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Archive for September, 2017

Sept. 30, 2017 — Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 3, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 0

HUMMELSTOWN, Pa. — By halftime of the Falcon Classic championship game against Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.), it was becoming increasingly evident that Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) was being beset by three different kinds of congestion.

The first was fixture congestion; the Indians are in the middle of a stretch when they are playing six games in six days, including the Saturday doubleheader. The second congestion was a mild cold running through the team. And the third was midfield congestion; specifically, the marking scheme that Lower Dauphin was using on Donegal junior Mackenzie Allessie, who was being shadowed and surrounded in an attempt to hamper her distribution of the ball.

But the second half was a completely different story, as Donegal dominated play and possession, running out 3-0 winners over a good Lower Dauphin side.

“We’ve built the success of our program on hard work and beating people to the ball,” said Donegal head coach Jessica Rose Shellenberger. “At the end of the day, you can forget the skill and forget the execution: we’re going to outwork you.”

Allessie, ever the heroine, had two goals and an assist in the game, topped off by her 50th goal of the season in the 50th minute of play. The sequence came out of a timeout when the Donegal players were looking to make a change in their tactics on corners. Allessie chimed in with a suggestion.

“I just want to hit the ball really hard,” she said.

Seconds after the timeout ended, the nation’s goals leader drew three players to her at the edge of the circle, then changed direction suddenly.  Her lifted shot struck the crossbar and the far upright; Donegal was denied again, and Allessie’s shoulders slumped a little bit.

The ball, however, cascaded back to her on the doorstep, whereupon she reflexively snared the rebound and finished in one motion as if playing a game of racquetball.

“I think she was disappointed at first because she took a great shot and it didn’t go in; that her mentality,” Shellenberger said. “But she said, ‘I’m not going to be denied here,’ and went hard to the rebound.”

Throughout the match, Donegal showed an array of skills and tactics few scholastic teams possess. Allessie set an early tone by sending teammate Lily Saunders on a breakaway with a sumptuous 60-yard pass that almost led to the opener.

While the Indians were credited with two second-half goals, they were incredibly unlucky not to have scored more. They hit the post on one occasion, put a corner shot into the goal but from outside the circle, and forced some desperate defending from the Falcons as well as several good saves from second-half goalkeeper Brandelynn Heinebaugh.

“They started doing smaller passes, and they are so dangerous from the 25 on in,” Lower Dauphin head coach Linda Kreiser said. “They are very skilled; you have to give them credit.”

At the same time, Lower Dauphin had its chances in the final 10 minutes of the first half. A series of corners had the Falcons hammering repeatedly at the Donegal defense, but came up empty.

“We only have three people back from last year’s team, and a lot of our graduates are playing in college,” Kreiser said. “But I’m proud of our little team.”

Donegal goalkeeper Katie Jean and her backline of Cayla Homsher, Ashley Maxwell, and Allaura Bohan were extremely strong, keeping a clean sheet in such an enormous game.

“Those kids are great with that mentality,” Shellenberger said. “They are going to get in there and deny the other team the ball, and that’s great for us.”

DONEGAL (14-0) 1 2 —3
LOWER DAUPHIN (10-3) 0 0 —0
D: Mackenzie Allessie, pc, 6th minute
D: Grace Miller (Allessie), pc, 36th
D: Allessie, fg, 50th
Shots — D: 15; LD: 9. Saves — D: Katie Jean 7, defensive 2; LD: Avian Thompson 6, Brandelynn Heinebaugh 4, defensive 2


POSTGAME Thanks for tuning in; good night and good hockey

POSTGAME Donegal came out in the second half and dominated the chances. The team could have easily had five in the half but for a great save, an umpire’s decision, and the post

POSTGAME Full marks to Donegal for taking everything that Lower Dauphin threw at them the first half, then tightening up the skills for the second

FULL TIME At the final siren, Donegal wins the game 3-0. Allessie was dominant and absolutely brilliant throughout the contest

59:00 Final minute of regulation and Donegal on the brink of victory

57:25 Amanda Beck hits the post with a spectacular backhander!

56:24 DHS YELLOW Lily Saunders is off for five

49:16 DHS GOAL Allessie takes the ball on the restart and makes a backhand lift that hits the post and the crossbar; she grabs the rebound and sticks it in for her 50th of the season! Donegal leads 3-0 and is assuming control of this game

49:06 TIMEOUT, LDHS

48:08 LDHS GREEN Lauren Hunter in the sin-bin for two minutes

47:00 DHS PC Allessie with a dribbler that goes in, but the umpires rule that the shot is from outside the circle

45:00 An intricate three-way pass play by Donegal is repelled by Heinebaugh!

43:49 LDHS PC Shot saved by Jean; rebound sent wide

40:15 Courtney Kindall gets the back in space and beats Jean with the shot, but the ball hits the outside of the cage

39:00 Sienna Pegram generates a cross and there is nobody to tip it in for Lower Dauphin

37:15 DHS PC Defensed by Emma O’Neill

36:00 LDHS PC Domovich with the shot; Jean says no

34:50 DHS PC and GOAL Allessie takes it on the right wing, feathers it to an open Grace Miller, who makes no mistake; Donegal leads 2-0

32:45 Allessie frees her stick for a shot that Heinebaugh saves!

31:15 Lily Saunders with an open chance in the left wing; saved by goalie Brandelynn Heinebaugh, who is in the game for this half

30:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME If the Indians can spring more teammates up top for shot chances, they could go on a run

HALFTIME Donegal has looked tremendous in the midfield even as Allessie has been marked by as many as four players

HALFTIME It has been pretty even thus far, though Lower Dauphin has been much more industrious in the attack end

HALFTIME The siren goes with Donegal leading 1-0

29:05 DHS GREEN Grace Miller is off for the push

27:00 LDHS Cleared by Allessie! The Indians have an iron will on defense

26:19 LDHS Shot is tackled away

25:39 LDHS Two saves by Jean as well as a defensive save!

24:25 Maddie Gaughan’s shot goes high, wide, and handsome

20:15 LDHS PC Audrey Domivich’s shot gets a teammate’s foot

16:39 Allessie, on a free-in, spins past four LD defenders and aims a shot

14:25 TIMEOUT, DHS

11:15 DHS PC Backhand by Allessie is gobbled up by Thompson

8:00 LDHS Option-left is tackled by Ashley Maxwell

7:15 LDHS PC Katie Jean with the save

7:15 TIMEOUT, LDHS

5:30 That is her 49th of the season, 185th of her career

5:21 DHS PC and GOAL Allessie sweeps it in off an option left! Donegal leads 1-0

4:15 Allessie is surrounded by four Falcons and suddenly springs Lily Saunders for a breakaway; can they do that every time?

2:45 DHS PC Mackenzie Allessie with a 1-up that Avian Thompson saves

2:15 DHS PC Tackle by Karina Long; will rerack

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME Donegal is wearing black tops and socks with green kilts; Lower Dauphin is in the white with blue numbers and trim

PREGAME The teams are warming up under partly-cloudy skies, temperature around 61 degrees

PREGAME As is usual in games like this, it is likely to hinge on the play of an unexpected source. Last year, it was substitute Grace Miller who scored the winner

PREGAME Donegal is led by junior Mackenzie Allessie, who currently leads the nation in goals. Lower Dauphin will have a defense led by goalie Avian Thompson and fullback Karina Long

PREGAME Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.), the No. 1 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, is 13-0 on the season; Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) is 10-2

PREGAME Hello, and welcome to Kreisler-Hallman Field at Lower Dauphin Middle School for the championship final of the Falcon Classic

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Sept. 29, 2017 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Sept. 27

This week, the most significant statistical occurrence is the continued ascendancy of Mackenzie Allessie up the all-time scoring charts. Allessie, a junior from Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.), had 33 goals coming into play on Thursday. It created a four-way tie for the national goal-scoring lead this year alongside Nicole Buckley and Katie Dixon of Cary (N.C.) Christian and Leah Zellner of Emmaus (Pa.).

But focus on the career numbers. At the end of play on Wednesday, she had 169 goals for her career. With four games in three days to finish this week, Allessie could very well be all by herself in fifth place for goal scoring by the end of the week. Too, she is also close to the 100-assist mark for her career, which means she could become the fifth member of the 100-goal, 100-assist club by the time the regular season ends.

Allessie is one of the most remarkable players coming out of the post-Katie O’Donnell boom of youth players from the U.S. high-performance system. Opposing parents marvel at her hands. Many of her greatest scoring plays come in practice. She appears to caress and craft the ball instead of playing it with her hockey stick.

Allessie’s numbers lead the below survey of available statistical data from around the country. The most powerful score-reporting tool is, the easy-to-use MaxPreps.com tool, and 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.

So, here’s what we have thus far, thanks to, amongst others, MaxPreps, Advance Media, PennLive.com, LancSports.com, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, PhilaFieldHockey.com, and the Washington Post:

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, SEASON
33 Katie Dixon, Cary (N.C.) Christian
33 Nicole Buckley, Cary (N.C.) Christian
33 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
33 Leah Zellner, Emmaus (Pa.)
30 Katie Schneider, San Diego Serra (Calif.)
29 Brianna Roskey, Oakhurst Ocean Township (N.J.)
27 Sarah Wilson, New Hope-Solebury (Pa.)
26 Ellie McIntyre, Easton (Pa.)
25 Kathryn Peterson, San Diego Serra (Calif.)
25 Marie Thompson, Cary (N.C.) Christian

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
27 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
24 Nicole Buckley, Cary (N.C.) Christian
17 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
17 Olivia Perrone, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
17 Alyssa Maynard, Falls Church George C. Marshall (Va.)
16 Hailey Couch, Easton (Pa.)
15 Nicky McNamara, Chantilly Westfield (Va.)
15 Katie Dixon, Cary (N.C.) Christian
15 Cate Camenzind, St. Louis Kirkwood (Mo.)
15 Molly Christopher, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
14 Gabby Bitts, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
14 Marie Thompson, Cary (N.C.) Christian
14 Leah Zellner, Emmaus (Pa.)

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, CAREER
169 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
140 Riley Fulmer, Norfolk (Va.) Academy
132 Lily Croddick, Rumson-Fair Haven (N.J.)
120 Regan Dougherty, Haddon Township (N.J.)
117 Ali McCarthy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
116 Sammy Popper, Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.)
97 Elizabeth Romano, Madison (N.J.) Borough
87 Erin Matson, Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.)*
* — inactive for 2016-17 seasons

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, CAREER
87 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
76 Gabby Andretta, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
64 Ali McCarthy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
62 Greer Gill, Norfolk (Va.) Academy
57 Riley Fulmer, Norfolk (Va.) Academy

GAMES UNDEFEATED
102 Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
78 Los Gatos (Calif.)
66 Emmaus (Pa.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
78 Los Gatos (Calif.)
66 Emmaus (Pa.)

This being mid-September, these aren’t meant to be authoritative. 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.

Thanks for reading and we’ll do this against next week.

Sept. 28, 2017 — The WPLL’s Tweet-storm masks the UWLX’s resurrection

In a couple of days, the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League will take to the pitch for the first time as part of a weekend of lacrosse games at the U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md.

And if you monitor Twitter, you couldn’t avoid mention of the new league. Dozens of Tweets promoting some aspect or other were posted. Some mention the players in the exhibition game, others mention the legends to be honored during the weekend. And still others are beginning to delineate the parallel educational program that was promised during the rollout of the league.

The educational program is a youth lacrosse program which is being called Futures, and it is a partnership between the league and Brave Enterprises, a company founded by former Princeton attacker Crista Samaras.

While all this is going on, however, there has been a number of changes at United Women’s Lacrosse (UWLX), the inaugural women’s league that played a pair of quality seasons with four teams. A company named 3D Lacrosse has partnered with the league and with its suppliers, Nike and STX. A new governance structure is in place, with Kristan Ash as league commissioner, and with former commissioner Digit Murphy joining Syracuse coaches Gary Gait and Regy Thorpe, 3d Lacrosse CEO Greg Waldbaum, and Carol Rainson-Rose.

If there is one thing that the new UWLX has through the 3D takeover, it’s an expansive series of markets in places such as Georgia, Los Angeles, Houston, and Colorado. To be sure, there are still four teams planned for the 2018 season, and all four are located in WPLL markets.

In the absence of regulations regarding the definition of who can contract with whom for the services of a lacrosse player, this whole situation could blow up in the next six months. The FIL may have some interesting meetings over the next few months.

Sept. 27, 2017 — The “other” firing

This afternoon, it was announced that Hall-of-Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino was being fired from his post at the University of Louisville, a day after federal investigators indicted a number of basketball coaches and a representative from Adidas in a wide-ranging investigation into bribery in the collegiate game.

While Pitino and Adidas global director Jim Gatto are likely to be the two biggest names implicated in this widening circus, there is one name which is likely to be forgotten.

And that’s Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich.

Jurich, to be sure, led a scandal-plagued shop. There was the time when Pitino was being blackmailed for sleeping with the wife of his team’s equipment manager. There was also a time when the head women’s lacrosse coach was being accused of abusing her players. and there was also the 2015 scandal when a former Louisville staffer procured prostituted and strippers for players and recruits.

All the while, Louisville switched conferences like a waterbug switching lilypads.  In just 11 years, the Cardinal athletic programs went from Conference USA to the Big East to the American Athletic Conference, then found their current home in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

There’s been plenty of benefit from the Cardinals’ current association with the ACC, especially in field hockey and lacrosse.

But the baggage that Pitino brought eventually became too much for the university to withstand.

That it had to have been such an enormity of baggage was Jurich’s fault and the fault, frankly, of the athletic administration.

You see, when Jurich’s top lieutenant, Julie Hermann, flamed out at Rutgers after just 30 months, you had to know that the problem wasn’t necessarily with the administrators sitting in the seat, both in Piscataway and in Louisville.

Instead, it seems to me as though athletic administrators, once exposed to the ways and means of revenue generation and operating in the dark web of secrets within college sports, are completely consumed by this corruption.

Somehow, I don’t think heads have stopped rolling here.

BULLETIN: Sept. 26, 2017 — An appreciation: Bobby Issar, attacking midfielder, United States

One in an occasional series.

Bobby Issar, who died this morning after a massive heart attack last week, had a varied and rich field hockey life.

He was a United States international player and a well-respected coach. He was an untiring advocate for the sport as well as a tenacious gadfly who spoke up when he saw something wrong. He was conservative in some of his methods, but he was unafraid to test new methods in order to improve his players.

And it was within these contrasts where he made his career as a builder and developer in the sport, especially at the club level.

Years before names such as WC Eagles, XCalibur, IFHCK, Texas Pride, and Saints came to define the field hockey club culture in this country, there were the Spirit Eagles.

The Spirit Eagles were an offshoot of an organization called Spirit of USA Hockey Club, and it was that club, back in 1992, which helped form the first U-16 national select team to travel to Holland for an Easter field hockey tournament.

But it was after a mid-decade split amongst organizers, leading to the formation of the Spirit Eagles, when Issar was able to truly put his stamp on the game of indoor field hockey in the States.

There were immediate dividends in 1997, when his indoor team won its pool with a 56-1 goal differential. Two future members of the senior women’s national team were in the side: Carla Tagliente and Robyn Kenney.

He would later introduce trainers from the world of American football to help with plyometrics and biomechanics, trying to get his players to find that extra edge in speed and body control on the pitch. The emphasis on this kind of sport-specific training is widely credited for the reason why some field hockey clubs routinely dominate their opponents.

Always the forward thinker, Issar tried to figure out ways to qualify not just his elite team, but multiple teams to the National Indoor Tournament, much like the way that today’s superclubs will often send up to a dozen or more teams around the country trying to place in the various qualifiers. Indeed, in one NIT qualifier tournament he hosted back in 1998, the Spirit Eagles player pool furnished seven out of 16 teams in the field.

Behind all of that thinking was one saying, which is prominently displayed on the Spirit Eagles website:

“I’m of the belief that winners are made, not born. Kids most times will always try to do it right; in field hockey you must have someone who can show them the right way to do it and how to correct it.”

If you ever talked to Issar on the sidelines of a game, it’s the last clause that really has driven him to try to get his peers to improve and grow the game by “doing it right.”

He left the question, “What is the right way?” to the listener, because “the right way” evolved as the game has evolved away from mulberry and leather and grass to carbon fiber, plastic, and an increasing number of water-based turf pitches.

And Issar knew that the game was not being taught correctly in the years between the Los Angeles and Atlanta Olympics, having seen aggressive “big ball” players not have even the basic skill necessary for receiving the ball on turf. Frequently, he lambasted people in positions of authority within the United States Field Hockey Association for not recognizing the skills gap until only the last decade or so when the States started qualifying for the Olympics and World Cups on a regular basis.

Issar had basis for his critiques. He was an attacking midfielder for the United States men’s national team program in the 1980s, and he developed an enviable skill set that he exhibited at various adult competitions such as the National Sports Festival, the North East Field Hockey Association, or at the Garden State Games.

It was a December night in the mid-1990s when Issar was at his particular best, even after a decade away from Test hockey. Back then, the Spirit of USA adult team was invited to scrimmage the U.S. senior women’s national team at “A”-Camp, which, back then, was an annual affair with year-long tenure rather than holding selection camp just a few weeks before a particular tournament.

The scene was the indoor football practice dome at Rutgers University’s Busch Campus. Nobody knew what the score was, or particularly cared. The few invited spectators relished the chance to watch the highest level of field hockey in the absence of boutique networks carried over broadband or the internet.

I can still see the play: Issar had the ball about 40 yards from goal on the left wing, and advanced into the circle. On the dead run, he flicked his wrists with the shaft of the stick more or less perpendicular to the ground, and the ball went into the cage under the crossbar.

To this day, it’s the finest goal I’ve ever witnessed live.

It’s been said that the loss of Issar is going to leave a huge hole in field hockey in the United States.

Actually, I disagree. Over the last three decades, the number of number of clubs with roots in the Spirit Eagles has numbered nearly two dozen. Former coaches with Spirit Eagles as well as alumnae have started their own indoor teams which have competed at the highest levels of USFHA national tournaments.

It’s for this reason that Issar’s impact will be felt for a very long time.

Sept. 26, 2017 — Top 10 for the week of Sept. 24

Despite a number of challenges last weekend, our Top 10 holds station for this week. But that all could change by the end of this week because of some more important early matches. I can’t remember a September with more potentially important games than this year.

Our RightToRightIsRight.com honorary No. 11 team of the week is Amherst (Mass.) Regional. Despite having a pair of collegiate programs for role-modeling, the Hurricanes have not had much luck in the game of field hockey the last three years. But with a 3-0 win over Turners Falls Franklin Tech (Mass.), Amherst snapped a 39-game losing streak.

1. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 9-0

Donegal got by Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.) in overtime, and plays the Falcon Invitational this weekend at Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)

2. North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 9-0

West Essex outpointed Ocean City (N.J.) 5-2 over the weekend; the Essex County Tournament looms ahead

3. Mamaroneck (N.Y.) 6-0

The Tigers will have an interesting encounter with Scarsdale (N.Y.) before the Saturday showdown with Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)

4. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 13-0

Serra won its own invitational tournament with three more shutouts; the Conquistadors have conceded exactly one goal this season

5. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 9-0

Not to be outdone, Lakeland has shut out every opponent thus far whilst scoring 63 times

6. Emmaus (Pa.) 10-0

Also not to be outdone, Emmaus has shut out nine opponents and scored 93 goals, conceding just one

7. Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 11-0

Outscored its opposition 83-3 headed into last night’s showdown with Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)

8T. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 6-0-1

Jessica Maute and Kara Heck are leading the way on attack; the team is also using a pair of goalkeepers to try to keep opposing shot attempts at bay

8T. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 5-0-1

The Royals have nine seniors on the roster, and plenty of attacking talent; Gabby Andretta and Ali McCarthy, as younger sisters are wont to do, are playing sensational hockey

10. Norfolk (Va.) Academy (Va.) 8-0

The Bulldogs host Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.) in what could be a bellweather game for the VISAA Division I tournament

11.  Amherst (Mass.) Regional 1-5

Rachel Kawall, Lindsey Campbell and Sora Green had the goals for the Hurricanes in the win over Franklin Tech

Who’s out: None.

And bear in mind: Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 6-1, Glastonbury (Conn.) 5-0, Delmar (Del.) 5-0, Christian Academy of Louisville (Ky.) 13-3-2, Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 13-2, Wrentham King Philip Regional (Mass.) 6-0, Belmont (Mass.) 4-0, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 6-1, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) 11-0, Oley (Pa.) Valley 10-1, Wilkes-Barre Holy Redeemer (Pa.) 5-0, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 8-0, Chantilly Westfield (Va.) 10-0

Sept. 25, 2017 — Another week, another milestone

Over the weekend, Ann Marie Davies became the 13th member of the 600-win club for field hockey coaching victories with a 7-1 win over Morristown-Beard School (N.J.).

For Davies, the win mark comes at a very interesting juncture of the history of the Madison (N.J.) Borough program. The Dodgers have always been amongst North Jersey’s best teams, having won five state championships, the latest in 2015.

And Madison has always seemed, in winning its championships, to be able to overcome some pretty amazing opposition whether they were playing in the Group I tournament (New Jersey’s classification for the smallest schools), or the always competitive Group II tournament (for slightly larger schools).

Indeed, Davies is one of only a small handful of coaches who can count a win over West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) and 800-win coach Nancy Williams in a state final when the Dodgers won the 1995 Group I title.

Now, these two legends are the only two in the recorded history of New Jersey field hockey to cross the 600-win barrier. Davies is in pretty awesome company.