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Oct. 20, 2021 — A new twist in the Garden State Firm

For most of the last 14 years whenever the field hockey teams from Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) have taken the pitch, the focus has been on the contrasts between the two teams.

Eastern is a large public school from the southern half of New Jersey, Oak Knoll is a small private school from the northern half. Eastern has relied on penalty corner offense for most of its recent history, Oak Knoll has built a tradition of excellent penalty corner defense.

But for today’s Garden State Firm match, the 13th in the series, the focus has to go on the similarities between the adversaries.

Both teams have coaches’ daughters in the side. Kerry Heck, who has taken over the reins at Eastern this fall, is the mother of Ryleigh Heck, the third-leading scorer in the history of the National Federation. Lea Good, an attacking midfielder for Oak Knoll, is the daughter of Royals head coach Ali Good.

More critically, however, both teams are coming into this game with two losses. Oak Knoll has suffered defeats to Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) and to Pottstown Hill School (Pa.), while Eastern has been defeated by Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) and Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.).

This makes winning today’s game an exercise in not just laying down markers for if the teams meet later this season, but it also means that the winner won’t suffer a third loss on the season — which, to both of these sides, is almost unheard of. Since 2010, these varsities have combined for just two three-loss seasons.

The result of today’s game is going to be part of a series of excellence. And the thing is, this is just a regular-season matchup. Should both sides win their respective state championships in November, they are likely to collide somewhere in the five-team bracket for the Tournament of Champions. The teams have met eight times in the T of C, and seven times (as denoted by the asterisk), the game was for the championship.

EASTERN vs. OAK KNOLL
(Eastern leads series 6-5-1)
2007: Oak Knoll 3, Eastern 2 (OT)
2010*: Oak Knoll 4, Eastern 2
2013*: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 0
2014*: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 2
2015*: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 1
2016: Eastern 6, Oak Knoll 2
2017: Eastern 2, Oak Knoll 2 (tie)
2017*: Oak Knoll 2, Eastern 1 (OT)
2018: Eastern 5, Oak Knoll 3
2018*: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 1
2019: Oak Knoll 4, Eastern 1
2019*: Oak Knoll 4, Eastern 1

BULLETIN: Oct. 19, 2021 — The 100-goal barrier has been breached (and likely not for the only time this season)

This evening, with a hat trick in a 4-1 win over The Lawrenceville (N.J.) School, Talia Schenck, the senior forward for Lawrence (N.J.), became only the second field hockey player in National Federation history to score as many as 100 goals in a season.

Schenck has been in a season-long battle with Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) forward Ryleigh Heck for top honors in goal-scoring for 2021, and both players have been excelling against difficult schedules. Today’s hat trick, for example, came in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament, an in-season FA Cup-style single-elimination tournament which brings together the capital region’s public and private schools in one competition.

The thing is, even though Lawrence and Lawrenceville are located a scant three miles from each other along Princeton Pike, you can count on one hand the number of times these two field hockey programs have met since Lawrenceville went co-ed in 1987. Indeed, in the last 10 years, the teams have met only once, in the 2017 Mercer County Tournament, a game Lawrenceville won 6-0.

But this is the Schenck Era in central New Jersey, and her offensive prowess was on display during the second half. Lawrenceville had taken the lead on a 33rd minute goal from Kiera Duffy. But Schenck had a natural hat trick with goals in the 35th, 44th, and 51st minutes. She added a grace note with an assist on Caroline Rotteveel’s goal three minutes from time.

Oct. 19, 2021 — Top 10 for the week of Oct. 17

This week, our Top 10 pretty much holds in place except for a Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) team which had two draws this week. State and conference tournaments will throw up roadblocks for many of these teams as they look to finish the season strong.

Our RightToRightIsRight.com honorary No. 11 Team of the Week is Washington & Lee University. The undefeated Generals have an enormous Old Dominion Athletic Conference tilt tomorrow against a Shenandoah side which is also undefeated in the league standings.

1. Delmar (Del.) 10-0
Wildcats host Smyrna (Del.) this Thursday in the team’s annual Pink Out game

2. Emmaus (Pa.) 19-0
Hornets play Allentown Parkland (Pa.) in semifinals of the East Penn Conference tournament tonight

3. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 11-0
Falcons bested Virginia Beach Princess Anne (Va.) last week

4. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 12-1
Churchwomen take on Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), the PIAA Class A runners-up last year, this Friday

5. Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) 11-1
This week’s slate of games includes a contest tomorrow against Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)

6. Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 10-1
Knights have been getting lights-out performances from junior Emma Watchilla

7. Northport (N.Y.) 14-0
Tigers have allowed only three goals all season

8. Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) 13-1-1
Hurricanes had a big statement win over Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) last week; VMA gets Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) today

9. Lower Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.) 12-2-1
GMA takes on Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) this evening

10. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 14-0-1
After a 3-0 win over Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.), the Falcons got by Brooklandville Garrison Forest (Md.) 1-0 in overtime

11. Washington & Lee University (11-0)
Grace Weise and Freddie Tobeason lead the team with 10 goals apiece

Who’s out: Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.), 1-1 draw with Scarsdale (N.Y.); 101 draw with Cross River John Jay (N.Y.)

And bear in mind: San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 11-1-1, San Diego Canyon Hills (Calif.) 14-2, Aurora Regis Jesuit (Colo.) 13-0, Darien (Conn.) 14-0, Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) 9-3, Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 9-1, Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 19-3, Watertown (Mass.) 12-0, Andover (Mass.) 12-0-1, Walpole (Mass.) 11-0, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 16-2-2, Ann Arbor Pioneer (Mich.) 17-0, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 13-0-2, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 16-2, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 15-2, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 14-2, Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio) 15-0-1, Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio) 14-1-1, Houston Kincaid School (Texas) 12-1

Oct. 18, 2021 — An experienced lineup for the U.S. women at the Junior World Cup

A big part of the United States’ less-than-stellar history at the FIH Junior World Cup is that the top eligible players for this quadrennial champions have not been made available for play, chiefly because college teams would not allow their players to join the team, especially if the FIH were to schedule the competition in the fall.

The records show how this affected the U.S. record in this tournament. The United States did not win its first game in JWC play until 2001. But when the 2005 tournament came around, the States’ fortunes turned completely around, thanks to a team which had the likes of Katie O’Donnell, Rachel Dawson, Katelyn Falgowski, Michelle Kasold, and Lauren Crandall.

But even with all of that future Olympic talent on the roster which would go on to record some 1227 international caps, the U.S. team finished seventh in that Junior World Cup. No U.S. team has ever finished higher than seventh.

Still, it is notable that the U.S. side going to South Africa this December includes top-level talent including the likes of Maryland’s Hope Rose, Princeton’s Beth Yeager, Syracuse’s Charlotte de Vries, and Michigan’s Sofia Southam.

There are changes from the roster which saw the U.S. qualify for this championship. One, Rutgers goalie Gianna Glatz, was over the age cutoff for the World Cup (albeit she was eligible for the Pan American qualifiers). She will be replaced by Boston College’s Jonna Kennedy, the former Watertown (Mass.) star.

Another change in the roster surrounds the nation’s best high-school senior player, Ashley Sessa. The attacking midfielder, still under field hockey’s equivalent of a “pitch count” when it comes to her training and playing, will be turning her attention to the Indoor World Cup early next year, and possible selection to the senior women’s national side in preparation for the 2022 FIH Pro League.

On the men’s side, the United States may have fallen short on qualifying on the field, but when Australia and New Zealand’s governments instituted tough COVID-19 travel restrictions, the American side was put into the tournament.

The U.S. side will have a lot of jumbled pieces and parts, as is usual for men’s field hockey in the United States. But there is an interesting story to point out. Corey Dykema is a current practice player for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. His three sisters — Ashley, Emily, and Bethany — are on the Flames’ roster. And Liberty is in its best position ever for NCAA Division I Tournament seeding coming out of the Big East.

Oct. 17, 2021 — A short supply in a place you might not expect

I’ve read a bunch of stories this fall about umpiring shortages in field hockey. The shortages are getting to a point where games aren’t getting assigned officials until hours before the opening hitback of a particular game.

Field hockey isn’t alone. The global pandemic has done a number on refereeing pools in sports from football to lacrosse. The aging pool of game officials is not being replenished, and there is wage pressure being placed on the organizers of youth sport.

This is even happening in a place like the province of Quebec, which has seen a 30 percent decrease in hockey officials since the start of the pandemic, according to CTV News. This, and low pay (the referees get as little as CDN$25 per game) has had many potential referees opting out and taking higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

I’m amazed that this shortage is occurring in hockey-mad Canada. The thing is, hockey officials are a specialized type of athlete. Hockey officials not only have to apply a complex set of rules, they have to keep up with skaters going up to 30 miles an hour and pucks going up to 100 miles an hour. They also have to have the physical ability sometimes to break up scrums along the boards. And all of this while on ice skates.

Now, I’ve heard plenty of arguments in the sports world that game officials in many sports are in short supply because of overweening helicopter parents shouting at them because of a particular call or calls going against their teams. This especially happens in pay-to-play situations like travel sports, where parents spend thousands of dollars on their children’s game experience in order to chase either exposure or a college scholarships.

Frustration with these kinds of pursuits has led to some high-level cases of abuse of officials. One prominent example is an extremely ugly incident last year in Texas which saw a high-school player ejected from a game and his team disqualified from the state playoffs for their enrollment class.

Like in many industries in America, you’re seeing potential employees — in this case, game officials — opting to take jobs where you don’t have half of a public crowd barking at you for three hours for low wages. In other words, game officials aren’t being made to feel useful or have their work be validated by members of the general public. That’s the real shame of this entire post-pandemic economy.

Oct. 16, 2021 — Ursinus, bucking a trend

Over the last 23 years of this site, I could probably count on one hand the number of times that scholastic teams have been invited to play a match against another team at a U.S. collegiate field hockey home ground. Which is why today’s doubleheader, the Tri-State Field Hockey Showcase at Ursinus College, is such an unusual occurrence.

The games include one between Brooklandville Garrison Forest (Md.) playing against Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.), and the nightcap between Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Palmyra (Pa.).

Now, the thing about scheduling such doubleheaders is that just about every NCAA Division I field hockey team could easily do the same thing, since half of the teams in Division I are away from campus on any given weekend, leaving their multimillion-dollar water-based pitches completely unused.

This is an odd thing, given all of the efforts, in social media and otherwise, to grow the game here in the United States in the seven years between now and the Los Angeles Olympics. I would think that college programs, hosting Saturday showcase games, would be an ideal incubator for this. It would be a tremendous benefit for local teams to play on short-pile water-based turf, and I think it might also benefit the universities hosting the matches.

Think of this: three years ago, a neutral site game was held at Penn State University between Oley (Pa.) Valley and Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.). It was a Sunday game which turned out to be an absolute firecracker of a match. The result was 5-3 result in favor of Donegal, with all five Indian goals scored within a 10-minute span of the second half.

The two main protagonists of that game, Sophia Gladieux and Mackenzie Allessie, are now on the Penn State varsity roster.

Now, I know the collegiate scouting system has gotten to a level of sophistication that college coaches probably don’t need to host games on their campuses to be able to give a look-see to players who might be able to make a different for them. But hosting high-level games on turf would, I think, generate local good-will for universities willing to host them.

I hope more college teams will be able to take this one step to grow the game in future years.

Oct. 15, 2021 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Oct. 13

Welcome, one and all, to Statwatch, our weekly compendium of field hockey numbers and statistics which try to make sense of how today’s players and teams stack up against those of the past.

Today, let’s delve into the current winning streak of Delmar (Del.). Not including yesterday’s game, the Wildcats have not lost a game in their last 87 outings. The win streak is tied for sixth all-time in Federation history; the unbeaten streak is tied for 10th.

Delmar has somewhere around nine games to finish the 2021 season. Including yesterday, five regular-season games remain. Delmar will also be playing a Henlopen Athletic Conference championship game, likely against Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.). Delmar should also be playing in the DIAA Division 2 Tournament, which should start involving them in the quarterfinal round, meaning that the Wildcats need to win three games to end its season with a seventh straight state championship.

Should Delmar run the table, they’ll be in amongst the legends of the sport nationwide, alongside the likes of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), Oklahoma City Casady (Okla.), Watertown (Mass.), and Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.). It’s a truly remarkable run of form by this team from the town not big enough for one state.

So, below is our usual weekly compilation of American scholastic field hockey statistics, culled from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media.

We would like to get as many coaches and other field hockey people to register for the MaxPreps.com 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. 

SEASON GOALS
95 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
81 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
53 Alana McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
50 Ava Zerfass, Emmaus (Pa.)
46 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
44 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
44 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
39 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)
33 Olivia Weir, Princeton (N.J.)

SEASON ASSISTS
38 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
36 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
33 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
28 Alexis Kociban, Emmaus (Pa.)
27 Emma Winther, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
26 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
25 Sammie Goin, Ashburn Independence (Va.)
25 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
24 Hope Haynes, Houston Kincaid School (Tex.)

CAREER GOALS
279 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
226 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
155 Alaina McVeigh, Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
122 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
121 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
107 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
105 Julia Bressler, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
100 Victoria Griffiths, Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.)
96 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
85 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)

CAREER ASSISTS
113 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
90 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
86 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
75 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
75 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
87 Delmar (Del.)
33 Emmaus (Pa.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
87 Delmar (Del.)
33 Emmaus (Pa.)

Here, dear readers, is where you come in. If you see something missing or out of place, do send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the needed changes.

Thanks for stopping in, and we’ll reconvene in seven days.

Oct. 14, 2021 — Preview: No. 1 Iowa vs. No. 2 Michigan

Tomorrow afternoon will see perhaps the single most anticipated regular-season NCAA Division I field hockey game in many a season.

Oh, sure, there were many times in the 1990s and 2000s when your average Top Four matchup in the ACC transcended the game and became quite the happening. Take your pick: Wake Forest vs. Virginia, Duke vs. North Carolina, Maryland vs. Virginia, etc. etc. — these were matchups which were played at such a level that you might find that a scenario outside the rulebook.

I’ve seen lots of strange scenarios in ACC games over the years — a game delayed because of too many oak leaves on the pitch, a discussion about substitution for a penalty stroke specialist, the lines having to be repainted after a heaving dousing of water on the pitch, and even an umpire having to be substituted because of a lower-body injury.

But now, the Big Ten Conference has the whip hand in NCAA circles. And the top two teams in all the land meet in order to keep their undefeated records intact and get first dibs on the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Conference tournament next month.

Here’s our usual worm’s-eye preview of tomorrow afternoon’s showdown:

MICHIGAN vs. IOWA

The obvious: A matchup of teams which made the spring Final Four a scant five months ago: Michigan lost the NCAA title match a year ago, and Iowa was a national semifinalist

The not-so-obvious: Iowa’s field hockey program was in a state of crisis in 2014 when the athletic department sought to oust head coach Tracey Greisbaum. The athletic department eventually had to pay her and her partner Jane Meyer some $6.5 million in damages for the wrongful termination. Current head coach Lisa Celucci has done a tremendous job steering her team through the controversy and the team is playing its best hockey in perhaps the last 30 years

Key players: Iowa: Ellie Holley, sr., f/m, Lokke Stribos, sr., m/d, Maddy Murphy, sr., f/m, Leah Zellner, sr., f/m, Lieve Schalk, fr., d; Michigan: Hallie O’Neill sr., d, Sarah Pyrtek jr, f/m, Kathryn Peterson sr., m, Anna Spieker, sr., g, Anouk Veen, so, m, Sofia Southam, sr., m

Iowa wins this game if: the defense, led by Schalk can hold its shape. The Hawkeyes had a tremendous outing a couple of weeks ago against Maryland, holding a high-power Terps team to two goal shots in the first 44 minutes of the contest

Michigan wins this game if: goalkeeper Anna Spieker has the game of her life. I also think that Peterson and Southam need to have something special in the attack end in order to solve the Iowa defense

The skinny: It’s amazing how the Big Ten has become the pre-eminent league for field hockey in all of Division I. Six of the top eight teams in the country are from the conference; it’s the kind of domination that used to be part and parcel of the ACC for a 20-year stretch. I think that both Michigan and Iowa will take two of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Division I tournament, but I would not be surprised if one of these two teams will have to play on the road in their own pod in order to achieve geographical balance in the bracket. That’s because Rutgers will likely host teams in the mid-Atlantic and Louisville will host teams down south

The unanswered question: Will the loser of this game be able to make the right adjustments in order to give payback in the Big Ten Tournament?

BULLETIN: Oct. 13, 2021 — Another sorry episode in the field hockey community

This afternoon, police in Harrisburg, Pa. issued an arrest warrant for William Gaudette, the founder of East Coast Field Hockey, whose history within the sport has lasted some four decades.

Before the onset of large field hockey clubs with their own home bases for playing and coaching, East Coast Field Hockey had developed a large and sophisticated operation including the building of the East Coast Training Center.

But sometime last summer, the 77-year-old Gaudette is alleged to have developed a sexual relationship with a teenage player, one which lasted more than a year. Police say that when she tried to talk to him about the activities, he threatened her with deportation.

Police filed charges against Gaudette on Oct. 7th, and the suspect is currently at large.


Gaudette is the latest of roughly a dozen people in the U.S. scholastic field hockey community to have run afoul of the law in the last 16 or so years. The figures have ranged from assistant coaches to self-styled promoters, even a member of the news media. Five of them are in the disciplinary database for the U.S. Centers for SafeSport. And I have a sickening feeling that more will join them.

Oct. 13, 2021 — Athletes Unlimited makes a curious choice

When Athletes Unlimited began sponsoring their coachless models of women’s sports leagues in softball, volleyball, and lacrosse, they stepped into situations of failing pro leagues.

In softball, the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on 2020 and 2021 leagues, plus there was the entire situation when the Scrap Yard club side walked out on their ownership during a series of exhibition games against the USSSA Pride.

In volleyball, Athletes Unlimited stepped into the void left when the United States Professional Volleyball League folded in 2001. And in lacrosse, AU came in after two women’s leagues — the WPLL and UWLX — started up in the late 2010s.

So, I find it interesting that Jon Patricof and Jonathan Soros have made their next foray into a women’s sports league with a sport which has a quarter-century of professional history in America.

That sport is basketball.

Yep, Athletes Unlimited is looking to get a foothold in a sports market where the NBA and WNBA are the undisputed kings and queens of the hill. AU is planning a five-week schedule with four 11-woman teams. In a statement released by the league yesterday, former WNBA guard Natasha Cloud said that one of her reasons for playing in the league is the fact that many pros who play in the WNBA have to play in a panoply of foreign leagues during the league’s offseason in order to get by.

“I have played overseas, it’s not what I want to do,” Cloud said. “I don’t want to spend seven months away from my family. To have a competitive league and stay in shape … is new wave. I’m excited to be one of the pioneers for the basketball side of it.”

The league will take place Jan. 29 to Feb. 28 of next year in a city yet to be determined. And I think the location of that city may be a determinant as to the direction that AU will go in terms of empowering female athletes. Given the fact that the league window is right in the middle of the NCAA and NBA seasons, I think it is going to be very difficult for this league to get any attention unless it becomes a true happening in the city in which is located.

And the thing is, many places in the U.S. are pretty well saturated with live basketball during the winter months. Even top markets for the women’s game, such as eastern Tennessee and southern New England, are going to have competitors for attention.

It’s a risk, but I have a feeling this is one which the league partners believe is worth taking.