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Archive for August, 2021

Aug. 31, 2021 — Time for a new field hockey law?

Your Founder has seen a number of scenarios in field hockey games dating back to 1988. Many of the most interesting ones have involved overtime, something we talked about eliminating a couple of days ago.

I seem to remember at least three times, situations when the same player in overtime (or a late-game situation) will not only make a key defensive play on one end to save a sure goal, and then come back a few minutes later to score the game-winning goal.

Back in 1992, I covered a quadrupleheader of games in the Mercer County Tournament, which is an FA Cup-like single-elimination tournament which brings together the private schools in the county along with the public schools in the Colonial Valley Conference.

That day, three of the four games went to overtime. The final featured a mid-size Roman Catholic school and a similar-sized public school from across the county. The same player, who would play Division I field hockey in the South, came up with a number of defensive stops as the team’s corner flyer in overtime, then pocketed the game-winner in the second overtime period. Needless to say, I was glad to have a notebook computer at hand since I got to the office well past the time I expected to get there, and I wrote box scores and the stories of the four games at the scorer’s table.

I also remember, in 2007, Rachel Dawson making numerous defensive stops and block tackles against Wake Forest in regulation and in the last few minutes, then Dawson would be so composed and calm on the ball in overtime where any flub, any mistake is magnified. Dawson, about four minutes into extra time, found a teammate and some open space in the circle, and a penalty stroke was called on the play. Dawson calmly slotted home the stroke and UNC won the ACC championship.

Three years ago, I saw much the same scenario in the VIrginia 6A title game between the two ends of the Mill Dam Creek Classic, First Colonial and Frank W. Cox. In the overtime periods, a senior named Kylie Levine made a goal-line stop of a sure FC goal, then in the game’s 86th minute, Levine latched onto a Zoe Campisi pass and sent it over the line, ending the game.

On Sunday, Bibi Donradt of the University of Maryland also had a two-way influence in overtime, making a defensive save in the first 10-minute period of OT, then made a bold, curving run amongst three St. Joseph’s defenders, wrong-footing the goalie and winning the game 4-3.

I think it’s enough to merit adding an Eighth Law of Field Hockey, one where the player making a key defensive play close to the end of a tie game is the most likely to score a game-winning goal.

Aug. 30, 2021 — A most unexpected slow start

The last time the University of North Carolina’s field hockey team started a season with two consecutive losses, gasoline was under $1.25 a gallon, the nation was just learning about a man named Bill Clinton, cell phones still had antennae, and there were only about 60 pages on a construct called the World Wide Web, which required you to type in numbers to get from one link to another in a browser called Mosaic.

That’s the enormity of what happened last weekend in Iowa City, Iowa, as North Carolina lost two matches in an ACC-Big Ten crossover weekend, to Michigan and host Iowa.

North Carolina, your three-time defending national champion in the sport, is a side which has returned most of its talented players from last spring’s title-winning team.

Losing two straight games is usually out of the question for a loaded side like UNC’s. But the winning of national championships does tend to have its own built-in pressure. No NCAA team, in the 40-year history of the Division I tournament, has ever won four straight championships.

UNC does have a chance at being the first, with players such as Erin Matson, Paityn Wirth, Madison Orobono, Mererdith Sholder, Cassie Sumfest, and Eve Smolenaars on this year’s roster. But the problem is, with three years of success behind them, every team they play is going to be bringing their “A” game along with them.

I also think that last year’s UNC team got very accustomed to playing its home matches in the fortress called Karen Shelton Stadium. The Tar Heels, this fall, are playing their first six games on the road and do not have their first home match until Sept. 19th.

We know we’re not going to see an unbeaten UNC side heading into the postseason; let’s see what they do with their regular-season schedule.

Aug. 29, 2021 — Farewell to a lacrosse lifer

I didn’t want to go much further into the fall without writing a little something about Janine Tucker. This past week, she announced that the 2022 spring women’s lacrosse season would be her final campaign with Johns Hopkins University.

Tucker was a branch of the Diane Geppi-Aikens coaching tree, and she helped organize a lot of the events, fundraisers, and celebrations of the late Loyola coach’s life. But she also put her enormous heart into coaching the Johns Hopkins program and helping the program transition from Division III to Division I, to match the men’s lacrosse program.

Tucker was able to smoothly guide the Blue Jays program from the non-scholarship days of the program into Division I life with aplomb, ever as the city of Baltimore evolved around the school. Over the course of three decades, she made four NCAA Division III tournaments and nine Division I tournaments.

The Jays even won their only major trophy under Tucker: the 2001 ECAC Division I championship with a win over the University of Pennsylvania.

Hopkins’ best days were just after that triumph, starting the 2006 season at No. 2 in the national polls. But the Jays found themselves looking up at their American Lacrosse Conference rivals, Northwestern, during an era in which the Wildcats won seven national titles in eight years.

Currently, Hopkins is also in a position of struggle within the Big Ten. The Jays joined the conference in 2017, only to see rival Maryland win two national titles within three years.

Despite these obstacles, the Hopkins women’s lacrosse program has found its share of successes. The program has had more than 300 wins in 28 seasons, plus plenty of All-Americans and transformative players coming into and out of the team.

It’s not going to be the same, a team playing out of Homewood without Tucker at the helm. She has been good for the game.

BULLETIN: Aug. 28, 2021 — USA 1, Chile 1 (USA wins 3-2 in penalty shootout)

The United States U-22 women’s field hockey team was a mere 32 seconds away from ignominy.

The States were involved in the FIH’s post-overtime shootout in the bronze-medal match of the Junior Pan American Cup, and were down 2-1 in the shootout after three rounds. A loss would prevent the Americans from qualifying for the Junior World Cup; a win would give the States a ticket to the tournament later this year in South Africa.

The Americans needed to rely on their training and keep their nerves for eight-second intervals as the shootout concluded. Thanks to a pair of players who will be plying their trade for the Maryland Terrapins this fall, the States came out ahead 3-2 after a 1-1 draw in regulation. The defining goals were scored in the fourth round by incoming freshman Hope Rose on a penalty stroke after shootout taker Leah Crouse was fouled, and in the fifth round by rising senior Riley Donnelly.

Interestingly, Rose and Donnelly missed out yesterday on playing Maryland’s season opener against UMass-Lowell, but it was a game which was called after a quarter and a half because of weather.

In the shootout, big credit has to go to Rutgers goalie Gianna Glatz, who came in off the bench to stop Chile’s last three shooters to allow the United States to win the third-place game. Glatz was the Americans’ shootout goalkeeper, as Annabel Skubisz of Northwestern played all of regulation.

In normal time, Boston College’s Sky Caron had a goal in the second minute of play, but Chile tied the match in the second term. The rest of regulation was played out pretty evenly in front of a Chilean home crowd.

Aug. 27, 2021 — The beginning of a three-month-long carnival

Shortly after noon today, on a pitch in Loretto, Pa., and one in Massachusetts a scant two miles from where the game was taught 120 years ago, the NCAA Division I field hockey season began. The action began as St. Francis University hosted Holy Cross, and as Monmouth traveled to Boston University’s New Balance Field.

This fall, even in the midst of a fourth wave of COVID-19, the American domestic field hockey season is going on as scheduled for the first time since the cancellation of spring hockey in 2020.

It’s a day which sees a number of Top 20 matchups as well as a replay of last spring’s national championship game. About 700 games will be held in locales from Orono, Maine to Davis, Calif. in order to identify a Division I champion. And all eyes will be on that team from Chapel Hill, the North Carolina side which is looking for a fourth consecutive national title, something which has never happened in the 40-year history of the Division I tournament.

I think this is going to be a season of teams looking to put the 2020-21 season behind them for various reasons. Three big, big teams to watch are ones which didn’t qualify for the national tournament. Syracuse and Boston Colleges are two sides which saw games cancelled because of COVID protocols, and Boston College’s cancellations were such that the Eagles only played two fall regular season games.

Another team which I think will break into the national scene is Maryland, The Terps were 8-7 on the season and failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a quarter-century. However, the incoming talent for the Black and Red could very well be of the game-changing variety, especially freshman Hope Rose, who led all scholastic players in scoring last year.

Let’s see what happens on the road to Ann Arbor.

BULLETIN: Aug. 26, 2021 — Uruguay 1, USA 0

The Uruguay U-22 women’s national field hockey team picked a heck of a time to score its first goal of the 2021 Junior Pan American Cup.

Maria Barriero scored a penalty corner goal nine minutes from time to give the Celestes a 1-0 win over the United States in the semifinal round. This sends Uruguay to the Junior World Cup automatically. The United States drops to the consolation bracket, where the team needs to beat the loser of today’s Canada-Chile match in order to book a place to South Africa later this year.

Aug. 25, 2021 — Behind an upset

Yesterday, we mentioned that the Argentina women’s U-22 field hockey team had failed to qualify for this year’s Junior World Cup as defending champions. Turns out that there is a backstory to this — and it’s something that can be found on the backs of the uniforms that the Albicelestes wore during the tournament.

On each and every Argentina jersey, there is a black stripe across the back over the numerals, with white lettering over the stripe for the last name. This is because there had to be a wholesale change of uniforms before this competition began.

Why is this? What else: COVID-19.

According to Vanesa Valenti of the publication La Capital, the buses carrying the men’s and women’s junior national teams were stopped at the Chile-Argentina border crossing, and a single player from the men’s national team tested positive for the Coronavirus. Both national teams were sent back.

Therefore, the women’s national team that is competing is an all-star team from Mendoza, which is one of the centers of youth hockey in Argentina. The Argentine air force summoned up a transport plane to ferry the team and technical staff to the site of competition.

The publication indicated a “strong rumor” that the single men’s player who tested positive had roomed with two other male players who had been removed from the team in the days before the teams were to travel to the tournament.

“Something,” said Valenti in story, “went wrong with the bubble.”

And that is keeping one of the world powers of the sport away from a major tournament.

Aug. 24, 2021 — The unthinkable has happened

Since the summer of 1987, Argentina has had the whip hand when it comes to women’s field hockey in the Pan American Hockey Federation. The senior national team, as well as younger age groups, have been the clear standard-bearers in the game on the world level.

Specifically, at the U-21 level, the Albicelestes have been on the medal podium at every Junior World Cup since 1993, wining two gold, three silvers, and a bronze medal in their collective history.

Indeed, Argentina came into this week’s Junior Pan American Cup as the defending world champions, having taken gold in the 2016 Junior World Cup, defeating The Netherlands 4-2 in the grand final.

This morning, on the last day of pool play, the Leonistas found themselves staring at a cliff. The team was playing Canada in a situation where the team that won the game would make it into the semifinal round of the competition, with the loser going home without a berth in December’s Junior World Cup in South Africa.

In the end, it was a captain’s goal on the stroke of halftime that was the difference. Sara Goodman, a senior at the University of British Columbia, put in a penalty corner that gave the Leafs the lead and, eventually, the win. It was the only goal scored in the round-robin pool competition between Canada, Argentina, and Uruguay.

Canada takes on host Chile in the semifinals, while the United States, coming off a 15-0 result yesterday, meet Uruguay. A win on Thursday means a berth into the Junior World Cup, while a defeat means a must-win third-place match at the weekend, as only the top three teams make it to South Africa.

Aug. 23, 2021 — A field hockey team posts a tennis score

The United States U-22 women’s field hockey team booked passage to the semifinal round of the Pan American qualifier tournament in Chile earlier to day with a 15-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago.

The American team got hat tricks from Syracuse’s Charlotte de Vries, incoming Maryland freshman Hope Rose, and incoming Episcopal Academy senior Ashley Sessa. The U.S. team now awaits an 8 a.m. pool match between Argentina and Canada to figure out who they play in the PAHF semifinal round.

The easy formula is this: if Argentina or Canada win the game tomorrow, the United States plays Uruguay in the semifinal round. If, however, the game ends in a draw, tiebreakers will come into play. The thing is, in the first two games of that pool, nobody has scored; Uruguay and Canada had led off the competition with a goalless draw Saturday, while Uruguay tied Argentina at zeroes this morning.

As we mentioned a couple of days ago, I think this is a tournament which was, frankly, easy pickings for a talented U.S. team which could have had a number of senior players on the roster, but have chosen this group, the core of which won the Pan American Indoor Cup earlier this year.

Aug. 22, 2021 — Four evolving rosters, one champion

The final matchday of Athletes Unlimted women’s lacrosse is the culmination of five weekends of play at the South Germantown Soccer Plex in Boyds, Md.

It’s the third iteration of a professional women’s lacrosse league in the United States, one which sees an individual champion rather than one given to a team. At the end of the day, Taylor Cummings, late of the U.S. women’s national team, was the glue which made everyone better on her team.

But that’s nothing new if you’ve ever watched her play. At Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.), she was part of great teams alongside the likes of Jen Cook, Sammi Burgess, and Megan Whittle, all of whom played Division I lacrosse. At the University of Maryland, she willingly shared the ball in an offense including Whittle, Zoe Stukenberg, Brooke Griffin, and Jen Giles. With the U.S. women’s national team, she shared the ball with the likes of Michelle Tumolo, Kayla Treanor, Alice Mercer, and Laura Zimmerman.

So, it’s no surprise that Taylor Cummings was the glue that helped her teams become successful over the last several weeks of the season. This especially was true the final weekend, one which came with the added pressure of being at the top of the leaderboard.

Cummings’ lead could have been threatened if her team lost the game and all four quarters to a team led by former UNC goalie Kaylee Waters, but Sam Apuzzo wouldn’t let that happen. She had a two-point goal in the third quarter which changed the momentum of the entire contest, and Team Cummings ran out 7-5 winners. At the same time, Taylor Cummings was able to gain team points that kept her at the top of the individual leaderboard. With 1,943 points, she’s the champion of champions in this format of pro lacrosse.

It’s a well-deserved honor for a player who was this site’s Player of the Decade for the 2010s.