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Dec. 30, 2014 — The superlatives of 2014

It has been a record-breaking year in both field hockey and girls’ lacrosse on the scholastic level.

Teams like Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), Watertown (Mass.), and Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) have strung together wins like hyperactive squirrels aggregating acorns. In additions, individuals like Corinne Wessels, Austyn Cuneo, and Haley Schleicher have set records that will be very tough to match for the athletes following after them.

I have been asked to provide opinions on some of these recordbreaking achievements this year. I have been reluctant to, because it is hard to predict exactly what the achievements will mean over the course of time going forward. What if there are rules changes that change the style of play to make it either much harder or much easier to score goals?

After careful consideration, here are a few thoughts about what I’ve seen this year.

  • I’ve written more than once that the 2014 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) field hockey is making “a strong claim” to being the finest scholastic field hockey team of all time. This claim is as strong as one that may be made on behalf of the 2002 Eastern team led by sophomore Rachel Dawson and senior Lori Hillman, which I thought was the finest single team that I’ve ever seen. I’m going to let history judge the merit of teach individual team, but I can make one conclusion. The 2011-2014 Eastern team, I think, has put together the best four-year run of any U.S. scholastic field hockey team ever.
  • Speaking of this era, where does Austyn Cuneo fit into the pantheon of the greatest field hockey players of all time? It’s hard not to make a statistical argument, given the fact that she broke the old all-time record by 71 percent. This means that if you had reset the scoring odometer on Cuneo’s total the day she broke Lexi Smith’s old mark, the number of follow-on goals after the historic goal would have put her in a tie for 26th all time. Incredible.
  • But how do you compare Cuneo’s achievements to other great American players such as Anne Townsend, Beth Anders, Katie O’Donnell, Tracey Fuchs, and Maryanna Watson? Could Cuneo have scored at the same rate wearing wool skirts, playing with a heavy club of a stick and a leather cricket ball, all while having to mind an offside line on a grass pitch? Would some of the players from yesteryear have done better on artificial turf with the space-age weapons used in today’s hockey? It’s an interesting thought experiment.
  • Watertown’s achievements this year — winning the MIAA Division 2 state championship, extending its unbeaten streak to within a season of the all-time mark, all while not giving up a goal — is a remarkable achievement, but it also cannot be understood without context and comparison. Watertown has not faced an out-of-state opponent during its current streak, but you can hardly blame it for not doing so, given the fixture congestion of its league schedule as well as the financial restrictions of Proposition 2 1/2.
  • Haley Schleicher is a player who could very well vault herself into the conversation about the greatest scholastic field hockey players of all time. She has 138 goals and 150 assists, thanks to the first 50-goal, 50-assist season in the history of the National Federation. If she has another season next fall like she did this year, she could have a 200-goal, 200-assist career. That would be extraordinary, much less unprecedented.
  • The current winning streak of the McDonogh girls’ lacrosse team has been built upon a challenging series of non-league matches. The challenges continue in 2015 with Vero Beach (Fla.), Alexandria Bishop Ireton (Va.), Olney Good Counsel (Md.), Ellicott City Marriotts Ridge (Md.), and Ellicott City Mount Hebron (Md.). It is, however, within the IAAM where the Eagles will be most challenged.
  • Corinne Wessels’ record for combined lacrosse goals and assists (765) is very remarkable given the competitiveness of Manassas Osbourn Park (Va.). Virginia, especially in rapidly growing Loudoun County, is a maturing lacrosse incubator which remains challenged by the presence of girls’ spring soccer. Wessels put the team on her shoulders this past spring. You could see it in games when she would fire perfect passes that her teammates didn’t catch cleanly, and would sometimes have to rescue the play by hunting down that very ground ball and taking it to goal. For her senior year, she had to strike a fine balance between trying to get the team to win, and her making the Osbourn Park attack too predictable.
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1 Comment»

[…] unlike what I wrote a few weeks ago, it seems McDonogh was able to toughen its 2015 schedule with a three-game swing in Georgia. The […]


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