Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Dec. 5, 2017 — Region of the Year: Houston, Tex.

Jackie Ciconte, the head field hockey coach of Houston Kinkaid School (Tex.), was running a preseason practice some years ago when she noticed someone fiddling with one of the varsity team’s goal cages. A wheel had come loose, and in order to properly move the structure onto the goal line, it would need to be fixed.

But it wasn’t just an ordinary someone inspecting the cage. This was Jim Johnson, the former Chairman of the Board of USA Field Hockey.

“I knew his daughter, Stephanie, and she graduated from Kinkaid,” Ciconte said. “But for him to give of his time and energy to repair the goal? That’s when I knew what kind of people we have in the community.”

The 2017 Region of the Year is a study in contrasts. There are exactly three varsity field hockey programs in Houston, a city of nearly 600 square miles, one of the 10 largest cities in America by land mass.

The Houston field hockey community went through a lot this year, helping individuals, families, and their school communities towards a semblance of normalcy after Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey, from Aug. 23-26, dumped nearly three feet of rain on Harris County, Tex. It disrupted preparation for high-school activities.

It also affected the two teams expected to compete for the Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC) South Zone championship: Kinkaid and Houston St. John’s (Tex.), a school which had received a touch of notoriety around the nation a couple of years ago for being one of the first U.S. secondary schools to build a water-based turf facility to FIH specifications.

And one of the first things that St. John’s head coach Craig Chambers had to find out, once the rain from Harvey stopped, was whether the heavy rain had adversely affected the school’s million-dollar investment in the game of field hockey.

“We had zero issues,” Chambers said. “Even though we did have some standing water on the field, the field was pretty much ready to go once the rain stopped.”

Across town at Kinkaid, Ciconte had an acre of problems with its artificial grass pitch

“That rain came, and it created ripples in the soil underneath,” she said. “The amazing thing is that people from our school and our administration came out with people from Field Turf in order to fix it. I can’t believe how much effort our facilities people put into this.

A week later, after applying rolling pressure to even out the ground under the rubberized carpet, the pitch was ready for play.

All this time, groups of players were scattered all over town. Most trained or lifted on their own.

“The hurricane really turned lives upside town,” said Texas Pride coach Tina Edmonds. “Everyone knew someone who was affected in some way. We were lucky that we only had a couple whose houses were flooded out, but even if that didn’t affect you, you saw right away how everyone else was affected.”

Teams and individuals got involved in community service projects, such as forming groups to remove carpeting or wallboard from houses.

“Our first thought was to figure out how we could help each other,” Ciconte said, “because some of our girls were at other people’s houses while the rains were coming. Imagine if you’re a parent during a storm like this, and your daughter is at someone else’s house for four days.”

“The Houston field hockey community is very small,” Chambers said. “You run into the same people when you’re playing or coaching year-round. And at the end of the day, you had to be moved when you’re witnessing what people were going through.”

Chambers, for example, did not have assistant coach Gordon Center in the days following the storm. Center is a first responder for Harris County, and was doing water rescues for about a week without taking even a moment to sleep.

“Houston,” Chambers said, “is a pretty resilient place. People got back to business really quickly.”

And so did St. John’s. The team, which had very little opportunity to train together, went north at the end of September for a weekend’s worth of games against the likes of Cor Jesu, Villa Duchesne, Edwardsville, and Mary Institute-Country Day School in the greater St. Louis area. St. John’s won three, drew one, and lost one.

The next game after that was against Kinkaid, which wound up being a 3-1 win for the Mavericks.

The season was not very easy for anyone in the Southwest Preparatory Conference. What had been about an eight-week regular season became a six-week sprint for playoff berths.

“We’ve had a shortage of umpires,” Ciconte said. “But we were able to make things work. It took everyone from coaches and athletic directors to work together to be able to get all of the games in.”

Eventually, the two Houston rivals met in the SPC semifinals, with Kinkaid winning by a goal, then Kinkaid beat Fort Worth Trinity Valley (Tex.) 4-1 in penalty strokes after a 1-1 draw after extra time.

For its part, Texas Pride just got back its indoor facility after it had been inundated by flood waters, and should therefore have a seamless transition into the indoor hockey season.

The city of Houston joins a number of winners of the Region of the Year award selected by this site in the past:

2017: Houston, Tex.
2016: Commonwealth of Virginia
2015: Summit, N.J.
2014: CIF Central Coast Section, Calif.
2013: VHSL North, Va.
2012: State of New Jersey
2011: Lancaster-Lebanon League, Pa.
2010: No award
2009: No award
2008: CIF San Diego Section, Calif.
2007: PIAA District 4, Pa.
2006: Winston-Salem, N.C.
2005: Louisville, Ky.
2004: Kent and Sussex County, Del.
2003: PIAA District 2, Pa.
2002: State of North Carolina
2001: Lancaster County, Pa.
2000: Cecil County, Md.
1999: PIAA District 3, Pa.
1998: State of Maryland
1997: CIF San Diego Section, Calif.
1996: Hunterdon and Warren County, N.J.


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