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Nov. 1, 2006 — Tipping points, but no Chick-Fil-A

I made the annual pilgrimage to Oakton (Va.) to see the Northern Regional semifinal matches.

I enjoy the trek to Oakton because I can ride the Orange Line of the Washington, D.C. Metrorail system and take a short walk. I think it’s the most Metro-accessible hockey pitch in the region.

In any case, I like to try to make the regional semifinals here because it is one of the great places to see a field hockey game in the United States. Two side-by-side grass pitches are fenced in with plastic fencing so that the spectators in the movable bleachers are almost right on top of the action. The games have a slightly staggered start time so that the games don’t end at the same time; the action is continuous. The concession stands have everything from hamburgers to hot chocolate, and even concessions from Chick-Fil-A, Subway, and pizzas from a local eatery.

This year, however, there were some changes. I didn’t get any Chick-Fil-A this year, but a grilled hamburger and Cool Ranch Doritos hit the spot. Too, the plastic fencing was replaced with the stakes-and-ropes fencing you might find at a golf tournament. 

What was also missing from these semifinals was the extreme drama of past years. Usually, these  semifinal “tipping point” matches (from which the winner is guaranteed two games as well as entry into the state tournament, and the loser of the match has 10 long months to rue what might have been) are some of the most intense games of the entire field hockey season in the United States.

It’s kind of like how a professional race car driver might take more risks in Daytona 500 or Indianapolis 500 pole qualifying than during the rest of the entire racing season.

Turns out that much of the drama had been wrung out in the quarterfinals held two nights earlier. Three of the four matches went into extra time, one went into strokes. And the fourth wasn’t decided until late in the second half.

Still, the Northern Region tipping-point matches made heroines, perhaps none moreso than Westfield (Va.) goalkeeper Jennifer Wisniewski. She made seven stops, many in the second half as Langley (Va.) attempted to narrow a 2-1 deficit.

She and her sister Stephanie are twins. And both wear the goalkeeper pads. Now, I’ve seen many sets of field hockey-playing twins — the Correntis, Luybers, and Careys in Florence (N.J.), and the Martirosians and Meerschwams out of Princeton University, for example — and they usually occupy similar roles on the pitch.

Never seen twin goalies, though.

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