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Archive for June, 2007

June 30, 2007 — The future of the Futures Nationals

We ruminated a few days ago about the possible effects that the inaugural Regional Rumble could have on the long-term outlook of the National Futures Tournament.

Of course, the obvious constraint on an expanded NFT (in which up to 80 teams could be involved) is the fact you’re working off exactly two water-based pitches.

However, a new turf stadium at Virginia Wesleyan College, adding to Old Dominion’s Foreman Field and/or its possible new hockey-specific stadium could mean that the NFT could be split between Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

Also, if the United States women can make the Olympic Games and get a bump-up in USOC funding and sponsorship, a third turf somewhere on the grounds of the National Training Center is not outside the realm of possibility. The ultimate dream is for the soccer stadium at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex — the first soccer-specific stadium in the country — to be repurposed as a field hockey complex with the installation of an FIH-compliant surface.

Of course, if you expand the NFT, you’re also expanding the player selection process. Long-time watchers of the Futures programs would remark on how Pennsylvania would have an even greater chance to dominate the tournament titles than it already does.

I wonder, however, if there is a way to guarantee that every state participating in Futures — from Pennsylvania to South Carolina, from Massachusetts to California — would be represented with at least a full team.

Of course, there are some who may want to see the Rumble U-14 Silver Division selection criteria enacted for Futures — random assignments instead of regional teams. It would enhance the competition, for sure; the 2007 U-14 Rumble race was so close that a single goal might have determined whether a team won the championship or finished as low as fourth.

But will we see that in an expanded NFT? I’m not so sure.

What do you think?

June 29, 2007 — Coaches matter

The past week down at Virginia Beach was a good week, full of energy and passion. Saw a lot of friends and made new ones, plus I finally met the founders of the Washtenau Whippets HC, the only pay-to-play field hockey club in the United States playing a varsity schedule.

I also saw some trends when it comes to how the National Futures Tournament is run. One less-than-obvious trend speaks to the quality of the NFT coach.

Time was, coaches in the National Futures program were recent college graduates, dedicated club coaches, or the occasional assistant coach from a high-school team.

The last few years, however, the quality of Futures coaches has been accelerated. A couple of years ago, Marina DiGiacomo, the greatest NCAA field hockey player who ever lived, was a coach in the Futures U-14 division.

This year, All-Americans such as Katie Grant and Jessica Javelet, as well as Team USA’s Vianney Campos, coached in the Regional Rumble. At the Futures Tournament, a number of collegiate head coaches like Temple’s Amanda Janney, Rutgers’ Liz Tchou, Maryland assistant Marybeth Freeman, and Dartmouth assistant Andrew Smith were on the sidelines, mentoring their teams.

“I would urge every Division I, II, and III coach to get involved with the Futures program, because it’s giving back to the kids,” said Smith, who coached the silver-winning Boston team in the U-19 division.”You’re developing the game — and you may not reap the benefits straightaway, but the kids we’re developing now will make Stanford a better program, and by the same token, the kids Lesley Irvine is developing (in the California region) will make Boston College a better program.

“Can you imagine a 14-year-old, coming to Futures for the first time, being coached by Beth Anders, Karen Shelton, Beth Bozman, Michele Madison, Jen Averill, Missy Meharg — all of these great coaches that we have? It would be unbelievable,” Smith added. “There are so many great coaches out there that could benefit from this.”

June 28, 2007 — U19 Final: Scranton 4, Boston 1

VIRGINIA BEACH — Region 5 has not lost the U19 division of the National Futures Tournament since it was moved from College Park, Md. to the National Training Center at Virginia Beach in 2002.

And not even a plucky Boston team from Region 2 could stop the juggernaut of Team Scranton in this year’s tournament. Despite Tacy Zysk’s fine seventh-minute goal against the run of play, the Pennsylvanians drew ahead at the interval and scored twice more in the second term to run out 4-1 winners.

Laurie Kerr, head coach of Washington Warren Hills (N.J.), got a big taste of the Pennsylvania work ethic when she coached at Muhlenberg College in the 1990s. She has dealt with a number of wonderful players who have either won or just missed out on state championships whilst at Warren Hills.

But coaching the likes of All-Americans Katie Reinprecht and Devon Gagliardi was another level of talent and sophistication.

“The challenge was to get these great players to play as one,” Kerr said. “They showed they could play as a team, even with a lot of individual talent. It took a couple of days, but they scored a lot of goals.”

For this Scranton team, it was enough to let them share the ball by creating shots. The last six goals Scranton had in the tournament were unassisted and were borne from scintillating individual brilliance. Scranton got plenty of attention for the flair shown in defeating Team Princeton in the U19 semifinals 4-1. A pair of Paige Selenski goals, including a gorgeous backhand, wowed the spectators at Landstown Road.

But it wasn’t as though the goalscorers were ball-hogs; much of the time, passing lanes were skillfully cut off. Take Taylor Swezey’s equalizer in the 17th minute of the final. She stepped into the circle, only to be left alone with enough time to order a strawberry smoothie from the nearby concession stand before she put the ball into the cage.

Just before the half, Kelsey Amy rolled towards the goal on a deep angle with three defenders cutting off crosses to the middle. Amy chose to shoot rather than dumping the ball off the defender for a long hit, and found the back of the net.

Nicole Nelson’s second-half goal came by dint of hard work, putting in a rebound past a sprawling goalkeeper. And Gagliardi’s capper in the final five seconds came against an empty net; Boston coach Andrew Smith chose to pull his goalkeeper in the final three minutes of play for an 11th field player, something allowed in FIH rules. It was the first time this had ever occurred in an NFT championship game.

“By that time,” said Smith, the Dartmouth assistant coach, “it didn’t matter whether we lost by one or three goals. We wanted to throw a wrinkle at them.”

But no amount of wrinkles could keep Scranton from giving the state of Pennsylvania another sweep of Futures medals.

Scranton 2 2 — 4

Boston 1 0 — 1

B: Tacy Zysk, fg, seventh minute

S: Taylor Swezey, fg, 17th

S: Kelsey Amy, fg, 24th

S: Nicole Nelson, fg, 35th

S: Devon Gagliardi, fg, 50th

Shots: B: 4; S: 13.

Saves: B: Courtney Osier 8, Alessandra Moss 1; S: Adrienne Ostroff 3, Devon Burnley 1.

Barbara Longstreth Sportsmanship Award: Surf City

June 27, 2007 — U19 Rumble: Tremble 1, Seismic 0; Work-It wins U14 pool

VIRGINIA BEACH — Across Landstown Road from the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center is a sizable park which has been used for national youth tournaments in soccer. But this year, there was a field hockey tournament which was part spillover and part experiment.

The three-level National Futures Tournament has pretty much monopolized the two FIH-compliant artificial turf pitches when it comes to scheduling; playing 38 youth teams down to three championships has taken anywhere from four to six days, depending on rain delays.

An expanding and deepening U.S. talent pool, along with several new programs of American player development, cried out for an expanded NFT. However, with only two water-based turf pitches, an NFT with more teams could lengthen the tournament to an uncomfortable degree.

In addition, there was a perceived lack of Division II and III coaches at the NFT over the years, given the fact that very few universities outside Division I play on artificial competition surfaces.

USA Field Hockey decided on a pay-to-play national tournament to be played on Bermuda grass, called the Regional Rumble. Originally an all-comers tournament with players from middle-school to the senior year of high school playing on the same team, the tournament format was changed to a 32-team U-19 field, with eight U-14 teams.

In essence, the addition of the Rumble doubled the size of the athlete pool coming down to the Hampton Roads area. This was feasable, given the fact that the tournaments were being held the week before the July 4th holiday.

But what the Rumble did was allow players from schools other than their region’s elite to be seen. The same could be said for coaches.

Kristen Heyde, head coach of the U-19 Tremble team, is the head coach for Pearl River (N.Y.), a lightly-regarded team in the lower Hudson Valley. But Heyde, thanks to her ability to merge personalities from districts large and small, schools public and private, and communities of every stripe from Buffalo to Long Island, is a national champion today.

“I could not have asked for a better group of girls,” said Heyde after celebratory ice and water dumpings. “They are willing to do anything for me. They’ve meshed as a team over the course of four days, and it’s been outstanding. I thought it was going to be harder than it was; these kids met each other, said ‘hi,’ and said that they were here to play field hockey.”

Tremble won the U-19 Rumble title with a 1-0 win over Seismic, a team from the Delmarva Peninsula. Nicole Sherman had the goal off a Meghan Broderick through pass.

“The thing about these girls is that they’re here because they want to play,” said Heyde. “They’re here because they love hockey, and that’s the most important thing.”

It must also be said that Heyde, a former goalkeeper for Siena College, had the services of a pair of very good netminders. Kim Steiner of Little Falls (N.Y.) and Nicole Lewis of Williamsville (N.Y.) North received special kudos after the championship game.

“Without them, we certainly wouldn’t have gotten as far as we did,” Heyde said.

Speaking of goalkeepers, one of the netminders for the losing Seismic team is the epitome of the kind of player who deserves a look in a national tournament setting. Julia Young is not the first player in Region 7 to have made a USFHA event without having played a minute of varsity field hockey, given the strong club system and international student population in and around the Washington, D.C. area.

However, what is unique about Young is that she attends Washington Woodrow Wilson (D.C.), a school which has not had field hockey in close to four decades. Young, who got her start with the Mater Amoris Ocelots, plays with the Capitol Pegasus club team.

“I’ve been communicating with colleges for a year now, and I’ve been getting as much out of Futures as I can,” says Young.

Young believes the day will come when Wilson will have field hockey, given the intersection of several factors: a new female D.C. Public Schools chancellor, American University’s hockey-specific stadium, and the work of the D.C. Starzz youth field hockey club.

Until then, however, Young has another project.

“I really wanted to start up the process (of getting a varsity team) this year,” she says. “But if I can’t complete that before I graduate, I’m actually trying to start up a club team, just to teach people how to play and get people involved at my school. The D.C. Public Schools need field hockey; it’s something that needs to be reintroduced.”

Tremble 0 – 1 — 1

Seismic 0 – 0 — 0

T: Nicole Sherman (Meghan Broderick), 29th minute.

Shots: T: 5; S: 4.

Saves: T: Kimberly Steiner 3, Nicole Lewis 1; S: Julia Young 3, Jaymi Solomon 1.

In the U-14 championship, an exciting morning of pool play saw Work-It vault to the top of the table with a second-half goal over Slam-It in the final pool round. Without the 1-0 win, Work-It would have tied Slam-It, Push-It, and Move-It for the top position in the U-14 Silver Division. Each team would have had four wins, a loss, and two draws. Work-It, however, would have lost the gold and perhaps even the silver medal because of goal differential.

As it happened, however, Work-It, coached by former Duke standout Katie Grant, won the pool with 16 points, dropping Slam-It to fourth. Push-It, coached by Team USA’s Vianney Campos, finished in second place on goal differential, with Move-It finishing third.

Grant, one of less than two dozen players in the history of high-school field hockey to have recorded a 50-goal season, was impressed with the ability of her players to process the information she was giving them.

“I love this kind of coaching, because too many girls don’t receive coaching where they really understand the game and really, truly learn it at this age group,” she said. “I really appreciated the coaches that I had at that level and made me the player that I became, and I want to do the same for any girl who wants to learn.”

For Campos, who received her first U.S. cap at the recent ATA Champions’ Challenge, it was a similar experience watching her young players develop.

“I started when I was 16 years old, so to see these kids doing what they’re doing at 14 is amazing,” said Campos. “I couldn’t have asked for more; seeing the skills these girls have is awesome.”

Work-It 5-1-1 record, 16 points, +7 goal differential

Push-It 4-1-2, 14, +10

Move-It 4-1-2, 14, +4

Slam-It 4-2-1, 13, +6

June 26, 2007 — U16 Final: West Chester 2, Kutztown 1

VIRGINIA BEACH — Even before yesterday’s U-16 National Futures Tournament championship final, Pennsylvania was already the winner. The state, which has some 303 hockey-playing secondary schools and boasts 63 percent of the 2007 U.S. Pan American Games women’s national team, had won the last six U-16 NFT titles.

Both Sylvia Shunk, head coach of the Kutztown team and West Chester coach Clarence Jennelle had steered their teams through pool play and the knockout round to face each other in the finals.

But there was still a game to be played. And even after West Chester took a 2-0 lead in the second half, there was a game to be finished. West Chester goalie Kylie Licata did everything in her power to close out the opponents, making five saves — including one with her face mask — as West Chester held off Kutztown 2-1.

Licata, a rising sophomore at Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.), made a flurry of stops in the final minutes, even after yielding a shot off the stick of Annie McLaughlin on Kutztown’s first shot of the half.

“We just said that we had to pull together, keep our D up, and they told me to save everything I could,” Licata said. “It was the first time I’d ever had the ball go off my mask in my life.”

Kutztown, led by U-16 national teamer Kelsey Kolojejchick, swarmed through the attacking midfield with great purpose and quickness. However, West Chester bottled up the Kutztown attack with timely tackling.

West Chester had come out of Pool D in second place, having lost to two goals to Team Trenton. But West Chester finished pool play strong and won their quarterfinal and semifinal matches, showing a certain resilience.

“The years that there are problems, there are parts that don’t fit, and the years we won the gold, we had players that weren’t afraid to make suggestions, and weren’t afraid to talk to each other and work issues out together,” Jennelle said. “That’s the key; getting players who will work together off the field as well as on. Losing to Trenton the other day might have been the best thing that ever happened to us; it set us up for everything else we came up against.”

Kutztown 0 1 — 1

West Chester 1 1 — 2

WC: Madeleine Hackett, fg, third minute

WC: Kelsi Lykens (Kerrie Edmonds), fg, 30th

K: Annie McLaughlin (Kelsey Hunsicker), fg, 31st.

Shots: K: 8; WC: 8.

Saves: K: Elizabeth Millen 3, Amanda Lockwood 3. WC: Kaitlyn Ruhl 2, Kylie Licata 5.

Barbara Longstreth Sportsmanship Award: Cape May

June 25, 2007 — U14 Final: USA North 5, USA Red 2

VIRGINIA BEACH — Mollie Reichard knew.

When the coach of the U-14 USA North Futures team received her team roster, she had coached or seen most of the players either at her Futures site or at the club level.

“I knew three-quarters of the players on the list,” said Reichard, who will be coaching at Ohio University this fall. “I knew that a lot of players played together on club teams.”

And she knew she was going to have a dominating team. The Northerners, all from Pennsylvania, won the final 5-2 over a USA Red team with players from the Delmarva region. The North took an early 2-0 lead, extended it to 3-0 on a backbreaking goal at the stroke of halftime, then was able to trade goals in the second half.

USA Red managed a fine Sydney Kirby backhand goal in the second term, but there was too much talent and physicality on the North team.

Gone are the days when the U-14s could get by with aggressiveness and a little luck; the Northerners had physical presences in all phases of the game, from 6-foot goalkeeper Ashley Beihl to forward Madison Harding, whose father Jeff played professional ice hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers.

“We seem to have a very good club system in Pennsylvania; our kids are allowed to play year round, and a lot of these kids have had older sisters or parents who played before,” Reichard said. “They’ve seen what the game of field hockey can do for them, and so they started out at an earlier age.”

In pool play, the North won all five matches, and drew a USA Red team which felt fortunate to be in the final. Heading into the final round of pool play, USA Red needed only a draw with USA East to make the championship game, but surrendered a second-half goal against the run of play. Red, less than three minutes away from losing, managed a field goal to draw the match at 1-1, thereby setting up the match with USA North.

USA North 3 2 — 5

USA Red 0 2 — 2

Barbara Longstreth Sportsmanship Award: USA North

June 24, 2007 — Pennsylvania/New Jersey 6, Midwest 1

VIRGINIA BEACH — For the Pennsylvania/New Jersey High-Performance Center field hockey team, the first half of the of the US Field Hockey National Championship match against the Midwest HPC was a test of the team’s work ethic encapsulated in the word “kaizen,” a Japanese term meaning “continuous improvement.”

Pennsylvania/New Jersey could have found itself doubting its improvement path when Midwest’s April Fronzoni put in a corner rebound in the third minute of play, while being unable to execute on its first seven corners.

But neither the team members nor P/NJ head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn were flummoxed in the least.

“We’ve had enough of a foundation, through our training, that we knew we would be able to come back, pull people out of spaces, and eventually get some easy goals out of it,” Holmes-Winn said.

After drawing level by the interval on a gorgeous high-low corner play between Katie Evans and Team USA’s Angie Loy, Pennsylvania/New Jersey rapped in five second-half goals, the last four in a span of less than six minutes to win the National Championship 6-1.

The win caps a splendid tournament for P/NJ, whose talent level and results compare to the best performances ever by a USA Field Hockey-sanctioned summer-league team.

Penn-Jersey’s eruption came about five minutes after Midwest peppered goalie Linz Markwart, late of Kent State University, with four rapid-fire shots.

“Our goalkeepers did really well in training, and unfortunately, Allison Nemeth got a head cold during the week, so Linz went in there and did a great job,” Holmes-Winn said.

U.S. international Sarah Dawson had goals in the 45th and 60th minutes, while Loy added a 59th-minute tally to her first-half goal. Teen sensations Katie O’Donnell (56th) and Kat Sharkey (62nd) rounded out the scoring.

P/NJ had some of the better young talent in the tournament, with Katie Reinprecht joining O’Donnell and Sharkey in the winning effort.

It must be said, however, that the outcome would not be the same without the efforts of some of the Team USA veterans, particularly captain Tracey Arndt (87 caps).

“With her out there, we could do things we ordinarily couldn’t,” Holmes-Winn said.

MIDWEST 1 0 — 1

PENNA-NJ 1 5 — 6

SCORING

M: April Fronzoni, fg, third minute

PNJ: Angie Loy (Katie Evans), pc, 22nd

PNJ: Sarah Dawson, fg, 45th

PNJ: Katie O’Donnell, fg, 56th

PNJ: Loy, fg, 60th

PNJ: Dawson, fg, 61st

PNJ: Kat Sharkey, fg, 62nd

Shots: M: 10; PNJ: 15.

Saves: M: Barb Weinberg 9; PNJ: Linz Markwart 9.

AWARDS

Outstanding Young Player: Katie O’Donnell, Pennsylvania-New Jersey HPC

Outstanding Goalkeeper: Amy Tran, New England HPC

Leading Goal Scorer: Katie O’Donnell, Pennsylvania-New Jersey HPC

Championship Final Outstanding Player: Angie Loy, Pennsylvania-New Jersey HPC

Championship Tournament Outstanding Player: Kayla Bashore, Midwest HPC

June 24, 2007 (bulletin) — US Pan Am Team, plus bonus info

The U.S. team is in for a tough assignment in beating 2002 World Cup champion Argentina at this summer’s Pan American Games, and the Beijing Olympic berth that goes along with it.

The selections that head coach Lee Bodimeade and the rest of the U.S. selectors made were probably even tougher.

The Pan Am team roster declaration is exactly 16 players — not an expanded squad from which 16 players can be declared before each match.

Here’s the team as announced today:

Kate Barber, F, North Carolina

Kayla Bashore, M, Indiana

Lauren Crandall, D, Wake Forest

Rachel Dawson, D, North Carolina

Kelly Doton, D, Wake Forest

Katelyn Falgowski, M, Wilmington St. Mark’s (Del.)

Michelle Kasold, F, Wake Forest

Melissa Leonetti, D, Old Dominion

Carrie Lingo, M, North Carolina

Angie Loy, F, Old Dominion

Lauren Powley, M, Maryland

Dina Rizzo, F, Maryland

Dana Sensenig, M, Old Dominion

Keli Smith, F, Maryland

Tiffany Snow, F, Old Dominion

Amy Tran, G, North Carolina

There are, however, a number of changes that can be made before the team leaves for Brazil sometime around July 8th. Here are the alternates from which choices can be made:

Sarah Dawson, Iowa

Jill Dedman, Boston College

April Fronzoni, Michigan

Claire Laubach, Wake Forest

Natalie Martirosian, Princeton

Caroline Nichols, Old Dominion

Katie O’Donnell, Wissahickon (Pa.)

Sara Silvetti, Maryland

Barb Weinberg, Iowa

A handful of people are being kept as part of a 2007 developmental squad, which could help fill out a practice team, train with the senior national team, or be part of the five-match Test series this October against Japan:

Vianney Campos, Pacific

Katie Evans, Delaware

Maren Ford, Princeton

Jesse Gey, North Carolina

Jessica Javelet, Louisville

Mia Link, Virginia

Katie Reinprecht, Flourtown Mount St. Joseph’s (Pa.)

Laura Suchoski, Duke

The selections are notable for the fact that three high-school students are amongst the 32 players selected for the elite pool, continuing the trend of outstanding development of players through Futures and advanced coaching at the high-school varsity level.

In addition, the rapid improvement of Dana Sensenig and Michelle Kasold continues; Sensenig only got her first cap May 1, while Kasold had earned her first cap last August against Argentina in the March to Madrid.

As mentioned above, the 16-woman roster is not final; as you might have inferred from box scores at the ATA Champions Challenge, Dina Rizzo (91 caps) was held out because of an injury. Her inclusion in the side assumes she can get to full fitness in just two weeks.

Even so, Bodimeade and the U.S. selectors now have a good talent pool available — perhaps one as deep as the U.S. men’s soccer team. The evidence? A U.S. side featuring unknowns like Benny Feilhaber and Frankie Simek went out and beat Mexico today to earn the lone North American berth to the FIFA Confederations’ Cup.

If you have one of those digital broadcasting services like a dish or FIOS, you might want to go ahead and order ESPN Deportes — the lone U.S. broadcaster who will be carrying the Pan American Games on television. You might see something truly special.

June 23, 2007 — Signposts

Today, I took the drive from my apartment to the National Training Center in Virginia Beach.

There are so many unique placenames and landmarks on the trip down — Aquia Harbor, the Ni River, the Po River, the Chickahominy River, Ladysmith, Rip-Rap Road, and Massaponax.

I’m down here for five days’ worth of championship action as six titles are contested — the women’s National Championship, the U-14 and U-19 Regional Rumble, and the U-14, U-16, and U-19 National Futures Championships.

We can’t shoot video of the championship finals because of an agreement with a sponsor, but we’re going to post stories on this blog.

We’re also planning a special vodcast about the first family of American field hockey — mostly because all six sisters are going to be in the same place at the same time for the last time in several months.

And we’re also looking at a long-term documentary project, a story about the 2001 U.S. women’s team and their three-continent, 10,000-mile journey to the 2002 FIH World Cup.

June 22, 2007 — A golden chance

The United States women’s national soccer team has always had the Anson Dorrance ethic of “Play for each other” since the first World Championship for the M&M’s Cup in 1991 (retroactively recognized as the inaugural World Cup).

In 2007, as the team gears up for the fifth FIFA Women’s World Cup, the team has taken the old adage “Playing for the shirt” to a whole new level.

gold_2007_wnt.jpgYesterday, in New York City, the U.S. women’s national team brought out a new uniform by Nike. The color: gold. Not the bright yellow of Brazil, Colombia, or Ecuador, but a metallic gold matching the color of the World Cup trophy. The jersey serves more than one purpose: since FIFA wants to minimize color clashes as much as possible in its World Cup tournaments, and since the United States has a red kit already along with Norway, China and Canada (three teams in the world’s elite), it was a simple matter to get the Americans to change its uniform, since its preferred color has been white.

It’s not the only time FIFA has made teams switch long-standing colors for their second-choice uniforms in World Cups. England’s men wore powder blue instead of red in 1986, Paraguay wore a copper-colored jersey in 2002, Mexico wore a red-accented white jersey in 1994, Spain wore black in 1998, and Holland wore navy that same World Cup.

Then there was the time when the South Korea field hockey team, in the Asian Games eight years ago, came out wearing mint green.

pinkwnt.jpegNow, while the United States has had a winning tradition in soccer for the past two decades, putting the team in gold kit is being seen more as a statement than an attempt to comply with FIFA’s rules on kit clashing. Thankfully, however, the team isn’t recycling its fundraising pink jerseys from earlier this year. Otherwise, our proud women’s national team might be thought of as a collection of Easter eggs.