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Archive for August, 2018

Aug. 31, 2018 — The national preseason Top 10

As today is the start of competition in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this site releases the annual 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. Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 28-0

The defending PIAA Class AAA champions return a veteran group which includes attackers Gabby Bitts and Emma DeBerdine, but they also have a lot of excellence in other positions. Sophomore winger Jasmine Miller has outstanding quickness that reminds one of Jill (Witmer) Funk.

2. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 24-1-1

The Vikings graduated just four players from last year’s team that won its 19th consecutive NJSIAA Group IV title, plus they return leading scorer Kara Heck. A Sept. 15th match against Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) will go a long way in gauging how good they are.

3. Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.) 21-5

Greenwood is a fine side led by the fine forward Paityn Wirth, and they showed immense skill and fight in winning last year’s Class A title in Pennsylvania.

4. Downingtown (Pa.) West 25-1

The Whippets go into this season feeling as if they have a score to settle, since they won their first 25 games only to run into a loaded Penn Manor side in the final. They will return quite a few of their starters from last year and have every motivation to get back to Whitehall for the final.

5. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 22-0

The Hornets are aiming for a 10th straight state championship, which would be an awesome achievement. A three-game swing in eight days against Bronxville, Scarsdale, and Mamaroneck will go a long way to testing their mettle. The team has 10 seniors and should once again contend for state honors.

6. Emmaus (Pa.) 26-1

After losing its chance for an unprecedented third straight state championship, the Hornets bring a team of speed and skill, plus an experienced goalkeeper and a future star in Annika Herbine.

7. Stafford Mountain View (Va.) 24-0

The defending VHSL 5A champs, they have always been under the radar when it comes to their play. However, the back-to-back champs graduate just five seniors and look to make another run at state honors.

8. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 25-2

The Indians will remember last year, when they lost the state semifinal match with three seconds left on the clock. I think there is enough talent to help senior Mackenzie Allessie to make another run at the state championship, although Class AA is a Murderer’s Row of teams.

8.  Delmar (Del.) 18-0

The Wildcats have won two straight state championships, and do everything well when it comes to speed and skill, but they have an awful lot of grit. The team opens its season with two Maryland opponents in their first three matches; a must-see is the game against Edgewater South River (Md.).

10. Oley (Pa.) Valley 24-2

The Lynx were motoring along, building a 24-game winning streak, before running smack into Kingston Wyoming Seminary in the semifinals of the Class A championship. Sophia Gladieux is emerging as a team leader.

And bear in mind: San Diego Serra (Calif.) 26-0, Los Gatos (Calif.) 17-0-1, Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 20-7, Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 19-8, Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) 18-0, Skowhegan (Maine) Area 17-1, Watertown (Mass.) 22-1, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 27-2, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 25-0-1, The Lawrenceville (N.J.) School 17-4, Whitney Point (N.Y.) 21-1, Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio) 21-0, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 14-6-1, Hershey (Pa.) 20-6, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 17-4-1, Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) 24-1, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) 17-2-3, Norfolk (Va.) Academy 25-0

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Aug. 30, 2018 — An umpiring crisis in Vermont

Usually, this time of year, there is a story published somewhere in America indicating a critically-low number of game officials for scholastic sports.

Another story was published today in The Stowe News & Citizen about a shortage of officials in Vermont.

But the passage that struck me was this one:

After soccer, the ref deficit is worst for girls lacrosse and field hockey, [Vermont Principals’ Association Associate Director Bob] Johnson said.

That’s troubling. Especially if it becomes a nationwide trend.

 

Aug. 29, 2018 — The overarching stories of the 2018 domestic field hockey season

  1. Championship streaks heading towards the ridiculous. People, think of this. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) is going for its 20th consecutive state championship this fall. It not only extends the all-time record, but it’s almost twice as long as the previous record. And think of this: Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) and Watertown (Mass.) are in pursuit of their 10th consecutive state titles in their respective states, which would put them in second. Emmaus (Pa.) will be looking to win its 30th straight District 11 championship, a streak which has encompassed large-school and small-school championship tournament wins. West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) is looking to win its regular-season divisional title for the 48th season in a row.
  2. Coaching longevity heading towards the ridiculous. This year, three coaches are starting their 50th season or greater in the sport. The coach entering the 50-year club this year is Barb Major of Lawrence Notre Dame (N.J.). Further to the northeast, Kathleen “Cookie” Bromage of Enfield (Conn.) will start her 51st season. And even further to the northeast, Judy Schneider of Hanover (Mass.) will be starting her 53rd season as head coach.
  3. How high can she go? Mount Joy Donegal (Pa) senior Mackenzie Allessie has already become one of the rare members of the 100-goal, 100-assist club for scholastic field hockey, as she ended last year with 227 goals and 108 assists. Given the graduation losses Donegal has suffered since winning a state championship in 2016, it’s difficult to envision her making a run at Austyn Cuneo’s goal-scoring record, but the team should be a contender for Lancaster-Lebanon and state championship honors.
  4. A panoply of 100-goal scorers. Seven players head into the 2018 season with 100 or more varsity goals. After Allessie, second on that list is Sammy Popper, who spent part of last season with the U.S. women’s national indoor team, and still has 137 goals at the start of the season. Third is Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) senior Charlotte de Vries, who has been tearing it up this summer in her play at the National Futures Tournament and the National Club Championship.
  5. The club effect on the scholastic game. Look at almost any field hockey roster between Harrisburg, Pa. and the Philadelphia suburbs, and you will see players who represent either the Xcalibur or the W.C. Eagles field hockey club teams. The skills that these and players from other clubs in the region display are a far sight more advanced than even five years ago, and it’s prompted futurists in the field hockey community to prophesy that a separate layer of competition, similar to U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, may form.
  6. Determining a winner. As more and more states move away from the penalty-stroke shootout into the FIH’s breakaway shootout, I will be interested to see what happens with its implementation. I guarantee you that there will be at least one protest filed with a state association because the umpires forgot to switch the order of the teams in the second group of five shooters, or a fault of the clock operator, or calling the action to a halt 9/10 of a second early because the countdown clock is in tenths of seconds.

Aug. 28, 2018 — The new home

The last several years, a number of teams in the Southern Preparatory Conference (SPC) have started installing artificial competition surfaces. One of the most prominent is in Houston, where St. John’s installed an FIH-compliant water-based pitch that, one year ago this week, withstood four feet of rain brought on by Hurricane Harvey.

The latest new turf in the SPC is on the floor of Jones Stadium at the Episcopal School of Dallas (Tex.). Last night, however, the Eagles didn’t use the stadium for its home opener against Fort Worth All Saints (Tex.), but used the smaller Founders’ Field, which is the grass pitch used by the soccer and lacrosse teams.

That all will change once the team begins its league schedule in one month. Three of the Eagles’ last four home games will be on Jones Field’s artificial turf, and will certainly have a positive effect on the team’s skills and overall play.

Aug. 27, 2018 — The melting igloo

Over the last few days, four members of the U.S. women’s national field hockey team have retired. Following on the retirements of starting goalie Jackie Briggs and captain Melissa Gonzalez are the retirements of Loren Shealy and backup goalie Lauren Blazing.

Taken together, that’s about 15 percent of the current elite pool. And it’s the kind of attrition you might expect in the wake of a World Cup or an Olympics.

Building an athletic team of any kind, whether it is a high-school football team, a professional basketball team, or an Olympic field hockey team, requires a realization that an individual’s career is finite.

It’s kind of like building an igloo in a desert; the building blocks are fragile with outside pressure being placed on them. For some, it’s the pressure of competition, For others, it could be the challenge of coming back from injury.

But for any elite athlete, the most present pressure is the passage of time. Time is a constant, and it cannot be reversed.

Aug. 26, 2018 — The next chapter

This week, for those of you following along in our virtual Red Book, I take a turn into the arts and a singer you probably have never heard of.

Aug. 25, 2018 — The (uneven) return of the FIH shootout

This afternoon, the four teams scrimmaging at Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) gathered on the floor of Kreiser-Hallman Field on either side of the 50-yard stripe.

After playing some 11-a-side and 7-on-7 overtime simulation, it was time for something new.

More and more states are now adopting the FIH tiebreaker — the 1-on-1 shootout from the 25 — for this season. Chief amongst the adoptees this year are the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

As many of the players on the four teams in this group of friendlies — Lower Dauphin, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.), Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.), and Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) — have experience playing club hockey under FIH rules, the transition away from penalty strokes appeared to be simple for the attackers.

I also saw something interesting when it comes to the administration of the shootout. On either side of the pitch, behind the goals, one umpire stood with the stopwatch for that particular goal.

On the other umpire’s whistle, the timer would let the clock run down concentrating on watching the clock while turning away from the action so as not to be distracted. I hadn’t thought of that, and it seems to me to be a good idea.