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Archive for August, 2017

Aug. 31, 2017 — The friendly “friendly”

I first came across the term “friendly,” a term used by most of the English-speaking world to denote an exhibition or preseason athletic contest, in the pages of a cricket scorebook.

And in many field hockey scorebooks, there is a checkbox on each page to distinguish the game being scored as a friendly, a league fixture, or a cup tie.

I always thought the term “friendly,” as used in this situation, sometimes inapt. Whenever the United States men’s soccer team plays Mexico in an exhibition, the media pick up on the term “friendly” and, given the histories between the two teams since the 1990s, term the game as “anything but friendly.”

Preseason field hockey, over the last few seasons, has become a panoply of dream matchups that, for whatever reason, aren’t scheduled during the regular season.

The last few years, Watertown (Mass.) has made it a point to play Acton-Boxboro (Mass.) in the preseason, and many a time both teams have won the previous fall’s state championships in their respective divisions.

The same could be said of yesterday’s friendly between Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) and Emmaus (Pa.), both of whom won state titles last fall. But there was a bit more on the line yesterday.

Because last fall, Emmaus was the No. 1 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, with Donegal at No. 2. This week, Donegal held the top spot in the TopOfTheCircle.com Preseason Top 10, with Emmaus at No. 7.

With plenty of green on display at Donegal’s shimmering green turf pitch, Donegal took an early lead, but Emmaus got two quick goals at the inception of the second half. The teams then finished in a draw after a 7-on-7 period, then worked out the goalies in a penalty shootout.

It should be interesting to see what happens when the top six teams in Pennsylvania reconvene in Whitehall in late November. Will both teams be there? We’ll see.

 

 

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Aug. 30, 2017 — An appreciation: Laura LeMire, midfielder, United States

Laura LeMire was more than just your average multi-sport athlete from the dawn of Title IX.

Indeed, she was very much the origin of the multisport excellence that has been occurring at the University of Maryland for the last quarter of a century. She played on the AIAW title team for women’s lacrosse in 1981 — the first of what would become 14 national titles.

In field hockey, LeMire played on Terp teams that played in the AIAW national tournament, but in 1980, she became the first Maryland athlete to make the senior women’s national team, leading to the presence of players like Keli Smith and Dina Rizzo and Katie Bam and Jill Witmer on more recent rosters.

Laura LeMire not only left College Park with a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree geotechnical and geo-enviornmental engineering. She used those degrees well, working for a utility company for a decade and a half, then turning her attention back to sports, becoming a director for STX.

But it was a dozen years ago when she turned her attention back to academia, joining the engineering department at the Community College of Baltimore County.

It was while working there that she was informed that she had developed breast cancer. After a substantial fight, she died last week at the age of 57.

Laura LeMire’s life is a complicated one to shovel into the constraints of a single blog entry. But it’s conceivable to wonder whether the combined excellence of the current field hockey and lacrosse teams in College Park would have happened without her.

Aug. 29, 2017 — The national preseason Top 10

Today, this site releases a preseason national Top 10, based upon last year’s performances, individual players in the club pipeline, and returning players. Because of these and other variables, this is very much of a back-of-the-envelope (or in this case, a Post-It note) list.

This Top 10 goes weekly in mid-to-late September once everyone has gotten started. And because of some early-season tournaments and non-conference matches, there are going to be a lot of changes between this list and the first weekly Top 10.

1. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 29-0

The defending PIAA Class AA champions return a veteran group which includes goalie Katie Jean and attacking midfielder Mackenzie Allessie, but this team also has a number of fit and fine players who can play just about every outfield position. Tactically, might be the toughest team to beat this season.

2. North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 24-1

The Knights won last year’s Tournament of Champions with a masterful style of play that incorporates all elements of the modern game. They return three 30-goal scorers and much of the starting eleven.

3. Mamaroneck (N.Y.) 15-2-2

The Tigers feel as thought they have unfinished business after gaining a draw with Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) but fell short of making the state final, losing the NYSPHSAA Section 1 Class A final to Scarsdale. Team had unusually strong showing in a series of friendlies in Bermuda.

4. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 17-6

Lower Dauphin gave Donegal one of its closest games a year ago, losing in overtime of the Falcon Classic. The two teams are once again entered in this invitational in 2017. Should the two teams meet again, it will be another instant classic.

5. Voorhees Eastern (Va.) 23-3

Yep, that’s a “3” in the loss column for Eastern. But there shouldn’t be consternation in Viking Nation. This is a team which has had at least one 50-goal scorer every year since 2011, and has won the last 18 NJSIAA Group IV championships. The Vikings’ out-of-conference schedule is very stout: Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.), Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), Madison (N.J.), and Moorestown (N.J.), the alma mater of head coach Danyle Heilig.

6. Oley (Pa.) Valley 26-1

The Lynx were having a memorable run through its season, winning its first 26 games. In the PIAA Class A final, however, the team ran into Mayv Clune and Bethlehem Moravian Academy (Pa.). Oley Valley fell adrift 4-0 before mounting a thrilling comeback which was about two inches away from being on level terms in the final minute.

7. Emmaus (Pa.) 28-0

Emmaus has won the last two PIAA Class AAA titles. No team has ever won three in a row. For this to happen for this Hornets team, a lot has to go right. There will also have to be a change in mindset for the team, that there’s not going to be a brunette with a No. 2 shirt running out of that locker room to rescue them. The onus is on the current team to continue their run of form.

8. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 27-0

This team has not just been Megan Rodgers the last few seasons. This year’s team is likely to be led by junior Katie Schneider and senior Katherine Peterson. Other veterans such as Hannah Winn and Jane Onners will be joined by a number of club players from San Diego RUSH. Could this be a golden age for this program?

9. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 20-0-2

The Hornets may not be the best team in the lower Hudson Valley this year; that determination will come after Lakeland plays Mamaroneck (N.Y.) in early October. Lakeland going for a ninth straight state championship, but it won’t be easy.

10. Watertown (Mass.) 23-0

The Raiders are also going for a ninth straight state title, but will have to do it without Kourtney Kennedy, who has matriculated to Connecticut. Should the team’s unbeaten streak continue through the season, the potential 200th game could come Oct. 25th with a home match against Burlington (Mass.).

And bear in mind: Englewood Kent Denver (Colo.) 16-0-2, Christian Academy of Louisville (Ky.) 21-5-1, Walpole (Mass.) 22-0-2, Clifton Park Shenendehowa (N.Y.) Central 21-0, Palmyra (Pa.) 22-3; Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 24-3; Norfolk (Va.) Academy 20-2; Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 19-4

Aug. 28, 2017 — Surviving Harvey

Over the weekend, Hurricane Harvey brought wind, a storm surge, and rain measured in feet instead of inches to southeast Texas. Much of the news coverage over the past couple of days has surrounded the city of Houston.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States by population and the ninth-largest city in the world by land mass. Like the eighth-largest city, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston expanded very quickly over the last half-century simply by annexing land in concentric bands around the former boundary of the city. What this has done is put development and people in very flat land areas where there is not enough infrastructure, such as storm drains and sluices, to take the water away.

Many of these kinds of drains were part of my youth. Behind my aunt’s house in Denton, Tex., there was a network of concrete ditches that seemingly stretched for miles in the neighborhood. It was great for a pre-teen kid to play with a golf ball or a rubber ball to figure out different ways of making neat caroms off the walls. Only years later did I realize why these concrete ditches existed: to carry millions of gallons of water away from residential areas quickly.

My aunt went through a number of devastating rainstorms in Denton in the last years of her life. The thing is that she didn’t have as much to worry about floodwise because of the infrastructure needed to carry away millions of gallons of rain.

The same can be said for many parts of Houston. Though there are thousands of people stranded in sometimes precarious areas in and around the center of town, there actually are families and institutions which have survived quite well.

This includes the school campus of Houston St. John’s (Tex.), which has been used as a staging ground for first responders. Though the area in which the school is located is hard by the Buffalo Bayou, the downtown area is relatively dry.

Still, however, St. John’s and many of its field hockey playing rivals are having to close until at least next week to allow water to recede and for the entire area to rebuild and recover.

TopOfTheCircle.com has not yet been able to find an independent eyewitness to check on the condition of Finnegan Field, one of only a handful of on-site water-based turf pitches amongst America scholastic field hockey teams. But if the drainage was built as designed, I have a feeling the pitch is going to be ready for play very quickly.

Aug. 27, 2017 — The overarching stories of scholastic field hockey, 2017

As the scholastic field hockey season lumbers into being, with most states beginning in the next three weeks, there are a number of storylines which bear watching this fall.

  1. Will she or won’t she? Erin Matson, the finest scholastic field hockey player in the Class of 2018, did not play a single minute of high-school field hockey last fall. That’s because she was busy training and playing for the United States senior and junior national teams. This culminated in her selection not only for the World League semifinals, but her insertion into the lineup in a critical situation: the sudden-death phase of a penalty shootout against Germany in the final of the tournament. Matson hinted to a journalist in mid-summer that she was on the fence about rejoining Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) for her senior season, but an indicator came out four days ago in the pages of PhilaFieldHockey.com. In Unionville’s preview capsule, Matson is not listed as a returning starter.
  2. The continuation of the Score-O Decade. Last year, ten players scored more than 50 goals in a season. One of them, junior Mackenzie Allessie of Mount Joy Donegal, is on pace to exceed 200 goals with a season remaining. The last time we saw anyone like that was Austyn Cuneo.
  3. Watertown’s unbeaten streak on the brink of 200. OK, let’s face it. Watertown rarely has a tough match in its league and has never played a team outside of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Yet, with the pressure on them year after year, you have to give these Raiders credit for their sense of focus and their commitment to playing the game correctly.
  4. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.): no longer the top team in New Jersey? One year ago, in the Tournament of Champions semifinals, both Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) scored five goals each against their semifinal opponents. But in the final, West Essex was able to get a penalty stroke, and converted it smartly to win the Tournament of Champions. This year, West Essex returns three 30-goal scorers, something not a lot of teams can say. Eastern will be a fit, well-trained team led by sophomore Kara Heck, who had 55 goals a year ago.
  5. Championship streaks. Eastern is going for its 19th consecutive state championship this fall. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) and Watertown (Mass.) are in pursuit of their ninth consecutive state titles in their respective states. Emmaus (Pa.) is not only looking for a third straight PIAA title, but will be trying to win its  29th straight District 11 championship. Further north, Greenwich (Conn.) Academy is looking to win its 34th straight Fairchester Athletic Association Tournament title. Also, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) is looking to win its regular-season divisional title for the 47th season in a row.
  6. Who’s next? Aside from Heck and Allessie, I think Sammy Popper of Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.) is in for a strong, strong season. I think there’s going to also be fireworks anywhere Emma Deberdine gets the ball for Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.).

Aug. 26, 2017 — An enormous statement

The Rutgers field hockey team began its season with a 4-1 win over Kent State.

Numerically, it wasn’t the kind of win that creates a seismic shift in terms of the mysterious formula called the Ratings Percentage Index.

But three of the goals were scored by Austyn Cuneo. Yep, that Austyn Cuneo.

Though she is listed as a back on the Rutgers roster, you get the feeling that the transfer and former member of the U.S. Youth Olympic Games qualification team could be used in a number of roles by head coach Meredith Civico and the rest of the Rutgers staff.

Now, I’m not saying that Rutgers is a darkhorse for the national championship after one game. Far from it.

But I think a resurgent Cuneo is a great story.

 

Aug. 25, 2017 — Preseason Statwatch for 2017

Hi, everyone.

Beginning next month, we’ll try to compile nationwide field hockey statistics from not only various sources, but from you, the public.

I encourage readers to contact their coaches, athletic directors, and student managers so that they may register for and use the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your conference, league, or your state governing body to enter field hockey information there, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible.

Here’s what we have from last year, going forward with active players:

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, CAREER
136 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
124 Riley Fulmer, Norfolk (Va.) Academy
115 Lily Croddick, Rumson-Fair Haven (N.J.)
108 Ali McCarthy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
102 Regan Dougherty, Haddon Township (N.J.)
100 Sammy Popper, Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.)
87 Erin Matson, Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.)*
* — inactive for 2016 season

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, CAREER
72 Gabby Andretta, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
70 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
60 Ali McCarthy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
57 Riley Fulmer, Norfolk (Va.) Academy

GAMES UNDEFEATED
183 Watertown (Mass.)
93 Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
71 Los Gatos (Calif.)
55 Emmaus (Pa.)
54 York (Maine)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
123 Watertown (Mass.)
71 Los Gatos (Calif.)
55 Emmaus (Pa.)
54 York (Maine)

COACHING WINS
893 Susan Butz-Stavin, Emmaus (Pa.)
785 Laurie Berger, San Diego Serra (Calif.)
772 Linda Krieser, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)
691 Cheryl Poore, Harwich Monomoy Regional (Mass.)
636 Karen Klassner, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
624 Matt Soto, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
619 Eileen Donahue, Watertown (Mass.)
599 Cathy Kaiser, Selinsgrove (Pa.)
595 Sharon Sarsen, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
586 Debby Watson, Dardenne Prairie Barat Academy (Mo.)
586 Bob Derr, Lititz Warwick (Pa.)

If you see a number or statistic or even some statistical oddity that you’d like to bring to our attention, please feel to send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the adjustment.

We’ll start our weekly Statwatch in late September