TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Sept. 19, 2018 — Farewell to a valuable source

Three weeks ago, LaxPower.com closed its virtual doors, presumably for the last time.

LaxPower, which was a valuable resource for schedules of everything from scholastic to Division I contests in both genders and for the NCAA and NAIA alike, had been around in some form since 1997, having been started by Larry Feldman.

I got to be a semi-regular communicator with George Hollenbeck, who was the administrator of the girls’ high-school lacrosse portion of the website. It was he who aided me in figuring out the trend which saw an explosion in scoring with the imposition of technology in sticks and new rules in changing the way the game is played.

Through his command of the facts and figures of the game, I was able to figure out the different lay of the land when it came to comparing the game that Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) dominated for a decade to the wooden-stick game played for most of the 20th Century.

LaxPower was not just a source of news and information, but also a substantial statistical picture of the game. Numerous states, such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, used LaxPower to seed postseason tournaments using the usual Ratings Percentage Index formula (1/4 your record, 1/2 your opponent’s records, and 1/4 the record of your opponents’ opponents).

Regrettably, a number of factors contributed to the demise of LaxPower. The biggest one was the corporate ownership of the site beginning a couple of years ago. That put the business onus onto making money, rather than inform the public for simple love of the game, so part of the site had a paywall on it.

(NB: It’s why TopOfTheCircle.com has never partnered with any school sports news publication; we’ve seen too many of them disappear without a trace. Anyone remember SportsHuddle, for example?)

But LaxPower had plenty of die-hard adherents, including communities of people who frequented the lively pHpBB discussion forums. Colorful characters with even more colorful nicknames dotted the space, and many of them displayed impressive wisdom.

I even remember one time when, during a Maryland-Virginia game, I noted that a UVA player left the penalty bench before her two-minute yellow card had expired and predicted the player would be sent off minutes before everyone else on the rail at the Lacrosse & Field Hockey Complex (including a couple of LaxPower denizens) realized what was happening.

For LaxPower forum users, the Final Four was always a great meetup, where stories got swapped about players past and present, and mostly from a neutral perspective (a couple of Maryland fans notwithstanding). Even though there are social media avenues that allow lacrosse fans to connect with others,  LaxPower was a unique community.

And I’m sad that it, and the site, are gone.

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Sept. 18, 2018 — Top 10 for the week of Sept. 16

Well, we’re back with another year of our back-of-the-envelope Top 10 teams, which take into account defense, strength of schedule (when possible), and personal observations by watching the teams play. It’s served us well the last two decades, so we’ll see how this year sorts out.

As we’ve also done for the last few years, we’ll also recognize a team from somewhere in the American field hockey universe for an accomplishment. This week’s RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Team of the Week is Rutgers University. The Scarlet Knights are 6-1 overall and recently scored one of their biggest victories in a generation. On Sept. 6th, a late Austyn Cuneo tally gave Rutgers a 1-0 win over No. 6 Princeton, which was the highest-ranked team the program has defeated since beating No. 6 Maryland back in 1998.

1. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 6-0

Vikings showed a lot in their 5-3 win over Oak Knoll, but they have a number of tough opponents in the next two weeks

2. Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) 5-0

Enormous wins to start the season against Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) and Downingtown (Pa.) West; team meets Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) this Friday

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

Hornets have shut out all five opponents this year; team meets Mamaroneck (N.Y.) this Saturday at high noon

4. Emmaus (Pa.) 6-0

These Hornets have steamrolled the competition by scoring 76 goals and conceding none, but the tough part of the schedule lies ahead

5. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 6-0

Don’t look now, but the Indians’ Mackenzie Allessie is carrying this team on her back with the graduation of several talented players over the last few seasons

6. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 4-1

This Royals team, despite graduation losses, still has a tremendous cadre of players, especially on the penalty corner defensive unit. Eastern had to work extra-hard to get the five goals they managed last Saturday

7. Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 7-1

The Comets have rebounded well after their opening loss to Academy of Notre Dame; a stern test against Hershey (Pa.) looms on Saturday

8. Delmar (Del.) 3-0

Wildcats have a Thursday showdown with Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) and do not have a home game until the beginning of October

9. Oley (Pa.) Valley 8-0

Lynx are looking forward to a Sept. 23rd match against Donegal, a game scheduled to be played at Penn State

10. Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 9-0

Having won the Apple Tournament, the Valkyries had a statement win over Collegiate, winning 9-0; competes in the Lake Forest Invitational this weekend

11. Rutgers University 6-1

The Knights continue their Big Ten schedule with games against Michigan State and Ohio State this weekend

And bear in mind: San Diego Serra (Calif.) 6-0, Westport Staples (Conn.) 4-0, Downingtown (Pa.) West 3-1, Palmyra (Pa.) 5-0-1, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 5-1-1, Hershey (Pa.) 3-1, Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.) 5-0, Norfolk (Va.) Academy 2-0

Sept. 17, 2018 — The other disaster

Over the weekend, much of the news was devoted to the remnants of Hurricane Florence, which kicked up tides and rained down feet of water on the Carolinas, killing nearly three dozen people.

But there has been another disaster affecting lives in the U.S., about 15 miles due north of Boston.

In the towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, homes were literally exploding over the last five days. A series of natural gas fires and explosions have torn through buildings and homes, damaging more than 80 buildings and killing one person.

But unlike Florence, this was very much a man-made disaster. In the last couple of days, information has come out that the pressure in the gas lines was up to 12 times what was called for. I’ve also heard reports that some monitors of the gas pressure were turned off in the weeks before the disaster.

In the last couple of days, as a response, the utility company, Columbia Gas, has announced that it was going to replace 48 miles’ worth of gas mains in the area.

That’s a lot of old cast-iron piping that needs to go. It makes one wonder if there are more leaky iron pipes out there that have not been addressed.

Sept. 16, 2018 — A chapter regarding the social issue of our time

This week’s entry in 19 Harvard Blazers is about the #MeToo movement, especially when it comes to the social dance community.

Sept. 15, 2018 — Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 3, Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.) 2

HUMMELSTOWN, Pa. — Emma O’Neill’s penalty stroke routine is the same as the best stroke-takers: know where you’re going to shoot before you go to the penalty spot, then execute.

“I back up one step, and wish for the best,” said the junior for Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.).

O’Neill’s stroke with under six minutes remaining in the game gave the host Falcons  a 3-2 win over defending PIAA Class A champions Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.).

The winning goal came against the run of play, which was very much carried by Greenwood the last 20 minutes of regulation. The Wildcats not only were able to come back from a two-goal deficit on the speed and stickwork from indoor national teamer Paityn Wirth, but had at least three gilt-edged chances to get more.

The most spectacular of these came in the 50th minute, when a rebound from a lifted shot met up with a Greenwood player at the left post a la Jamie Dwyer in the 2014 FIH World Cup. But the aerial ball couldn’t be guided into the yawning goal cage.

“We had some great opportunities,” said Greenwood head coach Kent Houser, “And that’s what we didn’t do in the first half. We weren’t playing badly, but we weren’t playing particularly well.”

Lower Dauphin, as is its wont, had the game to itself the first 37 minutes because of good possession hockey and the corner threat that is Audrey Domovich. The back has an extremely strong shot, and, whether it is a direct strike or a designed pass play (as it was to O’Neill for the opener), the idea for this team is to get a good start and manage the game.

“We want to come out with a bang to set the tone for the game,” O’Neill said.

“We have a lot of talent,” said LD head coach Linda Kreiser. “But it’s all in how we get all of that to mesh and how we put all those pieces together. And finishing; it’s hard to finish against teams with strong defenders, like Palmyra and Hershey.”

For Greenwood, this game was the first loss the team had suffered since a Nov. 1, 2017 loss to Oley (Pa.) Valley shortly before the Wildcats’ magical run through the Class A state tournament. The title win was a sensation in the towns of Millerstown (pop. 673) and Liverpool (pop. 955), the two villages whose populace feeds into the high school.

“First thing we had to do this season was forget about the fact that we are a state champion,” Houser said. “And focus on what we have to do day to day. We had some adversity, but we stepped up and almost pulled it out.”

GREENWOOD (4-1) 0 2 — 2
LOWER DAUPHIN (5-1-1) 1 2 — 3
LD: Emma O’Neill (Audrey Domovich), pc, 9th minute
LD: Maddie Gaughan, fg, 37th
G: Leah Bruner, pc, 44th
G: Haley Womer (Paityn Wirth), pc, 47th
LD: O’Neill, ps, 54th
Shots — G: 6; LD: 10. Saves — G: Kelsey Sheaffer 7; LD: Brandelynn Herbough 4.


POSTGAME The question is, will Greenwood be able to take those missed chances at the end, and use them as motivation for the rest of the year?

POSTGAME This has to be a confidence – inducing win for the Falcons, who played an excellent team game against a state champion

FULL TIME At the siren, Lower Dauphin takes a 3-2 win

59:05 Greenwood rounds the corner again but the ball is shot just wide! That was the chance to tie!

55:15 A wayward LD aerial is jumped on by Greenwood; they round the corner but cannot get it past the goalkeeper

53:14 LD PS Emma O’Neill pings the goal board and the Falcons lead 3-2! What a game!

53:10 LD PC Domovich’s shot is stopped by Sheaffer; rebound buried under the goalkeeper and a stroke is called!

49:46 TIMEOUT LOWER DAUPHIN Falcons need to change things here; Greenwood has woken up after more than a half sleepwalking

49:40 Wirth steals the ball from a Lower Dauphin back, feeds the inner channel for a high shot that is almost guided in by a Greenwood player at the back post! That would have been SportsCenter-worthy had it gone in!

46:06 GHS PC and GOAL Wirth’s laser is sticked down and then pushed in by Haley Womer! It’s all tied up!

45:30 GHS PC Option left finds Wirth, who is tackled; will rerack

43:13 GHS PC and GOAL Leah Bruner with a low seeing-eye flick that finds net! Lower Dauphin still leads 2-1

42:40 GHS PC Save by Herbough!

42:05 TIMEOUT LOWER DAUPHIN

37:16 GHS PC Wirth’s 1-Up saved by Brandelynn Herbough

36:01 LD GOAL The ball falls to Maddie Gaughan, who has enough time to order a walking taco from the concession stand before giving LD a 2-0 lead

35:00 LD PC Wirth defenses the first shot; follow-up is batted away — no call?

30:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME Makes you wonder how Lower Dauphin didn’t have better results this year against Rt. 422 rivals Palmyra and Hershey

HALFTIME As much as LD has had the ball, Greenwood has to feel fortunate to be down just one goal

HALFTIME The siren sounds as Lower Dauphin takes a 1-0 lead into the interval

28:13 Wirth gets into the circle; nice tackle prevents a good shot

23:56 TIMEOUT, GREENWOOD

23:30 Pegram with a shot from the left wing; Sheaffer is equal

20:00 Lower Dauphin has seen almost all of the ball the last 10 minutes, although Paityn Wirth almost got a corner through some fantastic dribbling skills

15:30 LD PC Domovich with a backhander, but a raised ball on the first shot

12:10 LD PC Raised ball by Sienna Pegram, and the Wildcats get a free hit coming out

11:20 LD PC Kelsey Sheaffer saves Domovich’s ping

10:50 LD PC A stick obstruction gives the Falcons a redo

10:30 LD PC Obstruction gives the Falcons a re-rack

9:00 LD PC and GOAL Emma O’Neill, the unmarked corner inserter, tips in the Audrey Domovich blast! Lower Dauphin takes a 1-0 lead

6:00 A lot of poking and prodding thus far; Lower Dauphin with the possession edge

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME Lower Dauphin is in the white with blue numbers; Greenwood is in the royal blue with yellow trim

PREGAME The teams are warming up under cloudy skies, humid with temps around 75

PREGAME I’ll refer you to yesterday’s blog entry to preview this match

PREGAME Hello and welcome to Kreiser-Hallman Field in Hummelstown, Pa. for this game between the Greenwood Wildcats and Lower Dauphin Falcons

Sept. 15, 2018 — Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 5, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 3

VOORHEES, N.J. — It always seems as though, at the highest levels of field hockey, an incident happens in a game that isn’t covered by the rule book. Such was the case when Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) played Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) in a rematch of last year’s NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final.

While today’s game was won 5-3 by Eastern, the game was unorthodox to the point of being bizarre. For one, it was an eight-goal thriller between two teams which had conceded exactly two goals in their combined nine games in the 2018 season.

It was a game that could not have pleased either coaching staff. Oak Knoll had to have felt hard-done as the team received six bookings, and the team’s most dangerous attacker, Bridget Murphy, spent a fifth of regulation in the sin-bin. Too, the Royals’ corner flyer, Joli Porto, missed the final third of the game with a lower-body injury.

For its part, Eastern was definitely not happy conceding a pair of goals in the final three minutes of play, and head coach Danyle Heilig burned a timeout with 30 seconds left in the game, something you do not see from a team two goals to the good.

But there was one situation that nobody in attendance had expected. In the game’s 19th minute, one of the two umpires made a sudden cut and went down on the McAleer Stadium turf. She tried to break her fall by putting her hands down, and fractured her wrist. This necessitated a call out for a replacement umpire, and delayed the game for some 40 minutes.

“It’s the first time that has happened in either my playing or coaching career,” Heilig said. “She wanted to continue, but the wrist was severely broken.”

It’s a situation that isn’t found in either the rule book or in coaching manuals. But the teams kept loose as best they could during the delay.

“I give credit to our team and to Oak Knoll; that’s a great adversity to have to deal with,” Heilig said. “You have to keep talking to the girls about the things you’re thinking about during the game, and keep them focused on that.”

“It’s not like we practice these types of scenarios,” Good said. “But we’re a real focused group. As much as they were focused on the game plan, they also have to stay loose. They were having a little dance party, trying to keep loose, and doing what they had to do to keep it light and fun, and that’s what this team is about.”

But what Oak Knoll is also about is defense, especially on penalty corners. It’s notable that Oak Knoll’s opening goal came just three minutes after Porto’s injury, when forward Annabelle Brodeur latched onto a diagonal through ball from Murphy and sliced it into the cage to level the score.

What that did, however, was shake the Vikings into action. Eastern scored the next four goals, including three on penalty corners. About a minute after the game was made level, the Vikings worked the ball around to an open Ryleigh Heck at the stroke mark for a short flip.

Ten minutes later, senior Madison Guyer took a different route, flipping an aerial over the Royals corner defense and goalkeeper. And Kara Heck, the team’s leading scorer the last two years, had a brilliant slaloming solo effort to eliminate three players on a 57th minute corner.

“I’m sure we’re going to see them again (in the Tournament of Champions),” Heilig said. “This is why we schedule them.”

But even with Eastern holding a 5-1 lead, the Royals kept coming back in the final three minutes

“Our girls have confidence in ourselves, and confidence in each other,” Good said. “Losing seven starters from last year, we needed a test to see where we are. It’s game five (of the season), and at this point at the season, I’ll take it.”

OAK KNOLL (4-1) 0 3 — 3
EASTERN (6-0) 1 4 — 5
E: Riley Hudson, fg, 10th minute
OK: Annabelle Brodeur (Bridget Murphy), fg, 40th
E: Ryleigh Heck (Kara Heck), pc, 41st
E: Madison Guyer, pc, 50th
E: Linsey Champa (K. Heck), fg, 54th
E: K.Heck, pc, 57th
OK: Lily Ramsey (Avery Donahue), fg, 58th
OK: Megan Joel (Murphy), fg, 60th
Shots: OK: 9; E: 16. Saves: OK: Colleen Quinn 9, defensive 2; E: Nina Santore 6.


POSTGAME Both teams laid down chits for a future meeting, perhaps late into November in the Tournament of Champions

POSTGAME We thought there might be seven or so goals in this match, but given the fact that both teams had combined for just one goal conceded on defense, there is going to be a lot of work done in the next few weeks to shore up the rearguard

POSTGAME Neither team or coach could be truly happy with the result; Oak Knoll because of the defeat, and Eastern because they conceded a pair of goals in the last three minutes

FULL TIME The horn sounds with Eastern beating Oak Knoll 5-3 in a bit of a bizarre contest

59:30 TIMEOUT, EASTERN

59:30 OKS GOAL Murphy with a late goal in acres of Eastern backfield; Oak Knoll still trails by two

57:32 OKS GOAL Lily Ramsey takes a bouncing ball from Donahue and finishes it; Oak Knoll still trails 5-2

56:24 EHS PC and GOAL Kara Heck slaloms through three Oak Knoll defenders and scores it! Eastern leads 5-1

53:51 EHS GOAL A through pass from Kara Heck finds a wide-open Linsey Champa and she makes no mistake! Eastern leads 4-1

52:10 EHS PC Pass into the circle is cleared by Emily Antunes

50:23 OKS YELLOW Bridget Murphy is off for five minutes

49:43 EHS PC and GOAL An aerial from Madison Guyer finds net! Eastern up 3-1

48:25 OKS PC Murphy gets space but the ball gets her foot

47:10 TIMEOUT, OAK KNOLL Royals are playing a lot better than in the first term; can they execute when it counts?

46:05 OKS PC Whistled for a dangerous stick

44:00 OKS PC Whistled for a dangerous stick

42:58 EHS PC Ryleigh Heck with a backhander, which is saved!

40:40 EHS PC and GOAL An option-left off a Brooklyn insert finds Ryleigh Heck for the flip from the stroke line; Eastern leads 2-1

39:08 OKS GOAL And just like that, Murphy thunders up the field and draws defenders, makes the diagonal pass to Brodeur who puts it in! Game tied 1-1

38:30 EHS PC Defensed by Avery Donahue

37:55 EHS PC Option right is broken up; will rerack

37:55 A collision fells Porto, who has been awesome as Oak Knoll’s corner flyer; a corner is called on the Royals, adding a bit of insult to a literal injury

36:43 EHS PC Quinn makes three saves on the flurry; a long hit is the result

34:05 OKS GREEN On the bench for dissent

30:15 Eastern presses forward with eight players off the hitback

30:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME It will be interesting to see how the Royals handle being down two for the start of the half

HALFTIME The horn sounds with Eastern holding a 1-0 lead

29:33 OKS YELLOW Murphy is off for a late tackle and the Royals are down two players

28:15 OKS GREEN Megan Joel is off for as a result of the late stick tackle

26:15 OKS PC Defensed by Kylie Zielinski

24:00 An Oak Knoll pass in front just misses Brodeur

20:55 EHS PC The hi-lo to inserter Kara Heck is dealt with by Quinn

19:50 EHS GREEN Ryleigh Heck is off for two minutes for delay of game: interestingly, the call was made by the replacement umpire. She was evidently briefed on the game situation where greens were being handed out for playing the ball after the whistle. Good work by the game officials here

18:44 We are back under way

18:44 A replacement umpire has arrived; we will get started momentarily

18:44 Oak Knoll’s corner defense is its usual excellent self, and it took a bit of fortune for Eastern to wrest the lead on a field goal. Oak Knoll has been able to make dangerous attacking runs with the ball, but has yet to manufacture a good-enough goal shot

18:44 So, let’s analyze what we have seen thus far. Eastern has the lone goal and has had the lion’s share of the play inside the attacking circle

18:44 It’s been a decade and a half since I have seen a substitution for an umpire; it was the ACC final at the University of Maryland and Richard Kentwell injured a hamstring. There was a third umpire at the table and the switch was made

18:44 Timeout is called; one of the umpires is injured and will need to be replaced

17:58 EHS PC Blown down for a raised ball

17:35 EHS PC Heck beats Porto off the dribble but can’t beat Quinn

12:58 OKS GREEN Bridget Murphy is off for two for delay of game

11:50 EHS PC Blocked down by the flyer again

9:59 EHS GOAL An innocuous play in front results in the ball finding Riley Hudson for a putaway; not the prettiest finish but they all count; Eastern leads 1-0

8:57 OKS GREEN Brodeur is off for a bad tackle

7:40 EHS PC A hi-lo is saved by Quinn and the rebound cleared by the resolute Royal rearguard!

6:45 EHS PC Defensed by Joli Porto, the team’s corner flyer

6:00 Eastern with a flurry in front of goalie Colleen Quinn; she makes a save and the rebound saved off the line!

5:10 EHS PC The passing play breaks down, and Oak Knoll clears

3:30 Kara Heck, from her knees, shoots just inches wide!

1:30 Deep cross from Isabella Brodeur almost finds an Oak Knoll teammate inside the D, but Tara Somers intercedes

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME Oak Knoll is wearing navy with gold trim and white numbers; Eastern is in the white tops with maroon kilts and numbers with blue trim

PREGAME The teams are warming up on the pitch under partly cloudy skies, temperatures around 80

PREGAME Please read the blog entry from two days ago for an in-depth preview of this match

PREGAME Hello, and welcome to McAleer Stadium in Voorhees, N.J. for this interconference match between the Oak Knoll Royals and the Eastern Vikings

Sept. 14, 2018 — PREVIEW: No. 3 Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.) vs. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)

Second in a series previewing some titanic matchups this weekend:

Where and when: Kreiser-Hallman Field, Hummelstown, Pa, 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Records (as of the start of play Sept 14): Greenwood 3-0, Lower Dauphin 4-1-1.

Key early wins: Greenwood: defeated State College Area (Pa.) 4-1; Lower Dauphin: defeated Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.) 4-0

Key players: Greenwood: Paityn Wirth (sr., f), Grace Lesh (jr., f), Kylie Cameron (sr., d), Jenna Sherrick (sr., d); Lower Dauphin: Audrey Domovich (sr., d), Emma O’Neill (jr., f), Caitlin Holland (sr., f/m), Maggie Gaughan (sr., m)

The skinny: Though Lower Dauphin has not hoisted the PIAA trophy since 2013, I think this year’s team is more than a match for the contenders in Class AAA: namely, Emmaus, Downingtown West, Penn Manor, and Conestoga. They are a fit, skilled, and well-trained team which can get on top of you quickly; they scored on their first shot against Penn Manor in a friendly last month and gave the current large-school champs all they could handle. LD is also playing a raft of tough matches to start the season, including last weekend’s tournament at Landisville Hempfield (Pa.) and next week’s Falcon Classic.

Greenwood is going to be all about giving Paityn Wirth her due as not only a champion, but as a U.S. national team indoor representative. She played for the States at the 2018 Indoor World Cup of field hockey in Europe, and is a tremendous player in tight spaces both on the indoor pitch and in the outdoor.

Frankly, this game may be the closest thing you’re going to get to a Pennsylvania Tournament of Champions (last month’s game between Academy of Notre Dame and Penn Manor notwithstanding). Greenwood is the current state Class A champion, and Lower Dauphin is a champion-in-waiting, so this may be a pivot point for the entire state.