TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for July, 2021

July 31, 2021 — Looking back, looking forward

Pool play has concluded at Tokyo 2020, and we’ve got two knockout brackets which will lead to Olympic champions next week.

What have we learned from pool play? What is likely to happen next week? And who will be atop the medal stand when play finishes at Oi Stadium? Well, we’re going to try to answer some of those questions here.

THE RETURN OF INDIA: As befitting a nation of more than a billion people, India has made a grand return to the Olympics. And not just on the men’s side, but the women’s. The Eves, a side which denied the United States a place in these Olympics, suffered three consecutive defeats in pool play to start, but got two straight wins to finish fourth in its pool, but must play Australia in the quarterfinal round.

TEAM TURMOIL TO TEAM TERRIFIC: Speaking of Australia, the Hockeyroos did have a hard last couple of years. There were appeals from players after being dropped from the side, and resignations of personnel within Hockey Australia because of a bullying scandal. Under head coach Katrina Powell, this side has shown resilience, topping its pool while outscoring its opposition 15-1.

THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: In 2018, Ireland had a magical run to the FIH World Cup final, winning silver and capturing the imagination of The Green Isle. But with many of the same players, Ireland crashed out of the games, finishing fifth in its pool. The Green Army weren’t blown out in any of their games; it just that the team were only able to score four goals the entire competition.

HARD TIMES FOR THE HOSTS: In this century, no host nation has won gold in field hockey. Japan, despite having some good results over the last two decades, had both their men’s and women’s teams fail to qualify with a combine record of one win and nine defeats in pool play.

HOPE TO HEARTACHE: South Africa was prevented from taking the field at the 2016 Olympics because the South African Olympic Committee kept on throwing up barriers for the team to claim its African berths at Rio. So, when these barriers were removed for Tokyo, there was a certain amount of optimism for the men’s and women’s program coming in. But South Africa’s teams combined for a win, a draw, and eight defeats at Tokyo.

THE QUARTERS: There are a couple of juicy fixtures to keep your eye on for the knockout phase of the tournament, which begins this weekend. At 8:30 EDT this evening, the Germany-Argentina men’s game should be a firecracker. That is followed by the 11 p.m. EDT game between Australia and The Netherlands. On the women’s side, the Monday morning (5:30 a.m. EDT) match between The Netherlands and New Zealand could be a trap game for the Oranje.

GAME TO WATCH: Sunday morning, Team GB plays India. This game wakes up the echoes when India was a British colony, sometimes under very brutal conditions. Interestingly, when Britain was occupying other countries, its military officers brought their athletic pursuits with them. And the colonists were able to learn their lessons well. India has been able to best Great Britain on both the hockey field and on the cricket pitch in the 20th Century after independence.

Though England won the inaugural men’s field hockey competition at the 1908 Olympics, it was India which earned its status as the paragons of the game in the 20th Century. The Men in Blue spun a 30-game winning streak in the Olympics while winning six straight gold medals in the sport, eight overall.

July 30, 2021 — Your national lacrosse scoring champion

On June 8, Fran Frieri, a junior attacker from Lockport (Ill.) Township, broke the existing national record for girls’ lacrosse goals in a single season. She wound up with 191 goals, which is 21 more than the highest known number of goals scored in a scholastic season.

It was a pretty big deal for the small town of about 25,000 located 30 miles southwest of Chicago. Thing is, it barely made a dent in the local media.

“Our newspaper (The Lockport Legend) closed down because of COVID,” Frieri says. “We had to rely on our social media team in order to get the word out about getting people to come to our games. And that’s how we roll.”

Frieri’s story, and word of her achievements, have circulated within the U.S. lacrosse community. Your national lacrosse scoring champion was chosen for the UnderArmour lacrosse All-American tournament in the Highlight Division as well as a combine of youth lacrosse players competing for spots on the U.S. U-19 World Cup team, scheduled to compete in 2023.

Not bad for a representative of a Lockport team which has only been a varsity program for four years.

“We have a really special program, because none of our girls had really played lacrosse before,” Frieri says. “Our seniors were freshman on that inaugural team.”

Frieri’s talents and skills are readily apparent when you watch her play at the UnderArmour tournament. Her speed, honed by track and field, allows her to skirt opposing defenders before they are ready to throw a check. She is able to execute from the 8-meter arc on free positions. And at one juncture, she took a pass from a teammate and zinged in an over-the-shoulder shot which was nullified by a shooting-space call.

She’s going to be taking her talents to Notre Dame in the fall of 2022. And a big part of the adjustment is to make sure that she’s not going to be defined by her 191-goal season.

But first, there’s a matter of her senior year at Lockport, and trying to improve on the team’s match through to the IHSA Super Sectionals last spring.

“My sister is coming up on the team next year,” Frieri says. “And I want to be able to raise that assist number.”

For the record, Frieri recorded 24 assists in 2021.

Frieri joins a list of past national goal-scoring leaders:

2021: Fran Frieri, Lockport (Ill.) Township, 191
2020: No award because of global pandemic
2019: Brittany Sherrod, Versailles Woodford County (Ky.) 158
2018: Charlie Rudy, Novato (Calif.), 147
2017: Charlie Rudy, Novato (Calif.), 160
2016: Bridget Ruskey, Cape May Courthouse Middle Township (N.J.), 135
2015: Sophia Turchetta, Harvard Bromfield (Mass.), 158
2014: Sophia Turchetta, Harvard Bromfield (Mass.), 170
2013: Daniela McMahon, Saddle River Country Day School (N.J.), 143
2012: Emma Lazaroff, Lafayette Centaurus (Colo.), 143
2011: Alex Moore, Allentown (N.J.), 148
2010: Autumn MacMillin, Tecumseh (Mich.), 157
2009: Katie Ferris, Carthage (N.Y.), 138
2008: Courtney Miller, Chappaqua Horace Greeley (N.Y.) 125
2007: Mallori Selliger, Clarkstown (N.Y.) North, 88
2006: Shannon Smith, West Babylon (N.Y.) 129

July 29, 2021 — An Olympic champion realized

There are just four players on a 3-on-3 basketball team.

Each of the four players have to carry the load when it comes to defense, rebounding, shooting, and even the task of capturing a made shot and passing it out to a teammate over the three-point line for the next possesion.

It’s a quick game requiring precision passing and a knowledge of each other’s tendencies so that the interchange of positions are instantaneous.

Now, it’s a given that the United States could always put together a tremendous 3-on-3 team in either gender. But it’s interesting that, even while the Big 3 professional tournament started four years ago, the United States failed to qualify a men’s team to the Tokyo Olympics.

The women? No problem. The team of Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray, Jackie Young, and Stefanie Dolson plowed through pool play to gain the No. 1 seed in the knockout round of the Olympics, then beat France and the unbranded Russia Olympic Committee team to win the gold medal.

It’s a great resurgence for Stefanie Dolson, who was an elite player while at the University of Connecticut, but found herself traded to the Chicago Sky her third year in the WNBA. Since then, the team has been a mid-table franchise. Currently, the Sky are at .500 in the Eastern Conference.

But Dolson, coming off a family outbreak of COVID-19, has worked hard on her game and even dropped 30 pounds to become more injury resistance as well as to develop the endurance needed for the rigors of the game. She played beautifully in the pivot for the United States, grabbing rebounds, scoring inside, and making passes to teammates.

Dolson would not have been out of place on the senior women’s basketball team, especially with Elena Delle Donne out with a back injury. But no doubt, she would have been a dominant and intimidating presence no matter which version of the game she chose for Tokyo.

July 28, 2021 — The American connections

Without an American team in the 2021 Olympic field hockey competition, there are still a number of American connections on show.

Last night had a big, big cluster of former NCAA stars as Maryland’s Nike Lorenz and UConn’s Cecile Pieper played for Germany against an Ireland side with Louisville’s Ayesha McFerrel, Sarah Hawkshaw of the University of Massachusetts, Northeastern’s Deirdre Duke, and Connecticut’s Roisin Upton.

In past years, you did not see a great number of Olympic field hockey players with NCAA experience. They would play their developmental hockey for their local club or for their domestic league.

That has changed marginally in the last couple of decades as the number of foreign athletes in NCAA field hockey has increased. Still, the number of players with an NCAA connection at these Games is a scant few.

July 27, 2021 — United States Coach of the Year for lacrosse: Rachel Sanford, Aurora Evergreen (Colo.)

As the story goes, when Rachel Sanford took over as head coach of Evergreen High School in Aurora, Colo., she walked the halls of the school and took a look at the trophy wall at the school and noted the lack of hardware for girls’ lacrosse.

“One day,” she told her team, “you are going to be state champs.”

That prophesy became reality in 2021 as Evergreen, playing a confident and high-octane variety of lacrosse, plowed through the Colorado High School Athletic Association’s Class 4A bracket like a wood-chipper. Evergreen, the No. 1 seed, sent all of its tournament games to the running clock, beating Lakewood Green Mountain (Colo.) 15-5, Loveland Thompson Valley (Colo.) 17-5, then bested Castle Rock Castle View (Colo.) 19-5 in the championship final.

The championship represented the first time a girls’ lacrosse team from Jefferson County had ever won a state lacrosse title. And it wasn’t easy. The Cougars only had 15 players on their roster this season.

“Everybody got a lot of playing time,” Sanford says. “Having a smaller team means that everybody can get in there and get a lot of playing time. We have to rotate everybody through so that not only can we play a fast game, but we have enough legs for the next game.”

The strategy worked. The Cougars went 11-2 on the season, spreading out scoring so that three players on the side — Margo Miller, Bella Reece, and Averi Gardner — had 40 goals each on the season.

Sanford is a decorated player who has won a U-19 World Cup as a player, is a member of the Connecticut High School Hall of Fame, and played with distinction at Duke University. Since graduation, she’s shown a remarkable affinity for coaching. She has started her own career coaching firm in Colorado as well as working with a consulting firm.

And now, the success with Evergreen, which came after the team dropped its first two games of the season, but won the last 11 to take the 4A title.


ALSO CONSIDERED:

Thomas Brandel, Sykesville Liberty (Md.): Got the Lions to their first state championship appearance since 2001 and won the Class 1A state final over Fallston (Md.)

John Dwyer, Wilmette Loyola Academy (Ill.): Coming out of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Ramblers may have had their best team ever, winning all 25 games on their schedule

Kristina Gagnon, Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.): The Gators not only won the IAAM “A” title in 2021, but also beat rival McDonogh twice, which is a remarkable feat

Kristin Igoe Guarino, Franklin (Mass.): The former U.S. women’s national team player coached her Franklin side to within one win of a state championship

Ashley Inman, Poway (Calif.): The former Oregon star had a rough start to the 2021 season, losing three of four, but had a memorable late-season run through the CIF San Diego Open Tournament

Ron LaFrance, Fort Covington Salmon River (N.Y.): The coach, who doubles as Chief of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, has been not only able to get the most out of the Shamrocks in 2021, but also steered them to a Section X championship

Dana Lenneper, Tinton Falls Trinity Hill (N.J.): Has taken this program, which has only been around since 2014, to the state Non-Public “B” title, and fought a tremendous three-part battle with conference rival Rumson-Fair Haven

John McClain, Delray American Heritage (Fla.): Despite losing a one-in-a-lifetime player to graduation, the Stallions were able to win the state championship, beating a number of amazing teams along the way

Carol Rose, Northport (N.Y.): Despite the weight of expectations and a tough county schedule, the team went undefeated and won the Long Island Class “A” title

Gianna Spinelli, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.): First-year head coach was able to motivate the Royals to a repeat performance as Tournament of Champions trophy-winners

Kristin Woods, New Canaan (Conn.): Playing a tough league schedule, the Rams defeated Darien (Conn.) twice in the regular season before losing in the state tournament, one which Darien would eventually win

June 26, 2021 — My 14

This evening, Kayla Wood, Kayla Traynor, Haley Warden, and Dempsey Arsenault — the four highest point-scorers in Athletes Unlimited women’s lacrosse last weekend — will be choosing up sides for this coming weekend’s games.

This kind of “rotisserie” drafting for each week’s fixtures is a hallmark of Athletes Unlimited thus far. But it also has people on social media asking the question, “What kind of lacrosse team can you draft?”

I have pointed out on this site that, while 56 great players are in this player pool, others are not in the pool for one reason or another. And, at the risk of hubris, I do think I could field a competitive side with 14 women’s lacrosse players who are not in the league at all.

A few ground rules: First off, no players with college eligibility. That rules out fifth-year seniors like Charlotte North or Jamie Ortega, and top prep players like Mallory Hasselbeck or Fran Frieri.

Second, despite my fealty for great players of the past like Cherie Greer, Jen Adams, Quinn Carney and Sarah Forbes, our goal is to pick a side which could have a realistic chance of competing in this league, if money were not an object to fly in the players and have them train for a few days.

Fourth, we’re designating two goaltenders for this team, since all of the AU teams are employing two netminders.

Finally, this entire thing is a thought experiment. A number of these players may have had their own reasons for not being in the league, so this is more of a “what if?”

Here is our team:


GOAL: Gussie Johns, the U.S. women’s national team goaltender is a special, special player with great instincts, the willingness and ability to double, and makes the difficult save.

GOAL: Megan Taylor is a Tewaaraton Trophy winner, and the Maryland alumna got better every day by facing the likes of Taylor Cummings and Zoe Stukenberg on a daily basis.

DEFENSE: Julia Braig can not only bring you a number of caused turnovers in this wide-open game, but I was impressed with her ability to carry the ball up the pitch with great speed and skill to build an attack. I called her “The Human Ridebreaker” when she was at Maryland.

DEFENSE: Cara Trombetta was a great player and leader at Florida, and a person who caused the most turnovers of anyone in Gators history.

DEFENSE: Taylor Thornton was a fearsome defender while at Northwestern, and the free-range nature of the pro game will allow her to showcase her all-around talents in the attack half, too.

MIDFIELD: Elena Romesburg, the James Madison graduate, always seems to make things happen in the attacking third of the field. She was also a player who seemingly was made for the pro game.

MIDFIELD: Kate Canizzaro was a tenacious all-rounder at North Carolina, and I think the open spaces of the 9-v-9 game will make her a deadly attack threat.

MIDFIELD/DC: Zoe Stukenberg was one of the great all-around midfielders for Maryland in the 2000s, who could play defense, score goals, and win draws in a variety of ways.

MIDFIELD/DC : Dana Dobbie, who was a record-setting player at the University of Maryland, may have been even better as a post-graduate player. She lit up the UWLX with the Baltimore Ride and the WPLL with the Baltimore Brave with an array of stick skills several years before Charlotte North lit up social media with her stick tricks.

MIDFIELD/DC : Kali Hartshorn was on the way to breaking a number of Maryland and NCAA records as a draw-taker before COVID intervened. She also has shown a penchant for scoring big goals in big games.

ATTACK: Kara Mupo, the former Northwestern star, was an excellent scorer for the Philadelphia Force of UWLX and the New England Command of WPLL, and seemed to thrive in the open spaces of the pro game.

ATTACK: Selena Lasota, who also played at Northwestern, was a game-changer in so many ways. She would be the focus of the attack in our system.

ATTACK: Megan Whittle played on one of the great teams in scholastic history as well as Maryland. I think the professional game suits her quickness and penchant for improvisation.

ATTACK: Laura Zimmerman, at her prime at UNC, was one of the quickest players I have ever seen. In the pro role, she would be a great disruptor.

July 25, 2021 — The upside-down Olympics

So, thus far, this has happened at the Games of the 31st Olympiad in Tokyo:

  • Two of the best men’s golfers in the world, Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau, have withdrawn from the Olympics because of positive COVID-19 tests.
  • Ashleigh Barty, the world’s best female tennis player, lost her first-round singles match.
  • The U.S. women’s soccer team, your current FIFA World Cup champions, lost their first pool match 3-0 to Sweden.
  • The U.S. men’s basketball team was defeated by France in their opening game this morning.
  • Ahmed Hafnaoui, who was a Lane 8 qualifier for the 400-meter freestyle, won the race.
  • Simone Biles, widely regarded as the finest gymnast in history, failed to qualify in the uneven parallel bars after today’s preliminary exercises.

There’s been so many topsy-turvy developments in the first few days of these games, it’s not even a shock that the Argentina women’s field hockey team lost 3-0 to New Zealand, despite the fact that these teams are five teams apart in world rankings.

For athletes in these Games, the challenge isn’t just the physical, trying to be fastest in a pool or a track, or being able to put a ball into a goal or a basket. The challenge here is mental, trying to win contests in front of no paying customers, with a pared-down support staff, and no families — even young children.

It’s already gotten to be too much for some athletes, including a Paralympic swimmer named Becca Meyers. She has decided to opt out of next month’s Paralympics because the deaf and blind swimmer wouldn’t be able to bring along her mother, who is her primary caregiver.

The denial for accommodation has gotten the attention of some disability rights activists and even members of Congress.

“Athletes with disabilities are able to compete in a setting like the Paralympics because of personal care assistants,” Meyers says. “They help us navigate these foreign venues, from the pool deck, athlete check-in to finding where we can eat. But the biggest support they provide athletes like myself is giving us the ability to trust our surroundings – to feel at home for the short time we’re in this new, unfamiliar environment. I have repeatedly been told that I do not need my PCA whom I know and trust.”

I have a feeling stories like this will multiply, as well as the unexpected results of events in both the Olympics and Paralympics.

July 24, 2021 — A critical analysis of Athletes Unlimited lacrosse

BACKGROUND: In 2019, Jon Patricof, president of New York City FC of Major League Soccer, got together with Jonathan Soros, the son of billionaire George Soros, to solve a problem: why is there such a disconnect between the pop culture icon status of female athletes and a lack of support for their professional leagues?

Patricof left NYCFC and partnered with Angela Ruggiero, the former U.S. women’s ice hockey player, to create a sports business model where players would be free to run their own teams, embrace causes dear to them, and use social media to create interest in women’s sports leagues. Ruggiero helped assemble a galaxy of sports stars such as Kevin Durant, Abby Wambach, and Jessica Mendoza on an advisory board for a concept which would be named Athletes Unlimited.

Athletes Unlimited began with a softball league in mid-2020 (yep, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic), and continued with a women’s volleyball league last winter.

CURRENT STATUS: This weekend, Athletes Unlimited is embarking on its inaugural weekend of women’s lacrosse. The player pool of 56 is spending five weeks at the South Germantown Soccerplex in Boyds, Md., which is right in the heart of lacrosse country.

The hallmark of Athletes Unlimited is the fact that the teams choose up sides like on the playground. A player draft is held weekly on Facebook Live, run by the four players with the most points from the previous match weekend. Players are awarded points for winning games, goals, assists, saves, caused turnovers, draws, and ground-ball pickups. Deduction of points occurs with turnovers or missed shots.

COACHES: None. The players coach themselves, but each team has a consultant to help with communications with technical staff and trainers, as well as assistance with the weekly draft.

PLAYERS: A lot of star players have bought into this league, including Boston College’s Kenzie Kent, Penn State’s Katie O’Donnell, Maryland’s Taylor Cummings, Stony Brook’s Taryn Ohlmiller, and North Carolina’s Marie McCool.

While there’s a good number of star players, there are some good players who are not in the league, such as Northwestern’s Selena Lasota and USC’s Gussie Johns. Charlotte North, the current Tewaaraton Trophy holder, is not in the league because she will be returning to Boston College to finish out her eligibility.

TIMING: Whereas the UWLX and WPLL had games lasting an hour or more, Athletes Unlimited games are just 32 minutes. The clock, however, does not run all the time, and there are TV timeouts in the middle of each quarter. The effective playing time is a little less than it was in previous professional leagues, but it is an incremental step towards the proposed Olympic rules.

Like the WPLL, Athletes Unlimited uses a 60-second possession clock. This should ostensibly give teams an incentive to employ a ride to keep the ball from getting into the attack zone with speed, but we haven’t yet seen a team use a ride to great effect as of yet. While the clock does run pretty much freely, it does stop whenever there is a foul in the critical scoring area, which doesn’t rob the attack of free positions late in the possession clock, which often happened in previous pro leagues.

GAME PLAY: Athletes Unlimited uses 10 players a side, with only six on attack/defense at any one time. The restraining line is the midfield stripe, just like in men’s lacrosse. And like box lacrosse, the ball cannot be brought back over the center line once the ball has been advanced into the attack half of the field.

In front of the goal, the free position apparatus is not an arc and fan, but an 8-meter wedge that looks like a grapefruit sectioned by slicing off the top and bottom ends, as was the case in the WPLL. The edge of the wedge also doubles as a two-point arc.

The goal circle in AU is where the men’s crease is, making the distance between the goals 80 yards, meaning that the league is taking advantage of U.S. Lacrosse’s “unified” standard when it comes to lining the competition surface.

The one new wrinkle that Athletes Unlimited has brought to women’s lacrosse is the video referee at the scorers’ table. Each team has two challenges per game, but the challenges need to be used judiciously, since a team using both cannot get a third, no matter the results of the first two challenges.

STRATEGY: Athletes Unlimited boasts a tremendously quick style of lacrosse. But without players using a midfield ride, there isn’t the frenetic pace of play in the attack end that you saw in the first year of the WPLL, where teams would have to rush their offensive sets in the last 30 seconds of the possession clock. Without coaches, the style of play is much more free-form with players improvising quick goals (the first goal in AU history was a gorgeous behind-the-back goal by Hallie Majorana just eight seconds from the first draw).

OVERALL AESTHETICS: If you’ve seen the men’s Premier Lacrosse League, you’ll notice some of the same traits in Athletes Unlimited. The speed of play is astounding, and the umpires seem to swallow the whistle at key junctures of the game, letting the players settle the game amongst themselves. You do not see shooting space calls, three-second calls, or empty-crosse calls. It’s a cleaner game despite some of the hard collisions.

OUTLOOK: There are two future events which are going to have an enormous impact on this league. One is the expected debuts of Charlotte North, Jamie Ortega, and a raft of post-Coronavirus players who have expended their five years of college eligibility.

The second event is the 2028 Olympics, which will offer the 6-v-6 international version of the game. I’ll be interested to see if Athletes Unlimited will go with the short-sided game and have, say, 10 or 12 teams playing each match weekend rather than the current model of four 14-player teams.

July 23, 2021 — The Final Lacrosse Top 50 for 2021

These Top 50 listings are never easy. Throw in a global pandemic which cut down the number of games as well as cutting out some competitions altogether, and the job got a far sight harder.

Fortunately, thanks to copious glasses of water and a slice or two of turtle cheesecake, we were able to come up with a Top 50 girls’ lacrosse list:

1. Northport (N.Y.) 18-0
2. Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) 15-1
3. Delray American Heritage (Fla.) 16-1
4. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 21-1
5. Bayport-Blue Point (N.Y.) 17-0
6. Radnor (Pa.) 21-2
7. Milton (Ga.) 21-0
8. Darien (Conn.) 18-3
9. Westwood (Mass.) 24-0
10. East Chapel Hill (N.C.) 13-0
11. Wilmette Loyola Academy (Ill.) 25-0
12. Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) 13-3
13. Moorestown (N.J.) 18-3

14. Annapolis Broadneck (Md.) 13-0
15. Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) 13-2
16. Canandaigua (N.Y.) Academy 17-2
17. Manhasset (N.Y.) 13-3
18. San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 17-0
19. Louisville Kentucky Country Day School (Ky.) 25-0
20. New Canaan (Conn.) 20-1
21. Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 20-1
22. Langley (Va.) 16-0
23. Dublin Coffman (Ohio) 18-5
24. Garden City (N.Y.) 14-2
25. Rosemont Agnes Irwin (Pa.) 15-4
26. Franklin (Mass.) 18-1
27. Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 11-0
28. Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) 13-5
29. Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 17-1

30. Marriottsville Marriott’s Ridge (Md.) 10-1
31. Fort Covington Salmon River (N.Y.) 16-0
32. Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 20-4
33. Park City (Utah) 19-0
34. Washington Georgetown Visitation (D.C.) 4-2
35. West Babylon (N.Y.) 13-5
36. South Huntington St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) 12-0
37. Dover-Sherborne (Mass.) 19-1
38. Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) 10-3
39. Kennebunk (Maine) 16-0

40. Aurora Evergreen (Colo.) 11-2
41. Fairfield Ludlowe (Conn.) 17-4
42. Cincinnati Mariemont (Ohio) 19-3
43. St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.) 16-0
44. Bethesda Stone Ridge (Md.) 8-2
45. Richmond Douglas S. Freeman (Va.) 12-1
46. Columbia Bishop England (S.C.) 18-0
47. Olney Good Counsel (Md.) 7-1
48. Nashua Bishop Guertin (N.H.) 18-0
49. Corona Del Mar (Calif.) 17-5
50. South Burlington (Vt.) 14-2

July 22, 2021 — Olympic preview: women’s field hockey

AL’S FEARLESS PODIUM

Netherlands
Germany
Argentina

The Netherlands, coming off a cycle in which they have dominated FIH Pro League play and won the 2018 World Cup, is, I think, a team which is confident and with plenty of swagger. They are a heavy favorite for gold, and they know it. Even without some all-time scorers in the lineup, the Oranje are a loaded squad. Fullback Caia van Maasakker is a deadly sniper on penalty corners, and forward Lidewij Welten is in her fourth Olympics.

But Holland’s last game in pool play, on August 1, is against Germany. I think Die Danas are a team which could send a real message to the Dutch in this situation. Germany will be led by former Maryland star Nike Lorenz, who captained the side in the most recent Eurohockey Nations League championship. Franzisca Hauke, whose brother Tobias won Olympic gold in Beijing and London, is a player to watch.

A star-crossed team, at least when it comes to the Olympics, is Argentina. The Albicelestes, despite winning World Cups, the FIH World League, and multiple Champions Trophies down the years, have never won an Olympic gold medal. The Leonas are going to be looking to all-time leading scorer Noel Barrionuevo, veteran goalkeeper Belen Succi, and forwards Delfina Marino, Victoria Granato, and Maria Jose Granato in order to gain success. As is the case in many years, Argentina usually looks to a single talismanic attacker in order to haul the load, but can the Leonas run a three-pronged attack?

The wild card in this tournament is Australia. The Hockeyroos have been a team in both transition and turmoil the last five years. Australia failed to medal at Rio 2016 and at the FIH Women’s World Cup of 2018, and a number of players such as Georgie Morgan and Rachael Lynch were left off the roster, even as a number of administrative personnel and coaches have been replaced in a widening bullying scandal. Lynch won her appeal to be reinstated to the national team, and she will lead a very young defense. Attacker Emily Chalker will have to have the tournament of her life in order to bring Oz to the medal stand.

I also think host Japan could represent a threat to the podium. The Cherry Blossoms are a quick and skilled side which also has won the most recent Asian Cup. Interestingly, their recent run of form started under head coach Anthony Farry, who jumped ship before the Olympics to coach the United States. The Sakura, however, could not manage a single corner in a recent friendly against Holland, which means that they need to make a quick jump up in class to compete here.