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Archive for December, 2019

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.

Dec. 21, 2019 — A regrettable push of the judiciary envelope

PARENTAL ADVISORY: If you are a minor, you may wish to have a parent read this alongside you.

Part of the story of the advancing of field hockey and lacrosse across the country the last quarter-century is the fact that the demand for youth coaching is such that there is, frankly, a shortage of competent coaching to go around.

Low teacher pay and convoluted employment regulations in certain locations have led to some coaching positions being a revolving door, and others becoming open doors to potential criminals.

This space has chronicled more than a half-dozen incidents involving inappropriate relationships between coaches and students, but an incident revealed this past week goes far beyond morals charges.

Gary Reburn, the former girls’ lacrosse coach at Bethesda Walter Johnson (Md.), is currently awaiting extradition from the United Kingdom on charges involving an elaborate kidnapping scheme involving three other adults.

According to a news release from the Department of Justice’s Western District of Virginia, Reburn’s girlfriend hatched a plot to kidnap five children living in two deparate residences in Dayton, Va., to keep and raise them themselves after executing their parents.

The plot was seen through to a home invasion last summer, only to see one of the parents in the first house escape and notify police. The police took one of the conspirators into custody; that conspirator pleaded guilty last week and is now facing life in prison.

“Although the facts of this case read like the script of a bad horror movie, the defendants’ murderous plot was real and it posed a grave risk to their intended victims,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Curran said in a press release.

Reburn, who had resigned from his coaching position at Walter Johnson before the attempted kidnapping, was one of two gunmen who broke into the house and were presumably going to murder the parents of the five children. Once the plot was broken up, however, Reburn, his girlfriend, and the wife of the captured co-conspirator fled to Maryland, then to Europe.

As far as we can tell, none of the members of the Walter Johnson lacrosse team were in any kind of peril. The kidnapping plot was hatched only after Reburn had resigned from the job after the 2018 season.

However, I think the hiring practices for coaches in the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), one of the largest school systems in this country, may require a revisit.

Dec. 20, 2019 — The Final Top 50

We’re back with our (reasonably) well-researched national Top 50. Heading this list, of course, are, once again, the two Garden State Firm rivals, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.).

The gap between the two teams has grown a bit thanks to a pair of 4-1 wins on the part of the Royals. However, next year the northern queens graduate a lot of seniors, and Eastern returns the nation’s leading scorer, Ryleigh Heck.

After some long evenings with copious amounts of vitamin-enhanced water and the occasional egg nog, here’s our Top 50:

1. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 26-0
2. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 23-2
3. Delmar (Del.) 19-0
4. Somerset-Berkley (Mass.) 24-0
5. West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) 25-3
6. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 18-1
7. Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.) 19-0
8. Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 23-2
9. Greenwich (Conn.) Sacred Heart 21-2
10. Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.) 16-3-1
11. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 23-1-3
12. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 20-1-1
13. Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) 26-2-1
14. Palmyra (Pa.) 22-3
15. Dexter (Mich.) 19-1-2
16. Westport Staples (Conn.) 21-1-1
17. Oley (Pa.) Valley 25-2
18. North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 23-2-1
19. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 20-1-1
20. Gahanna Columbus Academy (Ohio) 20-0-1
21. Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 17-10-1
22. Maine-Endwell (N.Y.) 16-3
23. West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) 24-3
24. Langley (Va.) 20-1-1
25. San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 22-2-1
26. St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.) 17-3-1
27. Mullica Hill Clearview (N.J.) 22-3-1
28. Gloucester (Va.) 19-2
29. Houston St. John’s (Tex.) 15-2
30. Severna Park (Md.) 16-2
31. Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 17-2
32. Fredericksburg James Monroe (Va.) 20-3
33. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 22-3
34. Owings Mills Garrison Forrest (Md.) 17-3-1
35. Skowhegan (Maine) 18-0
36. Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 18-0
37. Guilford (Conn.) 21-0
38. Sykesville Liberty (Md.) 16-0
39. Los Angeles Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) 18-0
40. Dover-Sherborn (Mass.) 21-1-2
41. Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic 16-2
42. Granby (Conn.) Memorial 18-0-1
43. Marriottsville Marriotts Ridge (Md.) 12-3-1
44. Charlotte (N.C.) Country Day School 18-3-2
45. St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 19-5
46. Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) 17-3
47. Weston Rivers School (Mass.) 18-0-1
48. Virginia Beach Cape Henry Collegiate (Va.) 15-4-1
49. Windsor (Vt.) 14-2-1
50. Windham (N.H.) 16-1

And bear in mind:  San Jose Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) 18-2-2, Westminster (Md.) 13-5, Hanover (N.H.) 14-1-1, Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) 19-3, Bronxville (N.Y.) 17-3-2, Emmaus (Pa.) 26-1, East Greenwich (R.I.) 15-1-1, South Burlington Rice Memorial (Vt.) 12-4-1, Bristol Mount Abraham Union (Vt.) 12-3-2, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 15-3, Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels (Wisc.) 9-6

Dec. 19, 2019 — A powerful expansion in one sport (thus far)

Today, it was reported that the University of North Carolina at Charlotte would be adding a women’s team sport.

And, by 2022, women’s lacrosse will be a part of the athletic offerings in a school located in a city that is now one of the most important financial centers in the United States. Charlotte is slated to become the seventh NCAA Division I university to offer women’s lacrosse.

I’ve known for years that the school has been aiming to develop a competitive football team in Conference USA. As such, the school needs to add more women’s athletic teams to create Title IX balance.

There is a good argument for the school to begin a field hockey program, as central North Carolina has become a tremendous breeding ground for new scholastic programs. The city had both finalists in the public-school and the private-school state tournaments in 2019. The problem, of course, is that the only other Conference USA team playing field hockey is Old Dominion, which competes in the Big East in that sport.

But the potential benefit of UNC-Charlotte picking up the sport is the fact that several C-USA schools are located near places where field hockey is present, such as Western Kentucky, Texas-San Antonio, and North Texas State. I would think having a Charlotte field hockey program might be the touch paper that ignites college field hockey in the deep South.

Let’s see what happens.


Dec. 18, 2019 — An unusual guru

This fall, I have been drawn in by some compelling sports television: the series by the NFL Network selecting the 100 greatest players and coaches of the first 100 years of the NFL.

The most interesting parts of these “reveal” shows isn’t just the revelations of the players and coaches. For me, it’s the discussions between host Rich Eisen, commentator Cris Collinsworth, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Belichick’s public persona may be of the coach with taciturn statements to the media, but who loves to discuss lacrosse with Baltimore-area reporters during teleconferences whenever the next opponent is the Ravens. He is a six-time Super Bowl champion who was, frankly, within a possession of three more titles.

And, given what the NFL has written about the selection process, and his comments during the broadcasts, Belichick is a historian of the game of pro football. He teamed with former Oakland coach John Madden in doing research on the first 60 years of the NFL to give context and perspective to the rest of the selection committee so that the TV Era of the league does not get too much influence in terms of the selectees.

And Belichick’s comments have been wonderful and incisive, especially when former players have been brought in. The discussions between he and Jim Brown and Ray Lewis and Emmitt Smith and Lawrence Taylor have been incredible. There was some special repartee between Belichick and Lewis, especially when it came to a certain pass route that Lewis and teammate Ed Reed would sniff out and intercept just about every time the Patriots tried it.

There are a few more installments left to broadcast, and replays are available on demand from the NFL’s YouTube channel. It’s a wonderful time capsule, and it’s the kind of historical perspective on sports that I very much enjoy.