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Sept. 19, 2017 — Top 10 for the week of Sept. 17

Wow.

A lot has happened in the weeks since our Preseason Top 10 was introduced. I’d venture to say it has been the busiest first fortnight in many years. Part of this, I think, is the fact that many states that didn’t get underway until now have pushed their start dates back to Labor Day Weekend. But I also believe that there are a number of coaches and athletic directors who are unafraid of scheduling early matches against powerhouse teams to give coaches and players concepts to work on the rest of the year.

Our RightToRightIsRight.com honorary No. 11 team of the week is the junior varsity team at Clifton Park Shenendehowa Central (N.Y.). An early-season win over Latham Shaker (N.Y.) gave the JV side a 100-game unbeaten streak, and it was on Sept. 6th against Bethlehem when the Plainswomen’s streak got to 100 wins with three draws. The team did have a goalless draw with Burnt Hills (N.Y.) last week, but their unbeaten streak reached 106 games last week with an 8-0 win over Guilderland (N.Y.).

1. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 5-0

Indians will have an interesting game Saturday at home against Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.), a team which could contend for state honors out of District 2

2. North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 6-0

Knights will have a game this Saturday against Ocean City (N.J.) which could wind up being another bellweather for the Tournament of Champions

3. Mamaroneck (N.Y.) 4-0

The Tigers will have a road trip this Saturday to Wilton (Conn.) for a showdown at high noon

4. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 7-0

The Conquistadors sent an early message with a 4-0 win over Encinitas Torrey Pines (Calif.); major test to come with fixture congestion having to do with the Serra Invitational

5. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 5-0

Sharon Sarsen earned her 600th win over the weekend and played Wilton (Conn.) yesterday

6. Emmaus (Pa.) 7-0

The Hornets steamrolled their first six opponents of the season, but perhaps feeling the pressure of the occasion, they squeaked by Allentown Parkland (Pa.) 2-1 in overtime of their Cedar Crest Boulevard derby match

7. Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 8-0

Don’t look now, but the Comets have outscored their opponents 60-1 to begin the season. Gabby Bitts has been on the receiving end of many a good pass

8T. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 4-0-1

The Vikings had a splendid effort in climbing back twice from second-half deficits, nearly winning it with the last action of extra time

8T. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 3-0-1

The Royals used their maturity and senior leadership to hold down Eastern for the first half, and had every chance to win. Could set up an interesting rematch in the Tournament of Champions if both teams get there

10. Norfolk (Va.) Academy (Va.) 6-0

The Bulldogs have significant wins over Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) and Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.), playing a smart, opportunistic brand of hockey. NA will have its greatest test in the Ring of Honor invitational against Louisville Assumption (Ky.) the first weekend of October

11.  Clifton Park Shenendehowa Central (N.Y.) JV 102-0-4

The feeder team for the current Class A state champions, JV coach Julie Parsons has been around for this entire run of good form

Who’s out: Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 1-0 loss to Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.); Watertown (Mass.) 3-0 loss to Winchester (Mass.); Oley (Pa.) Valley 3-2 loss to Reading Exeter (Pa.)

And bear in mind: Monument Palmer Ridge (Colo.) 4-0-1, Darien (Conn.) 3-0-1, Wilton (Conn.) 2-1, Delmar (Del.) 4-0, Greenwich (Conn.) 3-0, Christian Academy of Louisville (Ky.) 12-2-2, Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 5-2, Wrentham King Philip Regional (Mass.) 4-0, Belmont (Mass.) 4-0, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 3-1, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) 7-0, Oley (Pa.) Valley 7-1, Wilkes-Barre Holy Redeemer (Pa.) 3-0, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.) 6-2; Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 6-0, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 4-0, Chantilly Westfield (Va.) 9-0

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Sept. 18, 2017 — A pair of significant weekend results

While this site was concentrating on the interstate match between Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) and Norfolk (Va.) Academy, there were two more significant occurrences in the field hockey world on Saturday.

One was the rematch of a pretty significant match from a year ago, but this year, the in-season confrontation between Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) was to take place at Montclair State University.

The last two times these state powerhouses have met, it was Eastern coming out on the front foot and taking the initiative, winning both contests. But Saturday, it was Oak Knoll who got the first goal in the 43rd minute off the stick of Gabby Andretta.

Eastern, to its credit leveled the score four minutes later. Oak Knoll then took the lead again in the 48th, leaving it up to the Vikings to try to even the score. The Royals’ defense were pounded for the next eight minutes before Kara Heck, last year’s leading goal scorer for Eastern, tied it up. The score remained 2-2 through 10 minutes of overtime, but not before a final scare. Eastern’s Izzy Sinibaldi, a promising player who has been gaining more playing time over the years on such a loaded attacking side, had a late breakaway but had her shot stopped by Oak Knoll goalie Jordan McGinley.

About 100 miles west of this game, history was being made in the Lehigh Valley. But for Emmaus (Pa.), the quest for getting head coach Susan Butz-Stavin her 900th career victory was not made easy by their guests, Allentown Parkland (Pa.).

Indeed, this game went into overtime. But it took senior Leah Zellner to finish off a one-timer from the wing to give the Green Hornets a 2-1 win.

These games represent their own varieties of a “gut check.” Eastern, in its last 17-plus years of dominance, was staring at an early loss for the first time; usually, it is late in the season when the Vikings fall short in any particular game.

And for Emmaus, the entire season surrounds one problem: how to deal with talent that is no longer on the team. Graduating an all-time great such as Meredith Sholder, the Emmaus attack has been looking for its own identity, and the overtime result certainly represents an enormous mental hurdle for the players on the current roster.

But overall, one cannot help but pay respect to Butz-Stavin, who has coached some of the finest players and teams of all time, including last year’s No. 1 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Final Top 50.

And yesterday’s grit and determination not to lose against Parkland was a testament to her methods. A hearty “Well-played!” from this corner.

Sept. 17, 2017 — What will the legacy look like?

The big news in amateur sport this past week was that Los Angeles was awarded the 2028 Olympics.

A lot could happen in the next 4000 days leading to the Games of the 34th Olympiad, and amongst field hockey cogniscenti, there is a lot of free advice out there about what kind of Olympic tournament will help grow the game in the western United States.

It kind of reminds you of the cartoon which shows how a varying series of complex contraptions made with rope, wood planks, and tires satisfied various interest groups in trying to build a simple playground swing.

So, as a public service, we’re going to make a thought exercise out of this, given what we’ve seen already on social media as well as  through Olympic and recent sporting history:

  1. The soccer solution. Since the 1984 Olympics, the various soccer tournaments have been a movable feast for the host nation. In 1984, for example, the men’s soccer group games took place at Stanford, Harvard, and the United States Naval Academy before matriculating to the Rose Bowl for the final. Given the number of FIH-compliant facilities in the United States, it would be easy to assign an entire quarter of the Olympic tournament — say, Group A men — to one site. If this was to happen, I think the logical existing four sites would be Chula Vista, Calif.; Moorpark, Calif.; Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, Pa.; and the National Training Center in Virginia Beach.
  2. The Western solution. Given the lack of field hockey infrastructure on the West Coast, it might be best to concentrate the Games into areas of California where the game is already present. Play the women’s tournament in its entirety at Chula Vista, while playing the men’s tournament in its entirety in Moorpark.
  3. The Kyocera Stadium solution. The 2014 FIH World Cups were held at the home of ADO Den Haag, a men’s soccer team in the Eredivisie in Holland. It required that six layers be laid down with a slight crown in the center but with the scoring circles remaining perfectly flat. Indeed, when Boston was the hot choice to be an American host for the next open games, field hockey was envisioned for Harvard Stadium. But for a West Coast games, the two obvious candidate sites for retrofitting are the Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif. and the as-yet-unnamed home of Los Angeles F.C., which is being built downtown. That, of course, assumes that soccer hasn’t already called dibs on these two soccer-specific stadia.
  4. The X-Games Solution. Ever wonder how events like the X-Games, the various Red Bull extreme sports competitions, and the Dew Tour are organized? It’s all about logistics and moving huge ramps and jumps from one competition venue to another. I can envision FIH commissioning one or more temporary bolt-together hockey stadia, complete with built-in watering and drainage systems. Like the current generation of temporary cycling velodromes, I think a hockey stadium could be engineered for installation and removal in a very short period of time.
  5. The Instant Rivalry Solution. If the four Division universities in Los Angeles County agreed to start varsity programs in exchange for hosting duties in 2028, you could more than double the number of programs on the Pacific coastline if you can commit to having several permanent water-based pitches on college campuses. Those schools would be the University of Southern California, UCLA, Pepperdine, and Long Beach State.

I’ll be interested to see what happens, given the fact that none of the four previous stateside Olympic Games (St. Louis 1904, Los Angeles 1932, Los Angeles 1984, Atlanta 1996) has generated a single NCAA Division I field hockey program in its host region.

Sept. 16, 2017 — Norfolk (Va.) Academy 6, Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) 2

NORFOLK, Va. — Kerry de Vries has had a varied life in field hockey, whether as a championship-level student-athlete at the University of Iowa or as the mother of a high-level player, Charlotte, at Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) and as part of the U.S. youth high-performance system.

This year, de Vries is the head coach of Conestoga, and, after yesterday’s 6-2 loss in a road match at Norfolk (Va.) Academy, she could have had any number of emotions or thoughts after the game.

But the first thing on her mind was something different.

“My takeaway from this day,” she said, “was how privileged we were to play a game on this kind of surface, the way the game was meant to be played.”

As much as the game revolved around Conestoga’s Charlotte de Vries and the efforts of the Norfolk Academy to defend her, the overwhelming story was underfoot: Norfolk Academy’s two-year-old on-campus water-based turf.

NA is one of only four secondary schools in the United States with such a surface, and the Bulldogs used it to great effect yesterday, jumping out to a two-goal lead in under five minutes with smart passing, letting the ball do the work. Ruley Fulmer and Lily Clarkson had two goals each for the hosts.

The game represented a homecoming of sorts for the de Vries family. As a middle-schooler, Charlotte de Vries played at Virginia Beach Cape Henry Collegiate (Va.). Two years on, with Kerry de Vries taking the job at Conestoga, one of the first calls she received was from Norfolk Academy, whose head coach, Linda Werkheiser, co-coaches the TCOYO club team along with de Vries.

“They were having trouble getting non-league games and asked whether we could come,” de Vries said. “My athletic director looked at me like I had three heads and I had to fundraise for every penny of this trip.”

The trip not only included the Norfolk Academy game, but an evening friendly against defending VHSL Class 6A champion Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.).

As for the afternoon match, Charlotte de Vries was indeed the focal point of the Conestoga attack. She scored a pair of wonder goals against Norfolk Academy — a screamer of a penalty corner and a backhand on a bouncing through ball that made it underneath the crossbar.

But that’s all that Norfolk Academy co-captains Greer Gill and Liz Heckard would allow. Gill was the flyer on the Bulldog defensive penalty corner unit, while Heckard, a central defender, picked up de Vries on several of her dangerous runs into the attack end.

“We knew that Char is an amazing player,” Gill said. “Defensively, we played amazing, trying to force the ball out before they could take a shot.

And it was in situations during open play where you would see the dynamic of respect between club teammates. de Vries would have opportunities in the attack third, but Heckard would take up a defensive position just about a yard and a half off the ball.  de Vries would wind up for a shot, but would see her club teammate in front of her and not follow through dangerously.

It is a different kind of hockey, one which is played above the shoulders.

“It’s a gift to be able to play the game the way it us supposed to be played,” Kerry de Vries said. “And against such a classy team.”

Conestoga (5-1) 1 1 — 2
Norfolk Academy (6-0) 3 3 — 6
NA: Holley Cromwell, fg, 2nd minute
NA: Lily Clarkson, fg, 5th
C: Charlotte de Vries (Grace McEvoy), pc, 16th
NA: Riley Fulmer (Grace Cornbrooks), fg, 19th
NA: Clarkson (Filmer), pc, 35th
C: de Vries, fg, 38th
NA: Fulmer (Sydney LeGuillow), fg, 51st
NA: LeGuillow, fg, 59th
Shots — C: 4; NA: 15. Saves — C: Ali Showers 9; NA: Olivia Highton 2.

POSTGAME Head coach Mary Werkheiser has been working for a decade to get to this moment: she has a smart, athletic team who not only executes, but is afraid to take on the nations best

POSTGAME Then again, it’s hard to call your VISAA Division I champion “upstarts.” They played smart and opportunistic hockey, hitting open players and taking their chances

POSTGAME In a game featuring two champions, it was the upstarts from Norfolk Academy who came out ahead thanks to smart play and interpassing, and the way that the Bulldogs defended against Charlotte de Vries

FULL TIME The horn goes with Norfolk Academy winning 6-2

58:51 NA GOAL LeGuillow is left behind the Conestoga defense and she makes them pay; NA surely has this won with a four-goal lead and under two minutes to go!

58:05 NA PC A low diagonal hurtles over the end line untouched

57:15 NA PC Fulmer saved by Ali Showers!

54:55 NA PC Fulmer pulls it wide!

54:00 NA PC Defensed by Emma McGillis; will rerack

50:13 CHS TIMEOUT

50:13 NA GOAL Sydney LeGuillow breaks open on the right wing and feathers it to Fulmer, who finishes! NA leads 5-2

47:45 NA PC Shot saved and cleared by the Conestoga defense

45:00 Gill and Heckard have been doing yeoman work on defense today against de Vries

38:30 CHS PC defended by Gill again!

37:26 NA TIMEOUT

37:26 CHS GOAL de Vries is fed a bouncing through ball and she golfs a backhand under the crossbar! Golazo! Conestoga trails by two 

34:45 NA PC and GOAL Fulmer finds Clarkson with a skip pass and she buries it; NA leads 4-1

34:15 NA PC Gill finds Clarkson in the goalmouth but cannot get her hands free

31:39 CHS PC de Vries’ shot blocked by Gill! Follow-up goes wide!

30:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME Conestoga found itself two goals adrift in under five minutes and have yet to recover; de Vries is heavily targeted on corners and has only one shot

HALFTIME The whistle goes with Norfolk Academy leading Conestoga 3-1

29:59+ NA PC Option-left spills over the end line

25:30 CHS PC de Vries with an option right, has a first shot blocked, second one is a high riser

22:59 NA PC Gill’s shot is judged to be dangerous

18:58 NA GOAL Fulmer scores off the left wing and the Bulldogs take a 3-1 lead

17:05 CHS PC 1-up defensed by Greer Gill

15:54 CHS PC AND GOAL de Vries finds the corner! The chase is joined, but NA still leads 2-1

14:05 NA PC 1-Up goes wide left

12:59 NA PC Defensed and cleared by Grace McEvoy

10:15 de Vries takes it 3-on-2 into the circle, but NA senior Liz Heckard stands her ground

6:10 de Vries makes a run into the circle but a good tackle dispossesses her

5:00 Conestoga needs possession here if they want to remain in this game

4:25 NA GOAL On the redirect, Lily Clarkson finds net! Norfolk Academy leads 2-0

3:39 NA PC Greer Gill fluffs the trap and Charlotte de Vries causes her to retreat

1:33 NA GOAL A mixup at the back leads to Holley Cromwell’s tap-in; a dream start for the hosts! NA 1, Conestoga 0

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME Conestoga is in the maroon with white numbers and trim, Norfolk Academy is in the white tips, blue kilts, and orange numbers

PREGAME This game’s video is available here if you want to put this on two screens

PREGAME The teams are warming up on the Norfolk Academy turf, temperatures around 80

PREGAME Today is a bit of a homecoming for Conestoga junior attacker Charlotte de Vries. Three years ago, as an 8th-grader, she was a standout for Cape Henry Collegiate

PREGAME Norfolk Academy is the VISAA Division I champion, while Conestoga is the current PIAA District 1-AAA champion. Both teams are unbeaten

PREGAME Hello, and welcome to today’s interstate field hockey match between PIAA District 1-AAA champion Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) and VISAA champion Norfolk (Va.) Academy

Sept. 15, 2017 — The perils of running afoul of the Constitution of the United States

Over the last dozen or so years, there has been dread, fear, and just a little bit of paranoia for non-revenue student-athletes at the University of California, Berkeley.

It’s much more than the kerfuffle which saw the school’s field hockey team lose its home ground for several seasons. It’s more than the cuts that were saved only at the last minute through alumni-funded donations.

And now, as it turns out, perhaps Berkeley’s decisionmakers made an error of huge proportions when it comes to Title IX compliance.

It’s come out this week that since the spring of this year, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights has put the university’s athletic department under continuous monitoring.

Usually this kind of compliance activity can be accomplished through reports written by lawyers or consultants. But to have monitors on campus, examining decisions as they happen? That’s a new one.

But what’s also new is what’s revealed at the end of the story: UC Berkeley’s athletic department is $400 million in debt.

That, frankly, could be the start of a domino effect when it comes to colleges defaulting. Only a couple of NCAA Division I universities have budget balance, and a lot of it is because of profligate spending on football and men’s basketball, and the inability of sponsors and donors to make up the difference.

Makes you wonder what might happen if the Feds step in at the rest of the 149 Football Bowl Subdivision universities.

Sept. 14, 2017 — The lessening of a craft

The last ten years or so has seen the retirements of a number of legends of the field hockey pitch from the coaching box.

But equally distressing is the number of sportswriters covering field hockey who no longer have work. Some have been eased into editorships, others moved to other departments of what is left of the paper, and others let go altogether.

In suburban Philadelphia, along the rail line from Center City to Trenton, there are two newspapers which used to be owned by Calkins Media, and are now owned by GateHouse Media, a concern based overseas.

Five days ago, the newspaper announced drastic job cuts. And amongst them were a pair of field hockey writers who are not only married to each other, they have an 11-year-old special needs child.

This is a child who requires almost constant care, and has to go to a special school in Philadelphia. Sometimes, if a required nurse does not make it into work one day, one of the two parents is required to accompany the child to school.

So, imagine if, suddenly, the two incomes needed to give this youngster a semblance of a family life were zeroed out.

Imagine if the job cuts also saw the end of the family’s health insurance coverage.

And what if, after decades of service, your severance is less than two weeks’ salary.

Just like that. Poof.

My journalistic colleagues are proud people, and not a family of means. And the last thing they would want is a handout.

But this is a situation where you have people in board rooms across the sea making devastating decisions about people’s lives without even getting to know what their impacts mean on these lives.

It’s just rotten.

Sept. 13, 2017 — A lawsuit in Philadelphia has the school district flat-footed

Remember this?

Well, this has been happening the last few days.

And given the incredibly weak-as-water response by the flacks at the School District of the City of Philadelphia at the end of the story, I think McRae has not only a winning case, but one which may broaden legal definitions even in the face of government interference.

Watch this space.