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Archive for September 18, 2019

Sept. 18, 2019 — Inside the National High School Invitational, part 1

This weekend in Conshohocken, Pa., a scant five miles from where Constance Applebee coached field hockey and physical education as early as 1904, there will be a gathering of 36 high-level scholastic teams playing 41 matches over the course of three days.

I think the best way to break this all down is by looking at the schedule via the match window, where a number of games are scheduled to begin and end pretty much simultaneously; there are two windows of competition on Friday, five on Saturday, and two on Sunday.

Today, we’ll take a look at the games in the first three match windows:

5 p.m. FRIDAY
Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) vs. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox: A definite highlight of this weekend, and the Battle of the Dynasties. Cox held the National Federation record for most consecutive state titles when they won seven straight from 1985 to 1992. That is until a number of schools, including Eastern, broke through that mark. Eastern’s current state title streak is at an astounding 20.
Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) vs. North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
This is a matchup of two excellent coaches and tacticians in Adele Williams and Jill Cosse. West Essex has won two of the last three New Jersey Group II championships, and Notre Dame has won two of the last three PAISAA championships for Pennsylvania independent schools.
Louisville Assumption (Ky.) vs. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.)
Assumption has won 10 state championships in field hockey, and is under the tutelage of Jody Schaefer, who was an assistant to Debbie Judd for a quarter-century. Episcopal Academy is your current PAISAA champion and is coached by legendary head coach Gina Buggy.
Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) vs. Louisville Sacred Heart Academy (Ky.)
This is another tilt between two state champions, as New Trier beat Lake Forest (Ill.) to win last year’s Illinois championship, while Sacred Heart topped Louisville Kentucky Country Day (Ky.) to win the KHSAA title.
Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) vs Houston St. John’s (Tex.)
Hill has been dominant in its league, the Mid-Atlantic Prep League, but has not yet won a PAISAA title. But the team has already gotten wins over both PAISAA finalists from a year ago. St. John’s is the alma mater of U.S. women’s goalie Kelsey Bing, and is one of the few schools to have a hockey-specific water-based turf.

7 p.m. FRIDAY
Owings Mills Garrison Forest (MD) vs. Fort Washington Germantown Academy (PA)
Garrison Forest is currently the top-ranked team in the greater Baltimore area, especially with their 4-1 win over Spalding. Germantown Academy made the finals of the PAISAA championship tournament, but will be hard-pressed to keep that level of form with the graduation of Sammy Popper (Princeton University).
Severn Archbishop Spalding (Md.) vs. Mount Holly Rancocas Valley (N.J.)
Spalding has graduated some immensely talented players over the last few years, including Louisville’s Margot Lawn and Maryland’s Kyler Greenwalt. Rancocas Valley’s team may not have the recent history or resume of some of its counterparts, but one alumna, Melanie Vasofski, was the last known NCAA Division III player to score an invite to a U.S. women’s national team camp.
Greenwich (Conn.) Academy vs. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)

These are two legendary programs in terms of not only coaching, but, of all things, infrastructure named for their legendary coaches. A decade and a half ago, Greenwich Academy turfed over its entire back 2 1/2 acre ground and it became the model for all other private schools (and some public schools) to follow and named it after legendary coach Angela Tammaro, who won more than 700 games in field hockey. In recent years, Lower Dauphin moved its field hockey games to an intimate turf complex at the middle school, and named it after Bea Hallman and Linda Kreiser, the only field hockey coaches the school has ever known. Both rate as amongst the best places in America to watch a field hockey game.
Flemington Hunterdon Central (N.J.) vs. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.)
Hunterdon Central won three NJSIAA Group IV championships in the mid-1990s and sent alumna Robyn Kenney to the U.S. women’s national field hockey team. McDonogh is school more known for lacrosse; it has won nine of the last 10 IAAM Class “A” women’s lacrosse titles and sent alumna Taylor Cummings to the U.S. women’s national lacrosse team.
Langley (Va.) vs. Collegeville Perkiomen Valley (Pa.)
With the move of some powerful Beach District teams from 6A to 5A this fall, Langley, a team which made the state Final Four in 6A without a senior, is suddenly a favorite to win this year’s state title. Perkiomen Valley has 12 seniors, a 23-3 record from a year ago, and some unfinished business in the postseason.

9 a.m. SATURDAY
Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) vs. Louisville Assumption (Ky.)
Located just off Runway 29 at the Westchester County Airport, Sacred Heart has been the closest rival to Greenwich Academy in Fairchester Athletic Association play the last four decades. It was the Tigers who snapped GA’s 33-year postseason title streak in 2017. Assumption won the state championship two out of the first four times the postseason tournament was sanctioned by the KHSAA.
Biddeford (Maine) vs. Louisville DuPont Manual (Ky.)
Biddeford is the Maine Principals’ Association Class A champions, and they had to beat all-time great Skowhegan (Maine) in the final to win its first state title since 1990. Manual is the first known magnet school to win a field hockey state championship; the school specializes in art, music, drama, and journalism.
South Hamilton Pingree School (Mass.) vs. Houston St. John’s (Tex.)
Pingree, in the last two seasons, has made the Final Four of NEPSAC Class C, a division for smaller New England college-prep schools. When the Tigers got to the semifinal round in 2017, it was the first time since 2011 that the team qualified. St. John’s has won five Southern Prep Conference postseason tournaments this decade, including three of the last four
Louisville Sacred Heart Academy (Ky.) vs. Pottstown Hill School (Pa.)
Sacred Heart is the host of the 47th Apple Tournament, which traditionally opens the U.S. scholastic season. But Heart is in an unusual position of not being the team holding the title. Hill is entering its 20th year as a coeducational institution, and its field hockey team may be the best it has ever put on the pitch.