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Archive for December, 2018

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.

Dec. 21, 2018 — Final Statwatch for 2018

Hi, everyone.

There’s one interesting note we’d like to add onto our Final Statwatch, with a look towards next fall. We have this site-specific milestone, called the 100-100 Club, where players like U.S. women’s national teamers Mackenzie Allessie and Alyssa Parker reside. These are the rare players who have amassed at least 100 goals and 100 assists in a scholastic career.

Next fall, there could be an envelope-pushing addition to that club: Lucas Crook, a midfielder for Somerset-Berkley (Mass.). That’s because Lucas is a male, and, because of the way the rules are set up in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he is allowed to play the sport alongside female players. Crook, son of head coach Jen Crook, heads into his senior season with 87 goals and 89 assists. You can do the math.

So, after the record-breaking 2018 season, here is our final Statwatch, thanks in part to, amongst others, MaxPreps,, Advance Media,, The LNP Media Group, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,, the Boston Globe, the Rochester Herald-Democrat, and the Washington Post.

124 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
59 Charlotte de Vries, Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)
58 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
58 Megan Salsinha, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
55 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
49 Sara Stone, San Diego Westview (Calif.)
48 Lauren Curran, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.)
48 Peyton Halsey, Reading Exeter (Pa.)
48 Riley Baughman, Emmaus (Pa.)
47 Reagan Bonniwell, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
46 Elle Maransky, Flourtown Mount St. Joseph Academy (Pa.)
46 Hannah Miller, Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.)
45 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
44 Megan Connors, San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.)
44 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
44 Lily Santi, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
44 Abby Asuncion, Sterling Potomac Falls (Va.)

45 Cami Crook, Somerset Berkley (Mass.)
41 Riley Baughman, Emmaus (Pa.)
40 Ali Goodwin, Gloucester (Va.)
36 Ellie Decker, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
36 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)

35 Nathalie Friedman, Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.)
35 Julianna Kratz, Flourtown Mount St. Joseph Academy (Pa.)
35 Emma DeBerdine, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
33 Olivia Fox, Los Gatos (Calif.)
33 Evelyn Murray, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
32 Natalie Deck, Los Gatos (Calif.)
31 Sarah Beers, Oley (Pa.) Valley
30 Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
30 Eva Vrijen, Los Gatos (Calif.)
30 Sarah Charley, Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio)

29 Zoe Snook, Louisville Assumption (Ky.)
28 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
28 Hannah Hartwell, Delsea (N.J.)
28 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
26 Isabella Bressler, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
26 Abby Playle, San Jose Leigh (Calif.)
26 Josie Rossbach, Leesburg Heritage (Va.)
26 India Reed, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
26 Madison Kline, Oley (Pa.) Valley

351 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
191 Charlotte de Vries, Virginia Beach Cape Henry Academy (Va.) and Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)*
180 Paityn Wirth, Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.)
179 Sammy Popper, Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.)
173 Charlotte de Vries, Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)**
156 Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
141 Emma DeBerdine, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
140 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
127 Gabby Bitts, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
126 Raegan Hickey, Greenfield (Mass.)
115 Megan Frost, Charlotte Myers Park (N.C.)
112 Lily Saunders, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
109 Reagan Bonniwell, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
106 Peyton Halsey, Reading Exeter (Pa.)
105 Allison Sabb, Ann Arbor (Mich.) Huron
100 Kenzi Thompson, West Chester (Pa.) East
100 Lauren Curran, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.)
* — five-year varsity career
** — four-year varsity career

136 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
103 Emma DeBerdine, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
96 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
90 Charlotte de Vries, Virginia Beach Cape Henry Academy (Va.) and Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)*
* — five-year varsity career

112 Los Gatos (Calif.)

57 Brattleboro Bellows Falls Union (Vt.)
39 North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (Calif.)

Thanks for reading Statwatch this season, and we’ll be back in the spring for interesting lacrosse doings.

Dec. 20, 2018 — When numbers and money don’t make sense

In men’s field hockey, the roster of World Cup and Olympic winners have been the same seven-nation hegemony since 1971.

That is, until Rio 2016 and Bhubaneswar 2018.

After Argentina’s debut on top of the medal stand two years ago as the de facto host team, a new World Cup champion was crowned over the weekend. Belgium, a nation of 11 million, about the size of Ohio, beat Holland 3-2 in a penalty shootout after a goalless draw.

Seven years ago, Belgium’s men’s team was ranked 12th in the FIH World Rankings, which pretty much left them out of consideration for the Champions Trophy or a favorable seed for a major tournament.

But, according to, a “carefully planned out youth development program” through the Belgian Hockey Association, started bolstering the fortunes of the junior national team, which eventually got the senior national team going. Indeed, just two years ago, Belgium took second place to Argentina in the Olympic final.

This time around, in the knockout phase of the competition, the Reds were dominant, beating Pakistan 5-0 and England 6-0 on the way to the Grand Final.

The foe in that final were Belgium’s northern neighbors. With both teams playing lockdown defense in regulation, it took six rounds of the breakaway drill in order for the Red Lions to win, and thereby vault into the No. 1 slot in the FIH World Rankings.

Let’s focus you in on this again. Belgium is the size of Ohio, yet they were able to target their resources and players towards winning efforts at two consecutive world tournaments and become the best nation on earth in the sport on the men’s side.

I think it’s high time for those in charge of the sport in other nations, especially those with advantages in population, resources, and especially coaching know-how, to learn from the Belgium Hockey Association.

Dec. 19, 2018 — The FIH takes a club out the bag, in a matter of speaking

In the strategy manual of international field hockey, there are a few things you can do if your team is behind a goal or two in the last few minutes of the game.

Aside from adding an extra chaser to your high-line of pressure, or packing the midfield, there is one strategy that has always been available under the Rules of Hockey.

That strategy is to pull the goalkeeper for an 11th field player. Under international rules, a team can send on a player with a different-colored shirt to give that player goalkeeping privileges — a “kicking back.” Or, the player can have the same shirt as teammates and play as an 11th outfielder.

But starting Jan. 1, FIH has written a mandatory experiment into the new rules, outlawing the kicking back.

In other words, if the team short a player is able to earn a penalty corner against a team choosing to use 11 field players, none of the five defenders will be able to stop the ball with a foot or leg, and must use the stick to make a deflection or stop — a task which is about as thankless as the goalkeeper in hurling, who has to use a flat stick barely larger than a field hockey stick to guard an area as large as a soccer goal, and rarely uses a mask while doing so.

I have heard a few explanations about why this rule was rushed into place.

One is the continued controversy of oversubstitution in indoor hockey, where teams will sub out the goalkeeper to make it a 6-on-5 outfield situation when a team has the ball; it resulted in rules limiting goalkeeper substitutions during an indoor match.

I think the primary reason is to enhance player safety. Though kicking backs are required to wear a throat protector, chest protector, and helmet on corner defense, the protection is not quite the same as afforded a fully-kitted goalkeeper. Commodio carditis (a sharp blow to the heart muscle that can result in fatality) is a danger for players not used to wearing a chest protector.

The rule also, for the moment, takes out the need for coaches to train up, and strategize for, a purely defensive specialist.

I know a handful of coaches who won’t be happy about this development.

Dec. 18, 2018 — Games of the Year, 2018

The 2018 scholastic field hockey season was a collection of some wild games played coast to coast, some of which had major implications for the direction of the season — and some which didn’t, oddly enough. Here are the games which will remain long in the memories of those who played and those who witnessed the competition:

15. Louisville Kentucky Country Day School (Ky.) 2, Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 1, OT, KHSAA semifinal: Assumption had come into the state tournament with a sizable chip on its shoulder, having battled to the semifinals of the Apple Tournament, only to come across Kentucky Country Day, losing by a goal. Then, as a sendoff to the Ring of Honor Tournament in Virginia Beach, Assumption played KCD again, losing 1-0 before posting its 2-2 record during a weekend of games in Hampton Roads. For the third meeting, you might think the Jim Davis First Law of Field Hockey might have come into play, but instead it was KCD coming up with a third consecutive winning effort

14. Nov. 3, 2018: St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 1, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.) 0, Midwest Tournament final: This is the game which turned Taryn Tkachuk from superstar to legend. The leading goal-scorer the last two years in the St. Louis area, she had a lower-body injury in mid-season, which kept her off the scoreboard for a fortnight. But in the game they needed her the most, she knocked in a goal four minutes into the second half to beat MICDS in the final

13. Nov. 3, 2018: Biddeford (Maine) 4, Skowhegan (Maine) 3, MPA Class A final: This was a victory of inexperience over experience, as Biddeford won its first championship, beating a Skowhegan team that had made the state championship final the last 18 consecutive years

12. Oct. 8, 2018: Providence Moses Brown School (R.I.) 4, Walpole (Mass.) 2, regular-season game: Moses Brown has sent a number of good players to Division I schools in recent years, and the current varsity played a rare game outside the Rhode Island Interscholastic League. In that game, Moses Brown beat the perennial powerhouse from eastern Massachusetts. Oddly enough, neither team won its respective state tournament

11. Nov. 15, 2018: Escondido San Pasqual (Calif.) 1, San Diego Serra (Calif,) 0 (OT), CIF San Diego Section Open Division semifinal: San Pasqual, boasting perhaps its best team since the days when head coach Tracey Paul patrolled the sidelines in the 1990s, had battled the best of the San Diego Section, but had suffered four defeats to Serra, Scripps Ranch, and Torrey Pines in the regular season. But in the CIF Open semifinal match against Serra, the Jim Davis First Law of Field Hockey raised its head, and Serra could not beat San Pasqual a third time in the same season

10. Nov. 11, 2018: Garden City (N.Y.) 1, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 0, NYSPHSAA Class B final: Two great programs with outstanding traditions and superb coaching met up at Williamsville (N.Y.) North for this final, which was decided by a Kylie Tierney goal four minutes into the second half. The Trojan win broke Lakeland’s 137-game unbeaten streak and ended the Hornets’ championship streak at nine

9. Oct. 13, 2018: Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2, Moorestown (N.J.) 1, regular-season game: On a Saturday night at McAleer Stadium, it was Eastern getting a telling second-half goal in order to beat a Moorestown team led by senior Delaney Lawler, the niece of Eastern head coach Danyle Heilig

8. Nov. 13, 2018: Westport Staples (Conn.) 2, Darien (Conn.) 1 (OT), CIAC Class L semifinal: These two teams always play it close; coming into the contest, the last eight contests were decided by one goal or fewer. For Staples, the difference was Kyle Kirby’s overtime penalty stroke. This allowed Staples to play for, and win, its third straight state championship under head coach Ian Tapsall

7. Nov. 17, 2018: Hershey (Pa.) 2, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 1 (OT), PIAA Class AAA final: These two teams are rivals in the Mid-Penn Keystone Conference, and had met each other three times earlier in the season, with Lower Dauphin winning two including a District 3-AAA semifinal. But Hershey was able to beat Lower Dauphin in the game which mattered most, on an overtime goal; it was the Trojans’ first state field hockey title

6. Aug.  31, 2018: Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) 3, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 2, regular-season game: The closest thing you are going to get to a Tournament of Champions in Pennsylvania, the defending PAISAA champion met the defending PIAA-AAA champion. It was a dandy match which was decided by two Lauren Curran goals in the second half. Oddly enough, neither team made it back to their respective state final

5. Oct. 17, 2018: Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) 3, Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) 2, regular-season game: Not to be outdone, Notre Dame took on the defending PIAA-AA champions and beat them as well, only it took a four-goal comeback on the part of the Irish after spotting the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead

4. Sept. 23, 2018: Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 5, Oley (Pa.) Valley 3, regular-season game: Speaking of comebacks, how about the way Donegal spotted Oley Valley a 3-0 lead at the interval, only to score five goals in the span of 6:01 to come out victorious? This showcase game, played at Penn State, saw the two players who would eventually finish 1 and 3 in the national scoring race for the year. Donegal’s Mackenzie Allessie and Oley Valley’s Sophia Gladieux would finish with a goal apiece

3. Nov. 13, 2018: Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 3, Fort Washington Germantown Academy 3 (Episcopal Academy won 3-1 in penalty shootout), PAISAA final: While the entire Eastern Pennsylvania private-school field hockey world focused on defending champion Notre Dame, it was Germantown Academy, not Episcopal or Notre Dame, that took the No. 1 seed in the PAISAA Tournament. Popper, from the U.S. indoor World Cup team, had a hat trick in the final, but Episcopal Academy and its cadre of young stars held off Germantown Academy. In the shootout, goalkeeper Caroline Kelly of EA was massive in holding down GA’s shooters

2. Nov. 10, 2018: Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 1, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 0, 2 OT, VHSL Class 6A final: These two schools are a mere two miles apart and have fought for state honors annually since First Colonial head coach Laura “Beanie” Schleicher came over from Norfolk Maury (Va.) a few years ago. Cox, meanwhile, had a new head coach in Taylor Rountree, who was looking to cement her name in the lore of Cox field hockey. But the one name that people will remember from this final is Kylie Levine. In a bizarre overtime period which saw four yellow cards issued, Levine was able to make a defensive save in the 68th minute, then, as the time wound towards the 88th, she latched onto a Zoe Campisi diagonal pass and scored. It was her first goal of the season, and the difference in Cox’s 20th state championship victory

1. Nov. 17, 2017: Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 2, Palmyra (Pa.) 1, OT, PIAA Class AA final: This game is going to be remembered not for the first 60 minutes, but the last 2 1/2 minutes. Donegal, seeking a second title in three seasons, was seemingly back on its heels, having to absorb corner after corner from Palmyra. That is until Mackenzie Allessie, the senior midfielder, said, “Enough.” Self-starting from the edge of her striking circle, she thundered down the field and beat four Palmyra players for pace, wove left around the Palmyra goalkeeper, and slotted it into the goal, cool as you like. It was Allessie’s 351st and final scholastic goal