TopOfTheCircle.com

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Sept. 25, 2016 — As pressure multiplies

Heading into last weekend, there were five unbeaten streaks for field hockey teams that were greater than 70 games each.

And now, there are three. Yesterday, Monument Palmer Ridge (Colo.) beat four-time defending state champion Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.). That halts the Mustangs’ unbeaten streak at 78 games, which is good for 11th all time.

Also yesterday, Severna Park (Md.) defeated Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) to halt the Vikings’ unbeaten streak at 76, just two games short of Colorado Academy’s mark.

I’ve gotten to know, over the course of many years, coaches who hate dwelling on winning or unbeaten streaks. They absolutely hate them. Part of it is because they would rather than focus on winning the next game as an accomplishment rather than trying to build on a streak of games, no matter how impressive it is.

Six years ago, Wendy Wilson of Yorktown Tabb (Va.), one of the best young coaches in the country, told us what it meant to build a winning streak back in 2010, when the Tigers’ win streak had grown to 54 games.

“The first year when we went 24-0, it was exciting and fun, but last year it was stressful because every game you felt you had to prove it, and even this year it was more and more (pressure). It’s hard to live up to (the past) especially with a whole new team.”

For some coaches, especially heading into a single-elimination situation such as a state tournament, that pressure doesn’t just increase game by game, it increases exponentially.

And this is why I marvel at the internal fortitude of the only coaches that have more than one unbeaten streak of more than 75 games: Eileen Donahue of Watertown (Mass.) and Danyle Heilig of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.).

Donahue currently has the nation’s longest winning and unbeaten streaks of all time, but also had a 77-game unbeaten streak a few years back. Heilig’s Eastern program currently has a 139-game unbeaten streak, but had the record of 153 games until Watertown’s current streak, which coincides with their seven straight MIAA state titles.

Eastern, incidentally, is 10 games away from breaking its team record for consecutive wins, which is 92.

As of now, these two programs lead the way when it comes to remaining unbeaten, and it’s anyone’s guess who can knock them off this season, as both teams are playing well.

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