Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Oct. 23, 2020 — Your inaugural Friday Statquirks

Hi, all. Even though we are doing our Friday Statwatch only on a monthly basis given the length of the 2020-21 domestic field hockey season, we can still occasionally post a landmark or two on Fridays.

We call these “Statquirks,” which recognize one or more players, coaches, or teams on historical accomplishments from a statistical standpoint.

With a 2-1 win over Manheim (Pa.) Township on Tuesday evening, head coach Matt Soto becomes the seventh member of the 700-win club for scholastic coaches. He follows Susan Butz-Stavin, Nancy Williams, Laurie Berger, Linda Kreiser, Angela Tammaro, and Karen Klassner as a 700-win coach.

980Susan Butz-Stavin
853Laurie Berger
840Linda Kreiser
839Nancy Williams
746Angela Tammaro
712Karen Klassner
700Matt Soto
(through games of Oct. 21)

Matt Soto has done tremendous work in his coaching career, work which has accelerated tremendously in Millersville. He has coached Jill Witmer, who went on to play for the U.S. national team. And his team was the finest team in the country in 2017.

And, it goes without saying that he has benefitted from having Spooky Nook within a few miles of Penn Manor’s front door.

On Wednesday, Ryleigh Heck, the fine attacking midfielder for Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) had a double hat trick against Sewell Washington Township (N.J.), bringing her career goals total to 156. That tied her for 23rd in the recorded history of scholastic field hockey in America.

It also tied her with her sister Kara, now in her first year of collegiate field hockey at Boston College. Ryleigh would go on to score a five-spot last evening, which untied her with her older sister.

There have been a number of memorable sister acts amongst the top goal-scorers in Federation history. But to have sisters having scored this many goals? You’d have to go back to the 1980s at Centereach (N.Y.) to find Dana Fuchs (132) and Tracey Fuchs (171) who have amassed that many goals as a pair.

But there were also two other sisters, Jill and Lauren, who played field hockey at Centereach. We don’t have numbers on the two of them, but I’m sure that the four of them have a combined total which is nearly unreachable when it comes to multiple family members.

BULLETIN: Oct. 22, 2020 — A new champion to be crowned in Kentucky

For much of the last four years, Louisville Assumption (Ky.) and The Christian Academy of Louisville (Ky.) have found themselves meeting each other in the KHSAA state tournament.

Last year, it just happened to be in the final, with Assumption winning.

This evening, in a state quarterfinal match worthy of a championship final, CAL managed a Claudia Thomas goal in the seventh minute of overtime to take a 3-2 win.

The key moment of the match, at least from a tactical standpoint, occurred in the dying seconds of regulation with the sides level at 2-2. A hard tackle resulted in a card to Assumption, which carried into overtime.

Assumption never really got off to any kind of organization or rhythm in overtime, even when back at full strength, allowing the Centurions all kinds of time and room, which led to the Thomas goal.

Oct. 22, 2020 — USA Field Hockey makes another pivot

Yesterday, USA Field Hockey announced that it would be hiring former Japan women’s national field hockey team coach Anthony Farry as head coach of the U.S. women’s national team program, replacing interim head coach Caroline Nichols.

But there’s one interesting aspect to this hiring. Farry is leaving a successful team in Japan, which qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by winning the Asian Cup.

In other words, while Japan is going to be looking for a coach just nine months before the 2021 Olympics, Farry is going to be coaching a U.S. side that failed to qualify.

Furthermore, the U.S. team is at rock-bottom of the FIH Pro League standings with no wins in five matches. The team is also in the process of moving its home ground from Lancaster, Pa. to Chapel Hill, N.C.

With a roster that has completely transformed since the 2018 World Cup, Farry’s first task will be to try to get the United States to avoid relegation from the Pro League into the world-level Pro Series.

Of course, we’ll only get a clearer picture of what the hockey landscape is going to be once the Coronavirus pandemic ebbs, and when the States resume Pro League play this coming April.

BULLETIN: Oct. 21, 2020 — USA Field Hockey, making a pivot

Remember this?

Today, this happened.

I’m not insinuating that there’s a connection here, but it should be of note that the new location of one of the two new sites of the National Festival is a good 75 miles away from Charlotte, out of Mecklenburg County.

But I actually think this is a good thing when it comes to the health and safety of the players at the Festival. The reason is that instead of having one enormous event, there are two smaller ones — one in North Carolina, and one at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.

Now, I’ve been a proponent for smaller National Festival sites. Instead of bringing a single enormous festival to one location — even at a polo or soccer club that could handle 30 pitches — I’ve been a proponent of regional tournaments to serve the entire membership more or less equally.

If I had my druthers, I’d split the Festival into four. Yes, that might result in not having the best club teams together in the same pool, but I think regional Festival competition cuts down on travel, gives more opportunities to teams bumping up against the physical limitations of a particular site, and makes for a smaller “bubble” in case of future global pandemics.

And for those of you making your travel plans now: just because health risks are theoretically halved by splitting Festival in two, you still need to mask up and wash your hands when you’re down there.

Oct. 21, 2020 — The MIAA opens up boys’ field hockey, but who will come?

In June 2014, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association altered its ruled to create a boys’ field hockey tournament.

Of course, as we’ve seen over the last half-decade, there have been no boys’ field hockey teams that have formed in the Keystone State, much less an organized league to compete for a state title.

This is why yesterday’s announcement regarding a boys’ field hockey state championship in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association barely registers on the radar.

Yeah, it’s good that there are two states that now recognize boys’ field hockey as a varsity sport. But the question is, how many students will do the same?

After all, I’ve made the occasional argument that New England would be a great place to start boys’ varsity field hockey because of the number of ice hockey players in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Part of that argument is that boys’ field hockey would be free dry-land training for the varsity boys’ ice hockey programs at the school.

However, as we’ve all seen the last two decades (especially if you’re an NHL fan), the better boys’ ice hockey players from New England now gravitate to North American junior hockey, where even the Tier B teams (which often send their players to Division III colleges) have 40-game seasons, not including national tournaments.

In other words, there aren’t many opportunities for the burnt-out ice hockey player to pick up the short stick.

For me, an unabashed advocate for boys’ varsity field hockey for a quarter century, these changes in the landscape are highly discouraging.

Oct. 20, 2020 — A third go-round for professional women’s lacrosse

This afternoon, it was announced that Athletes Unlimited, a company which revived professional women’s softball with an intramural league playing over the summer in Rosemont, Ill., is trying its hand at women’s lacrosse.

The concept of the league is the same as the softball and the upcoming women’s volleyball league for this February in Nashville. The player pool will be divided amongst four team captains, which are selected from the previous week’s four highest-rated players. The ratings are created through a yet-to-be-released formula which is likely to be a combination of goals, assists, draws, caused turnovers, ground-ball pickups, and, importantly, being part of a winning team.

The game, like in the United Women’s Lacrosse League and the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, is short-sided, but this game is going to be 9 on 9 on a field just 80 yards long and 50 yards wide. A 60-second shot clock will govern possessions. The season lasts about a month, but we don’t know exactly how many games will be played during that time period

Each week, after a round of play in which the four teams meet each other once, the four highest-rated players are installed as team captains, then hold a draft of the remaining players for the next round of play.

At the end of the season, a team isn’t declared as champion; only the individual with the most points becomes the league’s Most Valuable Player.

The 22 players which have declared for the lacrosse league include some players in the elite pool for the 2021 World Cup, but there are some players in the tryout pool which are not in the AU group, including a number of Tewaaraton Trophy winners.

I’m sure the roster will have additions and possibly contractions, depending on the results of December tryouts for the World Cup team.

BULLETIN: Oct. 19, 2020 — Hope Rose joins a select group

This evening, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) senior Hope Rose scored four goals in a 7-1 win over Mechanicsburg Cumberland Valley (Pa.).

The goals gave Rose exactly 200 for her career. She is only the sixth field hockey player in National Federation history to reach this mark, after Mackenzie Allessie, Austyn Cuneo, Meredith Sholder, Haley Schleicher, and Sophia Gladieux.

Central Dauphin, who plays in the Commonwealth Division of Mid-Penn Conference, has only five regular-season games before embarking on the PIAA District 3-AAA playoffs.

This year, only the champion makes it into the state tournament, but if the tournament were seeded today, Central Dauphin would be in the opposite half of the draw from longtime powers Lower Dauphin, Penn Manor, and defending state champion Wilson.

Oct. 19, 2020 — Saying farewell to a classmate

Last week, a college classmate passed away from cancer.

She had spent a good portion of her worklife in the healthcare field before deciding to turn to freelance writing and even blogging.

One of the last poems she wrote was called Tableau No. 2:

A beehive
Buzzes around the maple
String lies on the ground
Loops around the rocks by the maple shrub
Then knots weighs on the ends
Of the string around the maple
If the world could,
It would resolve at this study, but it continues
A beehives ties the
Bow with the string
Around the rocks
Be strong

I’m glad you were strong in the face of cancer, Maisy. Rest in piece.

Oct. 18, 2020 — The “overserved”

So, if you haven’t read yesterday’s blog entry and linked through to The Atlantic’s story on the trend of the “overserved” athlete — the high-school student pushed to the breaking point in order to gain admittance to the right school, please give it a read. What I have to say about this story is complicated.

Over the last three decades of covering scholastic sports, I have run into my fair share of parents who have invested tens of thousands of dollars into increasing the odds of their children’s admittance to university athletic programs.

Some of the investments are small; others, large. Parents have turned back yards, garages, basements, and even a chicken coop into practice and play areas for field hockey and lacrosse.

I have seen parents who have sent their kids to multiple showcase events over the course of a year, and have often wondered out loud whether the entire exercise will gain a return on the investment.

After all, sports like field hockey and women’s lacrosse do not have the college scholarships afforded a Division I gridiron football. And, as the story mentions, the number of available roster spots on college teams have not been keeping up with the explosion in youth participation in a number of athletic competitions.

Indeed, I think that youth participation in niche sports like water polo, rowing, and rugby, is only growing because it is more organized and controlled by national governing bodies of the sport. Too, especially in California and New England, there are more high-school teams in these sports than ever before.

But 30 years ago, colleges routinely took walk-ons from other sports to fill out rosters. The burnt-out swimmer, especially a distance swimmer, was a prime candidate for water polo, for example. And famously, Kelly Amonte-Hiller recruited a set of twins from the Northwestern club rugby team for her nascent women’s lacrosse team, and won a national title in four years.

I think the problem isn’t necessarily the parents or the student-athletes, but with the colleges. Collegiate programs nationwide are very much an exercise in “putting money to the muscle” as a sportswriter once said in the 1920s. Too, there has been a lessening of the ethic of participation vs. the “win at all costs” logic. Think of this: when was the last time you saw mention a college junior varsity team?

Yep, it’s been a minute.

My takeaway from this article is about the cesspool which is the university admissions process.

These days, instead of trying to fill out a college with well-rounded students, college admissions has turned the experience into something resembling an airline flight.

In first class, you have “legacy” admissions for sons and daughters of alumni/ae, some of which have become spots for well-connected people like Charles Kushner, who donated $2.5 million to Harvard in order to get his son Jared into the school. Jared Kushner is now the son-in-law and senior advisor to the current President of the United States.

In business class are admissions slots for athletes, but, as we saw in the Varsity Blues scandal, there are times when slots in obscure sports such as sailing and tennis where brokers have sought outright bribes from hedge fund managers and celebrities to get their kids into college.

The rest of the spots in a college class are in “coach,” where some people pay a lot more than others to get to the same destination.

The thing is, when you read the narrative of the Varsity Blues scandal and the Atlantic article, it’s easy to pin blame on over-eager “helicopter” parents and the “overserved” athletes.

I dissent, however.

Instead, the onus is on each and every university to be more transparent as to their finances and decision-making when it comes to university admissions.

I find it interesting, for example, the number of times that Stanford University was mentioned in the Atlantic essay. Stanford’s athletic department is facing some $70 million in budget deficits over the next tyree years.

The school, in response, cut 11 sports, creating a firestorm across the school community and raised questions about whether the cuts were not just about the deficit, but about taking money away from the so-called “country club” sports like sailing and wrestling which were overwhelmingly white.

It’s an argument I don’t buy.

Instead, let’s remind you that Stanford, along with schools like UCLA, Wake Forest, Yale, and Georgetown, were amongst the universities with athletic quotas which were, according to the Varsity Blues indictment, brokered by indicted defendant William Rick Singer to parents willing to pay cash bribes in order to admit their children.

I think Singer may be the tip of the iceberg here: someone alerted him to the very existence of open university admission slots up for the highest bidder. And I don’t think this escaped university admissions officers; they are ultimately responsible for who is admitted to their schools.

Stanford, Harvard, Georgetown, and many others college and universities from coast to coast are going to have to undergo major admissions reforms from top to bottom. They’re going to have to become more transparent and equitable in the opportunities — intrinsic and extrinsic — afforded to their students, and not be magnets for the outright corruption that exists today.

Oct. 17, 2020 — A story that every parent of a potential student-athlete must read, no matter what the sport

Hi, all. This is your reading assignment for the weekend.

I’ll have my own opinions tomorrow.