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Archive for January 14, 2019

Jan. 14, 2019 — The case for Mackenzie Allessie

Last in a series of posts laying out arguments for the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time.

It was Nov. 21, 2014 when Austyn Cuneo scored her final goal for Voorhees Eastern (N.J.). Who knew that, nine months later in a small village five miles west of the USA Field Hockey training center at Spooky Nook, that an equally prodigious scoring career would begin?

Mackenzie Allessie’s prowess as a field hockey player was known through rumor from her time in the indoor game. During one of these tournaments, she was introduced to Jessica Rose Shellenberger, the two-time All-American who gave her one-on-one coaching.

Their familiarity certainly clicked when Allessie first joined Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) as a freshman, and Allessie, part of an all-star lineup including three age-group national teamers, rang up 60 goals.

Of course, the concept of 60 goals as a ninth-grader wasn’t a difficult one to wrap your mind around, but it was the way she scored some of her goals that was eye-popping.

If you ever get a full game-tape of her first-round state tournament game Nov. 14, 2015, against Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), you will understand her all-around skills and prowess. First of all, there was that eighth-minute goal where she had all kinds of time and room to change then angle of what had been a 1-up corner play, then slid a backhand shot past the diving Carroll keeper.

But you have to remember that Allessie, for all of her offensive prowess, was a midfielder, and as such, was on the penalty corner defense unit. In the 24th minute of play, she made a backhand clear out of the circle that was maybe shin-high, going over one opposing stick and under another. A half-minute later, classmate Lily Saunders finished off a 3-on-1 which gave Donegal a 3-1 lead.

Twelve minutes later, Allessie threw an aerial into the attacking third, which Saunders latched onto to score. Ten minutes later, she crossed up two Carroll defenders on a curving run into the circle and slipped a shot that beat the goalkeeper, but was saved off the line by an alert Archbishop Carroll defender.

This space wrote that day, “Allessie is an absolute magician with the stick. She makes plays that are off the charts for somebody who is 14 years old.”

To her credit, she kept improving, scoring 76 goals in a sophomore year which saw her and the Indians win the PIAA Class AA state championship, then 91 goals her junior year.

The 2018 season for Allessie was one for the ages. In early October, she became the second player to score 300 goals for a scholastic career. A week later, she broke Cuneo’s all-time record for goals in a season. Four days later, she not only became the first field hockey player to break the 100-goal mark in a season, but she broke Cuneo’s all-time record for goals in a career.

Allessie could have relaxed after all that, but the Indians were on a mission to win a second state championship. And on Nov. 17, 2018, that mission was accomplished. In the sixth minute of overtime against Palmyra (Pa.) in the PIAA Class AA final.

Donegal withstood four consecutive Palmyra penalty corners, then Allessie took the game on her shoulders. She self-started on the free-out from the 16 and kept on running, cut left into the circle, rounded the goalkeeper, and scored a backhander to win the game. It was an astonishing goal, but an appropriate one to end an astonishing career.

A month later came an equally astonishing announcement: Allessie was being called in to the U.S. senior women’s national team, and would be training with the U.S. team on a full-time basis before matriculating to Ohio State University.