley are game-changing players, and the Orange, having been perhaps a couple of inches away from winning last year’s title, are looking to parlay last year’s experience into a fall to remember

Five More To Watch

Boston College: With Kelly Doton as head coach, team will be accentuating set pieces, which means you will see a lot of Eryn and Emily McCoy
Duke: There is plenty of talent returning, including goalie Lauren Blazing and seniors Aileen Johnson and Hannah Barreca. But incoming freshmen Kristy Palazzese and Caroline Andreatta are the kinds of players who will give opposing ACC coaches nightmares
Maryland: Terps have lost a lot of speed from its attack line the last two years; who will support Alyssa Parker and Anna Dessoye up top? The transfer of Putsch cuts deeply here
Northwestern: The Wildcats have an experienced, senior-laden roster playing in the Big Ten. The team could very well win the regular-season title if they nick a win or two at the right moment
Stanford: The Cardinal set program records a season ago for wins, winning streak, and highest poll ranking. Can the Cardinals go deeper in the NCAAs this year? They’ll put a lot of their hopes on Kelsey Harbin

The Darkhorse

Liberty: The Flames came within a goal of upsetting North Carolina in last year’s NCAA tournament, and they return seven out of their eight leading goal-scorers from last season, so don’t let the result of last weekend’s friendly with the Heels fool you

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