TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for December, 2018

Dec. 31, 2018 — 228 right, 88 wrong

Today, I finished my Trivial Pursuit Master’s Edition Year-In-A-Box calendar, a calendar full of questions about everything from Google to grapes to Aretha Franklin’s hat.

My percentage of correct answers this year was 72.1 percent, about the same as a year ago

Yep, I keep score.

Dec. 30, 2018 — Wishes for the new year

There’s been a lot going on in this space over the last year, and, while people are making resolutions for 2019, here are a few things we hope will happen:

I am hoping for the best for a very young U.S. women’s national field hockey side as they begin training for the 2019 FIH Pro League. I hope that the young players, especially Erin Matson and Mackenzie Allessie, show that they belong at this level.

I’m also hoping that the U.S. team finds a good holding midfielder as well as a drag-flick specialist (yep, it’s the age-old problem, but it’s still a going concern).

I hope that U.S. field hockey watchers remember a decade ago when goalkeeper Belen Succi had exactly two international caps when she joined Argentina at the 2008 Olympics, and is now seen as one the Albecelestes’ all-time greats.

I hope that girls’ lacrosse watchers, especially in Florida, are able to appreciate the freight train that is Caitlyn Wurzburger as she is threatening the all-time numbers for goals; she already had the assist mark as a sophomore, no less.

I hope that the Boston College women’s lacrosse team is able to handle all of the scrutiny that will follow silver-medal efforts  the last two years, choosing instead to focus on the next possession.

I hope that the NCAA doesn’t decide to make the women’s lacrosse draw identical to the men’s, making it a more physical endeavor than what it is now.

I hope that the NCAA women’s lacrosse and field hockey tournament committees make it a point to reward mid-major teams for how they do during the season and not create multi-year monopolies which are difficult to compete against.

I hope that Carli Lloyd will have a glimpse at final glory at this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

I hope that a soccer player nobody heard of four years ago, such as an Abby Dahlkemper or Lynn Williams, makes an enormous impact in the U.S. team’s performance this summer.

I hope the tournament also become a great platform to show how good a player Tobin Heath is.

I hope both the WNBA and NWSL establish — and enforce — minimum standards for their teams so that you don’t have the greatest players in the world in their craft having to play in an building one step up from the local high school.

And I wish you, my readers, all the best in health and happiness for the New Year.

Dec. 29, 2018 — The alternate feed

This evening, the doubleheader for the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision semifinal playoff occurred.

Instead of watching the usual game broadcast, I was treated to a broadcast where four college football coaches broke down the game, play by play.

It’s the kind of broadcast which, truthfully, occurs every single week in nations where broadcasters take a chance in growing their broadcast footprint. At one time, you could watch any English Premier League soccer game three different ways: the regular broadcast, a broadcast of the studio hosts watching the various games during the day, and Fan Zone, where two amateurs would commentate on the various incidents of the game in real time while texts from fans would scroll across the bottom of the screen.

In the U.S., only the College Football Playoff and the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament have these kinds of multiple-stream broadcasts, along with certain motor races such as the Indy 500.

The football coaches’ room was an excellent alternative to the usual play-by-play. It also had an incident which gave me a bit of a smile. When one team lined up to protect the quarterback as he took a knee to run out the last minute of the clock, Herm Edwards, the head coach at Arizona State, took the time to describe the circumstances around the invention of the so-called “Victory Formation.”

Edwards, back in 1978, was the Philadelphia defensive back who scored the Miracle at the Meadowlands touchdown after a fumble on a simple running play. It was an incident which not only legitimized the “Victory Formation,” it also changed NFL history.

The loss sent coach John McVay to the 49ers where he helped build a team that would win five Super Bowls, and it also led to the installation of George Young as general manager of the Giants, leading a pair of Super Bowl wins and the drafting of Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor.

As it turns out, two friends of mine — a labor lawyer and an adjunct science professor — were watching the same time as me.

My social media post: “We smart people think alike.”

Dec. 28, 2018 — United States Coach of the Year: Briana Price, Hershey (Pa.)

For decades, the strip of roadway from Interstate 81 east of Harrisburg along Pennsylvania Route 322 has been one of the great incubators of field hockey talent.

Yet, misfortune always seemed to follow Hershey (Pa.), a team which never won a state title despite its neighbors Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) and Palmyra (Pa.) taking titles.

But thanks to the coaching of Briana Price and her coaching staff during the 2018 season, the Trojans won their first PIAA state championship in a thrill-a-minute run through the state tournament bracket and into the final against a nemesis which lay four miles to the west.

Dec. 27, 2018 — Sorrow on both coasts

There has been equal sorrow felt in Hempstead, N.Y. and Kelowna, B.C. over the death four days ago of former Colonial Athletic Association field hockey all-star Jonel Boileau from lung cancer at the age of 25.

A former multisport athlete in her native British Columbia, Boileau matriculated to Hofstra University in 2011 and became one of the university’s Top 10 performers in goals (48) and assists (18).

After Hofstra, Boileau moved to Massachusetts and, while earning a degree from the University of Massachusetts system, found time to be an assistant coach for Amherst College.

She then moved back to her home in Canada and worked as a marketing specialist until word of her death earlier this week.

They’ll memorialize her this Saturday in Kelowna, and I’m sure there will be a chance for people who knew her on Long Island and New England to grieve her loss.

Dec. 26, 2018 — Return of a familiar name

The words “Samaras” and “Annapolis” are, together, synonymous with success in girls’ and women’s lacrosse.

Whether it was family matriarch Cathy Samaras running her lacrosse company Synapse Sports, or daughters Cory, Crista, and Stephy earning Division I All-America status after prepping at Annapolis (Md.), there has been a certain magic when it comes to the marriage of the two entities.

In the spring of 2019, there will be a return to the coaching box for Stephy Samaras, who has been the assistant coach for Annapolis for the last four years, but she’s assuming all of the responsibility this coming season. She has no illusions as to how difficult the task is, given the competitiveness in Anne Arundel County as well as the number of backyards rivals who have won championships. The last decade has seen Annapolis Broadneck (Md.), Severna Park (Md.), and Edgewater South River (Md.) win titles.

But Samaras has also noted that the balance of competition has shifted from the quality public-school programs to the schools in the Independent Athletic Association of Maryland, notably Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) and Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.).

“I think if you live in Annapolis and you have money, you don’t go to Annapolis High School,” Samaras told The Capital Gazette. “If everyone who lived in Annapolis went to the public high school, there wouldn’t be a conversation about what’s happened at Annapolis. The connection between Annapolis and the schools and programs that feed into it is lost.”

Finding it again is a mission which will take some time, but it will be fun to see how the program matures with her at the helm.

Dec. 25, 2018 — Your national scoring champion

It’s hard to know which moment of the 2018 scholastic field hockey season will burn the brightest in the memory of Mackenzie Allessie, the senior from Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.). Is it the early goal she scored in the Lancaster-Lebanon playoff game against Annville-Cleona that made her the first scholastic field hockey player ever to score 100 goals in a season? Was it the goal later in the half that surpassed Austyn Cuneo as the all-time leading scorer in scholastic field hockey?

Is it the goal she scored in the 42nd minute against Oley (Pa.) Valley that started a five-goal outburst in six minutes to win the game after falling behind three at the interval? Or was it Allessie’s galloping effort from one end of the pitch to the other, taking on the Palmyra players and beating four of them to slot the ball into the goal cage to win the PIAA Class AA state final?

When asked after the game, the answer was obvious: the goal she had scored about five minutes earlier, her 351st and final goal in a Donegal uniform.

But just as impressive, Allessie scored 124 goals in the 2018 season, more than any American scholastic field hockey player in the 110-year history of the sport. She was the first U.S. scholastic field hockey player to score 100 goals in a season, and she exceeded the old record (96) by 30 percent.

Now, let’s compare this to other field-invasion sports. Allessie’s 2018 total would have put her around the top 15 of single-season performances in girls’ lacrosse, a game where there is a lot more scoring per game than in field hockey. In girls’ high-school soccer, Allessie would have a lot more goals than the current record-holder, Esmerelda Gonzales, who had 109 two years ago and is now at Southeast Missouri State.

For Allessie’s part, she has committed to Ohio State University and she is currently set to join the senior women’s national team pool. Her body of work stands alone now, and it will take a truly special and long-term effort in order to approach her accomplishments. Here’s a video about her search for personal and team goals this past season.


Allessie appears twice on our list of national scoring champions from years past. Let us know if there are any additions or corrections that need to be made to the list below. This especially goes for 1988. That missing number has been keeping us in a tizzy over the years.

2018: Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 124
2017: Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 91
2016: Megan Rodgers, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 81
2015: Nikki Santore, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2014: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 95
2013: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 96
2012: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 68
2011: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2010: Danielle Allan, Pompton Lakes (N.J.) 56
2009: Kelsey Mitchell, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2008: Lucas Long, Allentown William Allen (Pa.) 43
2007: Lauren Gonsalves, Harwich (Mass.) 56
2006: Kaitlyn Hiltz, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 50
2005: Kelly Fitzpatrick, Palmyra (Pa.) 66
2004: Amie Survilla, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) 64
2003: Anne Marie Janus, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 44
2002: Shauna Banta, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Amanda Arnold, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) 49
2001: Tiffany Marsh, Marathon (N.Y.) 57
2000: Rebecca Hooven, Plumsteadville Plumstead Christian (Pa.) 54
1999: Rebecca Hooven, Plumsteadville Plumstead Christian (Pa.) 48
1998: Kelli Hill, Manasquan (N.J.) 43
1997: Tiffany Serbanica, Madison (N.J.) Borough 43
1996: Carla Tagliente, Marathon (N.Y.) 51
1995: Kim Miller, Frank W. Cox (Va.) 63
1994: Michelle Vizzuso, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 69
1993: Melissa Pasnaci, Miller Place (N.Y.) 60
1992: Diane DeMiro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 56
1991: Denise Nasca, Centereach (N.Y.) 56
1990: Shelley Parsons, Waterfall Forbes Road (Pa.) 50
1989: Christine McGinley, Medford Lakes Shawnee (N.J.) 40
1988:
1987: Kris Fillat, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 53
1986: Dana Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 57
1985: Hope Sanborn, Walpole (Mass.) and Sharon Landau, Mamaroneck Rye Neck (N.Y.) 53
1984: Michelle Vowell, Garden Grove Santiago (N.Y.) 56
1983: Tracey Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 82
1982: Mare Chung, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 48

Dec. 24, 2018 — An accomplished coach lands in an important crossroads

Daan Polders is one of the few scholastic field hockey coaches to have ever won public-school scholastic championships in more than one state. He had won two straight titles at Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) before moving east to Pennsylvania to take over for legendary head coach Maurene Polley at Malvern Villa Marla (Pa.). There, he won two state championships, and, in 2017, had gone out a winner when he led the Hurricanses to a 2-1 victory over Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.) in the PIAA Class AA title match.

After that game, he made it known he was going to move with his family to North Carolina. But when it became known in September that the University of Mount Olive, a small Baptist college about 70 miles from the Atlantic Coast, would be offering the sport, Polders, the head coach of the United States U-17 national team program, became an obvious choice.

Mount Olive will be playing its first season in Division II in 2020, and will play a schedule alongside teams in the South Atlantic Conference and Conference Carolinas.

Dec. 23, 2018 — The wrong time to get sick

The Christmas season is a time of being social, gift-giving, and, for Christianity around the world, a reminder of renewal through the nativity of the Son of God.

Only, for the first time since 1972, I’m lying in bed ill.

The circumstances of the last time I was ill during Christmas were most unforgettable. It was our first-grade Christmas pageant, and I played Santa Claus, and I was in charge of pressing a button on a very large box to release characters representing toys and other gifts.

My first-grade music teacher, Mrs. Vandiver, was panicking when she saw me in costume when I arrived. She looked at my face and knew what was wrong with me.

Chicken pox.

But I, and the show, had to go on. I was the only Santa who knew the lines. Heck, I was the only Santa. The teachers got out their pancake makeup and covered up some of the scarring that was becoming evident on my face.

I’m pretty sure this would never happen today because I would be a kid with a communicable disease acting in a play along with my peers. Plus, the teachers were all putting makeup on me to try to cover over the impending crisis.

Somehow we got through the play, and I guess the silver lining for getting sick was the fact that we had a couple of weeks off before returning to school after the New Year.

I still hope I didn’t give anyone the shingles in later life because of my misfortune.

 

 

Dec. 22, 2018 — The tragedy of the zero sum

A schoolteacher. An owner-operator of a New England bed and breakfast. A coach.

An admissions officer at a prep school. A baker. The proprietor of a fitness center.

A marketing analyst. A vice-president of a television network. A homemaker.

These are some of the current occupations of some of the field hockey players who used to play in the U.S. high-performance system. For once reason or another, these and dozens of other athletes, who had money expended on them through USA Field Hockey, have left themselves out of consideration for the national team or any other high-performance duties and have decided to go and do something else.

That’s because there are hundreds of national-team hopefuls in the pipeline, but only about 25 in the national team pool, which gets cut down to 18 or even 16 for major competitions.

The math is cruel, especially without a professional league to allow players with the ability to play at a high-performance level to be identified.

Without a national field hockey league, membership in the high-performance pool is a zero sum. With all of the excitement around the addition of Mackenzie Allessie, Linnea Gonzales, Kealsie Robles, and Kelsey Bing, there are players who have had to have been dropped.

Every player leaving the U.S. team represents the departure of experience, but also walking out the door are hundreds of hours of effort and thousands of dollars’ worth of training and travel.

A fantastic amount of spending since the National Training Center opened in Virginia Beach in 2001 has produced a lot of teachers, field hockey coaches, and people in various other vocations.

And one major trophy, the 2014 FIH Champions Challenge.