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Archive for January, 2019

Jan. 31, 2019 — A long-time coach hangs up her whistle

One of the nation’s longest-tenured field hockey coaches, Kathy DeAngelis, has resigned from her position as coach at Hofstra University.

As a player, DeAngelis prepped under the legendary Sandy Curt at Lexington (Mass.,) and was a standout on some of the mid-80s Massachusetts sides, including the 1987 Final Four team. She was in the U.S. high-performance pool, playing in the 1989 U.S. Olympic Festival, a precursor to the current USFHA Women’s National Championship.

As a coach, she steered Hofstra to 200 wins and 210 defeats in 21 seasons in a New York metropolitan area which has seen numerous changes in the collegiate field hockey landscape since she started.

Back in 1992, DeAngelis pretty much had the New York City area to herself. But with the start of field hockey programs at Columbia in 1996, Adelphi in 2008, Pace in 2015, LIU-Brooklyn in 2016, Wagner in 2019, and the planned megamerger of the LIU-Brooklyn and LIU-Post campuses scheduled for 2020, the recruiting game has changed, even as many of the better athletes in the region are choosing lacrosse.

DeAngelis had, towards the end of her Hofstra tenure, become one of a growing number of U.S. college coaches to start a USFHA-affiliated youth club, called Long Island United.

I, for one, hope the club continues.

Jan. 30, 2019 — An immediate dividend

Mackenzie Allessie knows a thing or two about being able to propel a plastic ball into a goal frame that is seven feet high and four yards wide.

It took a scrimmage, plus a game and a half for the graduate of Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) to get on the scoreboard for the United States of America.

Allessie punched in a goal in the 34th minute of the second of two Tests against Chile this week, which wound up being a 3-3 regulation draw, but with Chile winning the post-overtime penalty shootout.

The American side, for the second straight Test, yielded three goals to the Chileans, which is of definite concern with Saturday’s looming FIH Pro League opener against Argentina.

But the United States’ attack seems to be gaining in strength and confidence. The Americans, through Allessie, Jill Funk, and Mary Beth Barham, staked themselves to a 3-1 lead by the 47th minute, only to see the Red Devils level the match late.

It will be interesting to see if the States learn lessons from this match against Argentina; I think a point in this game would be enormous, as any road point in tournament qualificatioon is a good point, and this is the first time that an U.S. national field hockey team will have to do extensive travel and play both home and road matches in order to qualify for a major tournament.

Jan. 29, 2019 — Moving on

Yesterday, USA Field Hockey released its 2019 Women’s Developmental Squad, the pool of players who, presumably, would be plumbed and mined for talent in case of injury or illness befalling the senior women’s national team as the FIH Pro League continues on through the summer.

I was hoping this team would be retaining a number of players from past women’s national teams, people like Erin McCrudden, who had 13 caps last year and was on the roster of the U.S. team that made the 2017 FIH World League Final.

But aside from the Louisville star, there aren’t a lot of players with international caps on this year’s developmental side, which will be making an international tour in April.

That tour is likely to be a high-stakes audition for the second half of the Pro League, especially if, as expected, the United States is at the bottom of the table because of the front-loaded schedule of road games.

In case of a callup, we’ll see how ready the individuals on this reserve team are.

Jan. 28, 2019 — Seeking growth

Yesterday saw the first official match for the new-look U.S. women’s field hockey team as part of the lead-up to the States’ debut against Argentina in the FIH Pro League, a competition which can make or break the Americans’ chances of qualification for Tokyo 2020.

As if to belie the uncertainty surrounding the Olympic qualification cycle, the United States lost 3-2 to Chile in a game in which they fell 3-0 adrift within 20 minutes, but had a good second half to draw within one.

Without streaming, it is not possible for American fans (or Argentina’s coaches) to gauge the pace and rhythm of the contest or the degree to which the Americans carried the play in the second term.

What is known, however, is that this game is the first step in a marathon which will almost certainly lead into a two-game winner-take-all series for one of the final seven Olympic berths.

For the young U.S. side, there’s a lot of personal and team growth ahead, and how well they are coached will determine their ultimate fate.

Jan. 27, 2019 — Are All-Star games a waste of time?

It was in September of 2004 when Bruce Arena, the coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team, posited that all-star games were, in his words, “a complete waste of time.”

In American sports culture, all-star games have been a staple since 1933. But the game of baseball is a relatively low-risk injury sport, which is a game within a game (think of the confrontation of pitcher and hitter) with a game in which interleague play did not become a regular part of the schedule until 1997. That meant that, for example, your favorite batter wouldn’t face a favorite pitcher from the other league except in the World Series or the All-Star Game.

Other athletic competitions have their own games, but one wonders for how long. The Pro Bowl, which used to feature some tough play and strategy, is a game where players simply give themselves up and the whistle blows before a tackle.

Both the NHL and AHL have all-star games which are shortened 3-on-3 games — in essence, a glorified overtime. The NBA has lots of offensive flair and very little defense; scores this year could be out of sight, given the average scores of games played this season.

Collegiate lacrosse and field hockey have their own all-star games; field hockey is usually held at the site of the Division I Final Four on the rest day between the semifinals and the championship game. Lacrosse’s all-star showcase is usually held a couple of weeks after the NCAA final weekend(s). But for all of the awesome athletes invited to these matches, you never see these games played on television.

So, one does have to wonder: in these days of oversaturation of athletic competitions, does an all-star game still serve its purpose? Does the lack of 1-on-1 matchups in many sports hinder some sports? How about the lack incentive to win the game?

One thing I’ve been noticing in terms of all-stars is the creation of an entire league of all-star players. The UWLX and WPLL are movable feasts which have some of the greatest female lacrosse players in the world, including members of the national team.

What I have also noticed is that, around the world, there is a great number of temporary leagues — Hockey India League, Big Bash Cricket League — which play a modified version of their sports for only about a month at a time. All the games are available for view by supporters, and the live-game experience is loud and vibrant.

I have a feeling these folks have something to teach the lords of American sport.

Jan. 26, 2019 — Finishing a package, and, perhaps, an era in history

This morning, I pulled out a Ziploc bag from my refrigerator. It had a date and a name on it. The contents were some handmade flour tortillas.

The story behind my breakfast is that these tortillas were made by a friend of mine who had to turn to production of the Mexican food staple in order to make ends meet. She’s a lawyer for one of the armed services who, like some 800,000 people in the last month or so, have not been drawing a Federal paycheck because of the U.S. government shutdown.

The last month has opened up not only a certain solidarity amongst people who are in public service, but it has ramped up what has been called “the gig economy.” There’s a large underground economy of part-time work which has included on-demand transportation, food sales, and the making of art. I’ve made it a point to try to help out that economy for people who, for no fault of their own, have not had a job to do.

Fortunately, by this coming week, things should be back to normal when it comes to the workday.

Even the traffic. But that’s another story.

Jan. 25, 2019 — Hockey diplomacy, part deux?

Whenever the Republic of Korea (which most people in the Western world call “South Korea”) competes in field hockey, the usual name which is used in FIH competition is “Korea.”

Recently, however, the program representing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (which most Westerners call “North Korea”) has broken through into the top 40 of women’s indoor field hockey programs, holding 37th place — one placing ahead of China.

North Korea has not been much of a player on the world hockey front. Indeed, the last time the DPRK qualified for a major tournament, it was the 1990 Asian Cup.

But in a bit of Summer Olympics diplomacy, there is now an effort from FIH to combine the two Koreas into unified men’s and women’s sides to compete in the 2020 Olympics. This, after North and South competed together in the women’s ice hockey tournament at PyeongChang last year.

“The FIH has put together an action plan with the objective to get to the participation of a unified Korean hockey team for future FIH events, potentially for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” said the FIH statement.

This attempt at unification, however, is a tougher row to hoe than in women’s ice hockey. The different in class between these two programs is, frankly, the difference between chalk and cheese. South Korean teams have won three silver medals in their recent history, most recently, the men’s shootout loss to Holland at Sydney 2000.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s outdoor teams programs do not even register a blip on the outdoor radar. Neither gender holds a single outdoor ratings point.