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Nov. 1, 2017 — When runaway playoff scores come up in the most unexpected of places

One year ago, we noted how many runaway scores there were in the knockout rounds of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, ostensibly the most competitive postseason in the country.

This year, in the regional rounds of the Virginia High School League, there has been a troubling number of runaway scores, in this case, defined as a scoring margin of six or more goals at the 45-minute mark, a result that would get the game stopped under the state’s mercy rule.

Now, the argument here isn’t about the fact that these games are happening; it’s when they’re happening: the first round of the state regional brackets. It’s the first time that field hockey teams in the postseason are playing someone unfamiliar after playing all of their conference opponents in the regular season and in the conference championships.

These are all supposed to be nail-biters: heck, I remember one year in the Northern Virginia regional championship (when there was only one official classification) when all four quarterfinal matches went into overtime, and one went into double-overtime.

These kinds of matches imply that there’s supposed to be a few minutes of feeling each other out at the beginning. Instead, one team or the other is aggressively taking the ball to goal, cutting the heart out of the opposition, and scoring repeatedly.

The scores are astounding; more than a dozen of them have had a margin of more than six. A number have had a margin greater than ten: Gloucester 10, Norview 0; New Kent 11, Booker T. Washington 0; Deep Run 16, Henrico 0; First Colonial 17, Grassfield 0; Powhatan 16, Denbigh 0.

And the most out-of-balance score of all: Smithfield 25, Lake Taylor 0.

It’s yet another symptom of field hockey splitting into the haves and the have-nots, where players having picked up a stick for the first time 12 weeks ago are competing against opponents with high-performance training and video reinforcement techniques.

And as long as these players are choosing to play for their high-school teams, these kinds of scores are going to be a pandemic.

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