Today marks five weeks until the end of the domestic field hockey season.
There are still many questions to be answered about the individual competitions in the states, commonwealths, and territories that make up the field hockey universe. But whereas many competitions have had clear favorites which come through at the end of the season, there are several areas which are incredibly difficult to figure out, even through a dozen games played.
Here are three areas to keep an eye on the next month or so:
1. Missouri/southern Illinois. With all respect to the public schools in the bi-state region which competed in last week’s public-school tournament, it’s the private schools which will be carrying the freight in the postseason in the St. Louis area.
The defending champions, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.), have not had an easy time this season. They woke up this morning with a 13-5 record after dropping their first of two matches in their Louisville road trip. Two of those defeats were against St. Louis St. Joseph’s Academy (Ky.), a team which has had good results over the last decade. But the Angels were tripped up by St. Louis Visitation (Mo.), a team which is just starting to get results in the last month after starting the season 5-5.
If there is one team to keep an eye on, however, it’s Webster Groves Nerinx Hall (Mo.). The Markers are unbeaten in October and had a perhaps season-defining 2-1 win over St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.). Nerinx Hall head coach Nancy Milward has announced that this season, her 35th at the school, will be her last as head coach.
2. Virginia. The Commonwealth now will crown six champions — four public and two private — this year. Though Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) is undefeated and the defending VHSL Class 6A champions, there is a chain of results which have ensnared the Patriots’ contenders.
Last week, FC beat Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.). Cox lost a game earlier this year to Chantilly Westfield (Va.). Westfield, just two weeks previous to that game, was beaten by Fredericksburg Stafford (Va.). Stafford lost to Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.) on Aug. 23rd. But on Sept. 12, Trinity lost 6-0 to First Colonial.
But a lot of time has elapsed between then and now, and there are still some good teams who may yet be identified through competition.
3. New Jersey. Yep, New Jersey. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) has been the unquestioned ruler of the Garden State roost the last 17 years, but after last weekend’s defeats at the hands of Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) and Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), there are contenders lining up to be the Vikings’ rival during the state tournament.
One is undefeated Moorestown (N.J.). It is a school which has plenty of history, being one of the oldest field hockey-playing schools in the United States. Further, it is the alma mater of Eastern head coach Danyle Heilig. The two teams play this morning at 10 a.m.
It won’t get easier for Eastern the next fortnight as its regular season comes to an end. On the docket coming up are Olympic Conference rivals Medford Lakes Shawnee (N.J.), Medford Lenape (N.J.) and Ocean City (N.J.).
I think you’re also going to hear again from Pennsauken Bishop Eustace (N.J.) if they can make it past Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) in the non-public state tournament. But it’s anyone’s guess what can happen in the only state where the state champions play off against each other.