TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Nov. 16, 2015 — The promise of what is to come

Last weekend, there were 17 state championship field hockey games, for both public and private schools, in states ranging from New York to Virginia. Yet, there was a moment, a sheer moment of unadulterated brilliance, that did not occur in any of the state championship contests, and may have outshone them all.

A little background, first. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) has never made a PIAA state final in field hockey, but is a prime contender for Class AA honors this season. The village of Mount Joy (pop. 7,410) is located right across the highway from a former aluminum distribution plant that is now the Spooky Nook Sports Complex, the Home of Hockey for the U.S. national team.

Under the tutelage of former Lititz Warwick (Pa.) great Jessica Rose Shellenberger, Donegal has improved over the last several years, and this season become one of only three high school programs ever to score more than 200 goals in a season in the 106-year history of field hockey in the United States.

Part of this is because of the assemblage of talent on the team. Goalkeeper Katie Jean, fullback Rachel Robinson, and forward Mackenzie Allessie are all on age-group national teams. None are seniors.

Allessie, a ninth-grader, has become the team’s offensive talisman. She came into Saturday’s game with 57 goals, which is more than any freshman not named Austyn Cuneo had ever scored in a season. The daughter of former Hershey Milton Hershey School (Pa.) coach Gina Allessie, she has had a stick in her hands almost as soon as she could walk, and had Shellenberger’s attention at the age of 10.

In an 8-1 win over Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class AA Tournament, Allessie exhibited an array of skills, ranging from the subtle to the showy. In the eighth minute of play, she was the primary option on a short corner with the Indians down a goal. She took the ball, pulled left, and beat the onrushing goalkeeper with a backhand shot into the netting to level the score.

In the 37th, she lofted a soft aerial into an open spot inside the striking circle — a play which would have been whistled down a few years ago for dangerous play. Teammate Lily Saunders latched onto it and fired it into the cage.

A later corner was a mishit that found a teammate on the left wing, whereupon the corner attack unit attacked the goal cage. A rebound came right to Allessie, who sent the ball over the line, completing her brace.

The freshman also was valuable on defense. In the 24th minute, Allessie was on the defensive corner unit when she was presented with an opportunity to clear the ball up the left side of the pitch. She dropped down. went to the backhand, and delicately lofted the ball about shin-high over two Carroll sticks — without drawing a whistle from the umpire — into a space where a teammate ran onto it.

But perhaps the lasting image from the game is on a buildup sequence that didn’t result in a goal. About midway through the second half, Allessie received the ball about 20 yards from goal with two Carroll defenders pinned on her. While in mid-reception, she made one step away from goal and then split the two opposing players, finding a lane into the circle while the defenders only found air. Allessie ran into that open space, then faced the onrushing goalkeeper. She made two fakes, sending the goalie to the ground. She then sent a hip-high shot towards goal, but a Carroll defender bunted it out of the air.

The last decade or so has been about the development of talented field hockey players across America. This site has seen many of them. And, right or wrong, this Donegal team is going to have a target on its collective back because of the talent they have for years to come.

They’ll be fun to watch. Go see them if you can.

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1 Comment»

  Kathy K wrote @

The Donegal/Penn Manor game for the Lancaster-Lebanon League title was one of the best high school games played this year. Better than many college games I have watched. The skills of these young ladies (both teams) is beyond their years.


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