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Archive for December, 2019

Dec. 31, 2019 — 176 right, 137 wrong

Today, I finished my Trivial Pursuit Master’s Edition Year-In-A-Box calendar, a calendar full of questions about everything from Cleopatra to grapes to the nature of spinal nerves. And this year’s collection of questions was hard.

This reflects in my percentage of correct answers this year was 56.2 percent, much lower than the last couple of years.

I still keep score.

Dec. 30, 2019 — From the right hand

The field hockey program at Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) could have looked high and low for the coach needed to replace 1984 Olympian Gina Buggy.

Turns out, all EA needed to do was look in the same coaching box.

Stefanie Fee, who represented the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and also was part of the 2014 U.S. team which won the first major trophy for the women’s national team in 94 years of international competition, was hired recently as coach for the Churchwomen.

Episcopal, in Buggy’s final season as coach, finished as the winners of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA). This included wins over Louisville Assumption (Ky.), and Norfolk Cape Henry Collegiate (VA) in the National High School Invitational.

The Churchwomen, with high-performance players up and down its lineup, are a definite favorite for Inter-Ac and PAISAA honors in 2020, and hiring Fee can’t hurt.

Dec. 29, 2019 — One of the world’s most lucrative sports leagues takes a page from another

TELESIDE, USA — The final week of the English Premier League is run like many others in that all of the games start at exactly the same time so that there is no “scoreboard watching” as there has been on occasion in professional sports.

The tension builds over the course of two hours as the top four teams for European competition are identified, and the lowest three teams for relegation to the EFL Championship are also identified.

This has led to a number of unforgettable situations that have unfolded in real time as games have ended.

Today, the National Football League scheduled its 16 games so that every one of them was a divisional matchup, and that most of the pairs of games were scheduled to occur simultaneously in the usual 1 o’clock and 4:25 windows, with the showcase San Francisco-Seattle game being broadcast at 8:15.

This led to a situation when the games between New England and Miami and between Kansas City and San Diego had a pair of late touchdowns occurring within seconds of each other.

The same occurred with some of the late games, as the Dallas-Washington and Philadelphia-New York contests wound to their conclusions simultaneously.

This didn’t happen in the past, the management of competition to have games potentially influencing other teams’ playoff chances rescheduled to occur simultaneously. But I did see the look on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s face when he put forth the notion of scheduling all 16 games on the final Sunday of the regular season.

That, frankly, can’t happen with NFL franchises in four time zones.

But Decision Sunday made for a pretty good spectacle.

Dec. 28, 2019 — Tinkering around the edges?

Meet the new U.S. women’s soccer team. Same as the old U.S. women’s soccer team.

That is, I think, the takeaway from the release of the training roster for the team as it embarks on CONCACAF qualification for the Olympics.

As usual, the constraint for the program is numbers; the team could simply take its 23-player roster from the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but Olympic rosters are just 20 players.

We all know that Alex Morgan is unlikely to play in Tokyo because she is expecting during the late spring, meaning that, aside from paring down one goalkeeper, there could be as few as one cut from the World Cup roster to make up the Olympic roster.

Then again, there are the six players that new head coach Vlatko Andronovski has brought in. This includes known quantities such as Casey Short, Lynn Williams, and Andi Sullivan, all of whom have proven themselves in the National Women’s Soccer League.

A couple of interesting adds for the U.S. team during this training camp are Stanford’s Sophia Smith and Portland Thorns leading scorer Margaret Purce. These are younger players whose best days are ahead, but they are being given a shot at proving themselves on the world stage right away.

I’ll be interested to see the product on the pitch next month, since it will have to evolve between now and this summer because of injury, age, and unforeseen circumstances.

Dec. 27, 2019 — United States Coach of the Year: Ali Good, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)

When Ali Good graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1999, she could have chosen to go into her family’s grocery business.

She did, but she also received a call from her high school, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), to join the field hockey coaching staff.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Dec. 26, 2019 — The Score-O Decade, by grade level

The enormous assault on the part of scholastic field hockey players on the existing Federation record book hit a climax at the end of the 2010.

Below is what we think are the high scorers by class are as of the close of play for this season, understanding that there may be numbers which may not be known to this site:

Freshman Gls
Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 60
Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 55
Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.) 53
Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.) 47
Sophomore Gls
Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 78
Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 76
Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 68
Sammy Popper, Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.) 57
Erin Matson, Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) 49
Junior Gls
Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 96
Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 92
Meredith Sholder, Emmaus (Pa.) 64
Amie Survilla, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) 63
Megan Rodgers, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 60
Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 59
Senior Gls
Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 124
Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 95
Tracey Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 82
Megan Rodgers, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 81
Carol Middough, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) 78

The collective effort on the part of the players and teams in the decade between 2010 and 2019 is an astounding shift. Every player except one competed in the 2010s.

In a game which traditionally sees goals as a rare thing, it’s great for supporters. For some coaches and goalkeepers? It might be an era to forget.

Dec. 25, 2019 — Keeping the cup

Remember this?

Today, I’ll have cocoa in the cup again with my sisters as we gather for the holidays.

May you and yours enjoy the winter holidays, whatever you celebrate.

Dec. 24, 2019 — Your national scoring champion

Ryleigh Heck would have settled for playing a supporting role for her older sister Kara, who was within shouting distance of a 200-goal career after a 42-goal junior campaign with Voorhees Eastern (N.J.).

That is, until Kara Heck went down with a knee injury in May during lacrosse season. That put her out of action for the entire 2019 field hockey season.

But there was always Ryleigh.

And, gadzooks, did she bring the noise for the 2019 season. Her 78 goals for the 2019 season are the highest ever scored by an American high-school sophomore, even more than Mackenzie Allessie’s 76-goal effort just three years ago.

“Wow,” the younger Heck sister said when told of the feat. “I had no idea.”

The story of Ryleigh Heck’s 2019 field hockey season was all about the absence of her older sister Kara, and about how the team rallied around her and the sophomore sniper-to-be.

“In the beginning, our team was in shock and we didn’t know what to do,” Ryleigh said of those fraught first days of the season. “Kara was the best player on our team, and perhaps the best player in the state.”

The first four games of the 2019 season, Ryleigh Heck was held off the scoreboard twice. But the Eastern coaching staff made an early-season adjustment, moving her from midfield to attack, and the dividends were immediate. She had braces in consecutive games against Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) and Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) at the National High School Invitational, then just kept on scoring. In one five-day period, Ryleigh Heck posted 16 goals, including an astounding six against Downingtown (Pa.) West, a team just two years removed from playing in a state final.

“I think it was the switch from center-mid to center-forward got me going,” Heck said. “We worked well together, and that’s when we got to the peak of our high-school season.”

Heck’s season culminated in Eastern’s 21st state championship, although the Vikings fell to Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) in the Tournament of Champions final.

Ryleigh Heck is the latest player from Eastern to lead the country in goal-scoring, something which has happened seven times in the last 11 seasons. 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.

2019: Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 78
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: Unknown
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. 23, 2019 — A hire that USA Field Hockey may have gotten right

For the record, the hiring today of Caroline Nelson-Nichols continues USA Field Hockey’s trend of hiring foreign-born coaches the last 20 years, as the former Columbia University coach was born in Hamilton, Bermuda.

But Nelson-Nichols is as all-American as they come. She prepped at Salem (Va.) before matriculating to a Hall-of-Fame field hockey career at Old Dominion University. She would then go on to represent the USA in two Olympics, and she was an absolute rock at defense and defensive midfielder for the States.

It’s why, I think, her hiring is an inspired choice as head coach for a reeling U.S. women’s national team program. I don’t think this was a “panic button” choice at all; she’s a coach who has built good success in her time at Columbia, to the point where her incoming class of committed players includes Annabelle Brodeur, part of the No. 1 Oak Knoll field hockey team.

Nelson-Nichols will be, I believe, the kind of coach who can build the team from the back. WIth an elite world-level goalkeeper in Kelsey Bing, a defense can be built around her, with the rest of the parts finding their roles during training.

That training is going to have to come with dispatch: the first U.S. match of 2020 is one month from now against the world champions, Holland.

Dec. 22, 2019 — An age-old question

“Alexa, turn on the lights.”
(Dead silence follows)

A few weeks ago, as part of a magazine promotion, I received one of those digital hubs which run off your home’s wireless fidelity signal. I’ve done very little with it except ask for the outdoor temperature before going out for the day.

That is, until I saw an ad in an electronics store for these things called “smart bulbs,” which allow a digital hub to turn them off and on, or adjust brightness.

I wanted to install them in half of my apartment, not the whole thing (just in case of internet outage), and that half is controlled by a single lightswitch.

I put the three bulbs in and consulted the instructions, which were the so-called “quick start” instructions. The instructions, however, put me into a 45-minute cycle when I tried to pair the three bulbs using the cell phone, but I could not pair more than one at a time.

I consulted the Internet for some help. There were a couple of YouTube videos, entries on Reddit, and several threads on the website of the manufacturer of the bulb.

The question entered my mind: How many people does it take to screw in a smartbulb?

“Alexa, turn on Light 1.”
(Two of the three lights blink off)

The way I see it, the answer to that question has to near more than 100 people. There are the inventors of the bulb, the people who write the code, and, of course, former actress Hedy Lamarr, who invented wireless technology.

It also takes users to post their experiences as to what they did and make the instructions relatable to what I was doing.

The problem, of course, is getting all of those people to work together seamlessly, which wasn’t happening. At least until I ran across a Reddit post hidden deep in one of the conversation threads.

Turns out what I had to do was activate each bulb individually, then use the voice app to group the bulbs under one name.

“Alexa, turn on overhead lights.”
(All three bulbs wink on simultaneously)

Ah, progress.