TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Nov. 22, 2015 –Winning games vs. winning championships

I’ve seen a lot of programs in both field hockey and lacrosse who have been world-beaters in the first two months of the season, but when single-elimination games come along, they wither.

This year, for example, just about every one of the county tournaments held in New Jersey was a repeat winner. A number of state tournament finals were won by familiar teams. In Pennsylvania yesterday, two state final winners yesterday came back for a repeat try. A third Pennsylvania team won its 11th title yesterday. Two teams stretched their championship streaks to seven years; a third team won its 17th straight title.

Good coaching is a big reason for this. Coaching a team isn’t just about managing practices, but being able to focus teams on the next game and not what is going on around them.

This is what makes today’s results in the NCAA remarkable. Two of today’s winners — Syracuse in Division I and East Stroudsburg in Division II, won their first field hockey titles. In Division III, Middlebury won its first title since 1998.

Both Syracuse and East Stroudsburg have had coaches who are great stewards of the game. Sandy Miller has been with East Stroudsburg University’s field hockey program for 35 years, and has won more than 300 games.

Ange Bradley, who was one goal short of winning last year’s championship game, has been in the game as a coach for a quarter-century.

Both of these coaches have gotten to the points in their careers when they know that their next berth in the championship final could be their last; it takes so many things to go right in order to win games, to win league titles, to win tournaments.

Bradley, I think, knows this as much as anyone. A year ago, the Orange lost 1-0 to Connecticut, a game that they knew they could have won but for a bounce or an umpire’s judgment here or there.

After the title match, I encountered Bradley in the parking lot. She didn’t have a distraught or exhausted look on her face, but one that was determined. “You’re going to win one of these someday,” I told her.

What a difference a year makes.

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