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Dec. 12, 2017 — The State of Hockey, 2017

The two events which summed up the success of American field hockey in 2017, as well as the willingness and commitment of younger players to make it so, occurred a few months and some 6,000 miles apart in the Southern Hemisphere.

The first came July 23rd, when the United States senior women’s national team defeated Germany in a penalty shootout in the championship game of the FIH World League semifinal in South Africa, thereby winning a berth in the 2018 FIH World Cup.

The second came Oct. 21, when the U.S. indoor national team beat Argentina in the final of the Pan American Cup in Guayana, thereby winning a berth in the 2018 FIH Indoor World Cup.

In these tournaments there were U.S. high school players who gave up all or part of their 2017 scholastic seasons, and played key roles in the American wins. Erin Matson, for example, was the player who made the key penalty shootout goal in the sixth round against Germany. She has missed the last two seasons at Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) playing with the senior national team.

On the indoor side, Sammy Popper, a junior from Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.), was selected as the top young player in the PAHF Indoor Cup. Madison Orobono of Emmaus (Pa.), Paityn Wirth of Greenwood (Pa.), and Anarose McDonough of Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) were also on the U.S. roster.

The continuation of exceptional talent development continued at the scholastic level in 2017. Oddly enough, it wasn’t just on offense (we’ll get that to a minute). This year, Los Gatos (Calif.) became one of only a handful of scholastic teams ever to go through the entire season unscored-upon as the team went 17-0-1, winning the co-championship of the CIF Central Coast Section after a goalless draw with San Jose Archbishop Mitty.

In addition, the nation’s finest team this past fall, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.), played a tough defense that allowed goalie Britt Hook to post 23 clean sheets.

These outliers, however, ran counter to a boatload of goal-scoring that rang goalboards from San Diego, Calif. to Lewiston, Maine. As was the case a year ago, ten individuals scored 50 goals or more this past season, led by the talismanic junior Mackenzie Allessie, who became just the third scholastic player to break the 90-goal barrier for a season.

Allessie also was one of three players nationwide to amass 100 career goals and 100 career assists. Leah Crouse of Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) and Gabby Andretta of Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) also joined this exclusive group.

The unusual amount of scoring this year has also helped drive team successes. The longest all-time scholastic winning and unbeaten streaks were stretched to 184 and 124 games respectively, before Winchester (Mass.) defeated Watertown (Mass.) 3-0 in September. Emmaus (Pa.) extended its winning streak to 81 games, which is the longest in the history of Pennsylvania. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) pushed its unbeaten streak to 115 games, which is fourth all-time. Los Gatos (Calif.) has not lost in its past 90 games.

A number of championship successes continued in 2017, although one major streak was ended. This year, the Fairchester Athletic Association title has a new holder for the first time in 33 years, because Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) eked out an overtime victory over Greenwich (Conn.) Academy.

But others have continued: Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) won its 19th straight state championship in New Jersey, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) won its ninth straight New York state championship, and Watertown (Mass.) won its ninth straight Massachusetts state title. Emmaus (Pa.) won its 29th consecutive PIAA District XI championship, and West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) won its 47th consecutive Shore Conference divisional championship.

In the collegiate ranks, one major story that started to get amplified in 2017 was the expanded role of foreign players in collegiate field hockey. Major additions to even Division II and III teams sent social media conversations into overdrive.

To be sure, the addition of overseas players has accentuated teams’ successes. The No. 1 Connecticut Huskies repelled every opponent on its schedule by teamwork and the sublime finishing of Charlotte Veitner. Nowhere did she influence games more than when the result was most in doubt. Veitner finished her career off with both goals in a 2-1 win over Maryland.

In Division II, Shippensburg, a team with players from Argentina and Holland, won the championship 4-1 over LIU-Post. In Division III, Middlebury’s all-American roster won 4-0 over defending champion Messiah.

In collegiate club play, Virginia Tech won the National Field Hockey League, the University of California and San Diego won the Western Collegiate Field Hockey Conference.

 

 

 

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