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Archive for January, 2017

Jan. 31, 2017 — An unprecedented double

Late last week, Susan Butz-Stavin, the Emmaus (Pa.) coaching legend who has won more field hockey games than any other scholastic coach, won the 2016 National High School Coaches’ Association (NHSCA) Coach of the Year.

It is actually the second time that she has won the award, having taken it in 2006. But this past year’s honor was a particularly satisfying one.

Butz-Stavin has always had a knack for coaching her teams through the slalom of the postseason. But that’s because the Hornets have won the last 28 PIAA District 11 championships.

Emmaus won the last two PIAA Class AAA state championships under the weight of enormous expectations as well as the disappointment of a 4-0 loss to Palmyra (Pa.) in November 2014 in the state semifinals.

Emmaus got its revenge against Palmyra not once, but twice in the next two state finals. After a thrill-a-minute overtime game in 2015, Emmaus and Palmyra met again this past November, and the Hornets improved by four goals.

What I think has typified the Emmaus program over the years is not just the preparation, not just the execution, but the absolute dedication to being the best around. It is a team culture that has brought entire families into the game, such as the Jennings triplets, the Werley sisters, and the Grim-Wootsick-Sholder clan.

And all of that comes from its coach.

 

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Jan. 30, 2017 — The borderless life

Last weekend, I said good-bye to Cassie, a dance friend of mine who has made her life which is one less-traveled, but more-traveled at the same time.

Let me explain. For the last several years, Cassie has traveled around with one change of clothes, one jacket, one passport, and one very powerful notebook computer. She uses available WiFi to connect with a sizable clientele to teach English as a second language. She also is a traveling dance teacher, and makes enough money to get by.

In the last year or so, however, she was plying the notion of setting down roots somewhere to live permanently. She has made her decision now, and has moved halfway across the globe to start the next chapter in her life.

I’ve known a number of people who have taken advantage of technology and the relatively easy flow of people across the globe, traveling and taking in the sights, and living their lives.

This free flow, however, is under threat from politicians looking to control the free movement of people from place to place. From Great Britain’s “Brexit” to the closing of borders through legislation or executive orders, there are governments and government actors who are seemingly trying to get a handle on people wanting to move from place to place.

And, I think, are doing a ham-fisted job of it. It’s like early city governments trying to figure out what to do when cars started outselling horse-drawn carriages.

I think more and more people around the world — no matter one’s religion, social status, or national origin — have a different concept of “home” than in previous generations. Young people today, for example, think nothing of moving from place to place every couple of years with a minimal amount of possessions.

And I think, with the proliferation of digital devices to connect people in faraway places, the world’s wanderlust is not going to be able to be controlled — not by laws, and certainly not by walls.

Jan. 29, 2017 — An occluded forecast for field hockey

The U.S. women’s national field hockey team is a fresh mix of the old and the new, but given the heavy post-Olympic retirement after Rio, there are going to have to be significant performances by newcomers.

Thirteen players return from the Rio roster, in addition to the six players announced by Craig Parnham last year: Maryland’s Anna Dessoye and Alyssa Parker, Syracuse’s Jess Jecko, Penn State’s Amanda DiNunzio, UNC’s Casey DiNardo, and James Madison’s Taylor West.

Filling out the roster are several interesting players. One pair is Loren Shealy and Lauren Moyer, the strike partners from the University of North Carolina. And I think they’re going to have the most pressure put on them because of their attacking roles.

Another pair are players who have been at the edges looking in. Goalkeeper Duke’s Lauren Blazing has two senior caps to her name, while Maryland’s Ali (McEvoy) Campbell has earned 21 in three years playing mostly series.

But between the last three newcomers — fullback Julia Young of UNC, Miami’s Ali Froede, and Lafayette’s Amanda Magadan — you have the makings of players who could represent the States for multiple Olympic and World Cup campaigns. Young is coming off a successful U-21 World Cup as a back, and Froede and Magadan could very well fit the narrative about players from unheralded field hockey programs.

We’ll get our first look at this new side June 15th at the FIH World League semifinals. And I think a lot can happen between now and then.

 

Jan. 28, 2017 — Back to the icebox

The New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association has never shied away from holding its field hockey championships in the snowbelt between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

For the last 20 years, the field hockey finals for the Empire State have been either in Syracuse or North Syracuse, except for the last handful of years when the tournament semifinals and finals have been held in Cortland and Endwell, the latter of which is just 10 miles from the Pennsylvania border.

But starting in the fall of 2018, the six state semifinal and final games will be held at Williamsville (N.Y.) North. The school, which is well-known in American field hockey circles as the alma mater of all-time great Chantae Miller, will have a three-year deal through 2020 to host the Class A, B, and C semifinals and final.

The Williamsville North facility is a multi-turf pitch covering three acres of the lower campus along Hopkins Road, which takes you directly to Buffalo Niagara International Airport, a scant four miles south.

Locationwise, the school seems to be a pretty good fit. Except for that pesky snow.

Still, having seen the dedication of the players and staff when it comes to snow clearance when we were last at the New York state finals in Syracuse, I have a feeling they’ll come up with a solution.

Jan. 27, 2017 — USA’s try for a double

You knew that there were not going to be too many changes for Ricky Fried and the United States senior women’s national team selectors when it came to choosing a short roster for the World Games, where women’s lacrosse will be played out only days after the FIL World Cup.

But when you’re cutting down to just 15 players, the changes are notable.

The first big change is on attack, where Kayla Treanor, Brooke Griffin, and Alex Aust are being sat in favor of Alyssa Murray. This tells me that Fried’s attacking philosophy is built around pairs — Griffin and Aust from Maryland, and Murray or Treanor to work alongside former Syracuse teammate Michelle Tumolo.

In the midfield, Laura Zimmermann, the UNC graduate, is the odd woman out for the World Games. Otherwise, the U.S. roster for the World Games is identical to that for the World Cup.

I’m a little surprised that the U.S. coaching staff didn’t turn over the roster a bit more for the World Games, giving players like Liz Hogan, Kylie Ohlmiller, and Shannon Gilroy a moment on the world stage.

Then again, given the success that Fried has had as head coach the last few years, you have to defer to him. He’s done it before.

Jan. 26, 2017 — Canada’s try for a double

This afternoon, Canada Lacrosse released its 18-woman roster for the 2017 FIL World Cup. It’s a team which is very much in play as the potential rival to the United States for top honors at the tournament, which will be played in England.

Of course, the crux of the senior team — Northwestern superstars Selena Lasota and Danita Stroup — were the stars of the U-19 World Cup team that beat the United States a couple of summers ago in Canada. They join with incoming Syracuse transfer Allie Jimerson to make what could be an unstoppable attack trio.

But it’s not just at attack where Canada is going to give teams trouble at the World Cup. At center, the Red Storm has one of the greatest centers in the history of the game, Dana Dobbie.

Dobbie is very much a late bloomer of a player, having had to make the decision to go away from her original college team, Ohio University, when the program disbanded. She took her considerable talents to the University of Maryland, whereupon she not only set the NCAA record for draw controls, but she also has played lights-out highlight-reel quality lacrosse for the Baltimore Ride of UWLX, finishing as the league’s leading scorer.

In addition, Canada has Kaylin Morrissette, one of the NCAA’s leading scorers last fall. One plus is that the Canadians have a healthy Taylor Gait. The daughter of all-time great Gary Gait, she has dedicated herself to the game despite multiple knee surgeries.

But the up-and-coming players to watch have to be Bianca Chevarie, a high-school sophomore from the Six Nations, and Claire Mills, a high-school junior from Oakville, Ont. Their play has been good enough to keep Aurora Cordingley, the incoming Johns Hopkins freshman, off the Team Canada roster.

And, lest we forget, Canada were the silver medalists from four years ago. I think they’re going to be an excellent side this summer.

Jan. 25, 2016 — After a quarter-century in waiting

There have been a number of high-school field hockey coaches who have spent decades — willingly — as an assistant without even having the beginning of an idea of succeeding the boss and becoming head coach.

Names like former U.S. national teamer Diane Angstadt, who has patrolled the sidelines at Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) for some three decades, come to mind. Same with Kim Barbacci at Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) and Holly Becker at The Lawrenceville (N.J.) School.

But occasionally, long-time assistants find success moving up a space closer to the scorer’s table. A decade ago, Ann Beckley of Mifflinburg (Pa.) had taken over after 13 years of coaching at the JV level, and won a state championship.

This fall, a similar situation might occur at Factoryville Lackawanna Trail (Pa.). After 25 years of being an assistant at Trail, Gary Wilmet is taking over for veteran coach Sandy Spott.

Wilmet has a lot to live up to, since Spott had two losing seasons in 37 years of coaching. That’s saying a lot in an area which includes Wyoming Seminary, Dallas (Pa.), Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.), Lehman Lake-Lehman (Pa.), and Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.).