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Archive for June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013 — A couple of Harrow Cup observations

Over the weekend, the inaugural Harrow Cup was played in Philadelphia, Pa. on the campus of Temple University.

It was an exciting weekend of competition culminating in a championship final which saw the Mambas beating the Tomahawks 6-1 to claim a large silver cup and a $10,000 cash prize.

I’ll have a video story on this enterprise coming soon, but I have a few observations from the proceedings:

1. Both championship teams had something in common: and it’s not what you might think.

Both the Mambas and Tomahawks showed some interesting parallels as they moved through pool play. It turns out that both teams had at least one Duke graduate who scored 50 goals as a high-school player: Katie Grant for the Tomahawks, and Amie Survilla for the Mambas.

Also, both teams had three mothers on their teams — Sarah Dawson, Lindsay Martin, and Danyle Heilig for the Mambas, and Tracey Arndt, Kiley Strohm, and Sandra Cook (who didn’t play because she recently received word of her pregnancy) for the Tomahawks.

2. About that “mom” thing …

The atmosphere at this tournament was much more casual than most top-level field hockey events in the U.S. The presence of strollers and toddlers and youngsters was very noticeable along the sidelines, and it lent an air of levity to the proceedings. It is a far cry from most of the history of American field hockey when a lot of the better players either never started families of left the game after getting married.

3. The offense was way ahead of the defense.

Often in a short tournament (e.g., National Futures Tournament or Festival), a good goalkeeper can make the difference. But when offenses like those of the Mambas can run very sophisticated corners and flummox all the best that the defenses have, it was trying times for the goalkeepers on the eight rosters. I was waiting for one of them to carry her team to the final, but that didn’t happen.

4. The principle of meritocracy.

Over the last couple of decades, much of the story of high-level field hockey in the U.S. has been predicated on who played for one of the “power” teams in NCAA Division I such as Old Dominion, Princeton, and the Big Ten and ACC schools. But the players in the initial registration pool for Harrow Cup included 99 colleges, the eight game-day rosters at Harrow Cup included athletes from NCAA Division II and III, and the teams included a pair of foreign competitors: one from England, and one from Argentina.

5. Dawsonville.

Field hockey’s first family came out in force during the weekend. Three played (Natalie Dawson Ashman, Sarah Dawson, Meghan Dawson), and there were a couple on the sidelines (Melanie Dawson and two-time U.S. Olympian Rachel Dawson). Sarah was the coach/captain of the Mambas, and she was running the game from the midfield, running in subs, and motivating players to go in and give their all. And she even was giving orders to her former high-school coach, Danyle Heilig, who has won 13 straight state championships with Voorhees Eastern (N.J.). Quite a reversal.

6. The Dale Earnhardt moment.

I was waiting for a moment during the competition in which a player or team risked everything in order to win that $10,000 check — a heroic tackle or takeaway, or a goalie save in an impossible situation. That all-or-nothing moment came in the final, when, down 3-1, the Tomahawks pulled their goalkeeper for an extra field player to try to pull a couple of goals back. But the Mambas ran out 6-1 victors; the Hawks’ gamble did not pan out.

7. The future.

There will be a second Harrow-sponsored event at Bucknell University next weekend, but a lot of conversation surrounded how to keep the momentum and energy amongst post-collegians going beyond 2013. What is hopeful is the fact that more than 300 players registered to compete for the $10,000 prize that is shared amongst the winning team members. It is a good-sized pool of potential players that have sprung up in only a few months. When you think about how many women compete in amateur tackle football in a given year (currently, some 85 teams are now organized in nationwide leagues) or women’s soccer (96 teams now toil in USSF-sanctioned amateur and semipro leagues below the current NWSL), these are two athletic pastimes which have their semiprofessional roots in the 1990s. Down the road, this one spark could lead to a host of interested players and even established clubs if enough sponsors step forward.