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Archive for October, 2021

Oct. 31, 2021 — In the NCAA, gender inequities run deep

The pictures hit social media like a bomb last March.

There was a small oddment of dumbbells and yoga mats in a hotel ballroom that a Stanford coach photographed and compared to the full gym setup afforded to the Cardinal men’s basketball team for their participation in their respective NCAA Division I basketball tournaments.

An exhaustive and evolving listing of inequities have been maintained by OnHerTurf, and may be found here.

The story has led to a gender equity review conducted by the law firm of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP (full disclosure: Roberta Kaplan is my former college classmate).

It should be no surprise that the NCAA, despite its status as a legal non-profit, has aimed resources at revenue-generating sports such as football and men’s basketball. The NCAA spends more than twice the money on male athletes than they do on female athletes in championship settings.

But even when you look at other comparisons between men’s and women’s organizations in the same sport, gender inequities are pervasive and obvious. The lacrosse Twitterverse was rife with comparisons late last week, describing how the Division I men’s lacrosse tournament is played in professional football stadiums and with paid advertisements on billboards. Meanwhile, the women’s lacrosse tournament is held mainly in football stadia of mid-major programs such as Stony Brook and Towson University. It has also been pointed out that while the men’s octofinal and quarterfinal rounds of the lacrosse tournament are broadcast in their entirety, that is not the case for the women.

The pervasiveness of the inequities and the difficulties of reform were reflected in the law firm’s report. Apparently, the NCAA does not maintain records of expenses, ticket sales, amenities, or other items in a standardized manner, which makes it difficult to analyze spending year-to-year or sport-to-sport.

But the biggest problem is, frankly, the television revenue. While CBS and Turner pay the NCAA several billion dollars for carrying the Division I men’s basketball tournament, the ESPN contract for 29 sports (including women’s basketball) is, according to the Kaplan report, a “significant underpayment.”

The NCAA has been promising some reforms, including using the service mark “March Madness” for the women’s basketball tournament. But real reform isn’t going to be as simple as plastering that wordmark at the center jump circle where the words “Women’s Basketball” were.

Oct. 30, 2021 — The exposure of locker-room culture is showing an unpleasant side to sport

Back in 1970, a baseball player named Jim Bouton published a book called “Ball Four,” a first-hand diary of his 1969 baseball season. It was the first tell-all book about the inside of a baseball locker room and the dynamics between players as well as between players and coaches.

This year, the toxic relationships between players and team personnel have been brought into the light. Earlier this month, the National Women’s Soccer League saw a near-revolt by its players against toxic coaching, brought on by revelations about coaching abuse in North Carolina, Washington, Portland, Louisville, and New York.

Just this week, the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League were fined $2 million for not investigating claims by one of its former players, Kyle Beach, that he was sexually abused by the team’s video coach back in 2010.

Aside from the multimillion-dollar fine, there have been a number of resignations. Chicago general manager Stan Bowman and senior VP of hockey operations Al MacIsaac have lost their jobs. And so has Joel Quenneville, the former Chicago head coach who has been coaching at Florida the last couple of seasons.

Sexual abuse in ice hockey has been one of those secrets that have been kept hushed in many conversations, especially in Canada. Dozens of vulnerable teenagers, looking to make better lives for themselves, play for Tier I junior teams from coast to coast, living with host families and traveling thousands of miles by bus to play 60-game seasons. There, the players have to learn life lessons about sex abuse, drugs, and alcohol away from their families.

The unfortunate thing is that the wrong lessons are often learned. And not just by the players, but by coaches and administrators of the sport. Given what has been written about the Beach situation, as well as the situation we talked about last year regarding Tom “Chico” Adrahtas, I get the feeling that there’s going to be a severe reckoning within the North American ice hockey community.

Oct. 29, 2021 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Oct. 27

Our statistic of the week is something off our regular counters, and that is the milestone for Anne Horton, the head coach of Gahanna Columbus Academy (Ohio), as she earned her 600th victory this week. The thing is, she’s one of only a handful of 600-win field hockey coaches who have coached at more than two schools. But what has distinguished her career is that she coached in more than one state. She started at The Asheville (N.C.) School and moved to North Ridgeville Lake Ridge Academy (Ohio) before winning a dozen championships at Columbus Academy.

The legendary Cheryl Poore, who has coached at Harwich, Monomoy, and Nauset during her career in Massachusetts, is one of them. Matt Soto, who coached at Middleburg, the merged Midd-West, and Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) during his career, is another.

Below is our usual weekly compilation of American scholastic field hockey statistics, culled from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media.

We would like to get as many coaches and other field hockey people to register for the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your conference, league, or your state governing body to enter field hockey information there, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible. 

SEASON GOALS
110 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
92 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
62 Alana McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
59 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
55 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
53 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
51 Finley Payne, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
50 Ava Zerfass, Emmaus (Pa.)
50 Rylie Wollerton, Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa)
50 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
43 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)

SEASON ASSISTS
43 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
41 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
38 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
34 Macey Vice, Lawrence (N.J.)
33 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
32 Emma Winther, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
32 Hope Haynes, Houston Kincaid (Tex.)
31 Alexis Kociban, Emmaus (Pa.)
30 Sammie Goin, Ashburn Independence (Va.)
29 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
27 Emily Williams, Louisville Ballard (Ky.)

CAREER GOALS
290 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
241 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
164 Alaina McVeigh, Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
134 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
131 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
127 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
117 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
109 Victoria Griffiths, Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.)
106 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
105 Julia Bressler, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
103 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
101 Cait Lutz, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
94 Lauren Masters, Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.)
86 Megan Normile, Plumstead New Egypt (N.J.)
86 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)

CAREER ASSISTS
117 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
95 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
91 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
79 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
79 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
78 Hope Haynes, Houston Kincaid (Tex.)
78 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
77 Gianna Puorro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
89 Delmar (Del.)
35 Emmaus (Pa.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
89 Delmar (Del.)
35 Emmaus (Pa.)

If you see something missing or out of place, do send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the needed changes.

Thanks for reading; we’ll be back next week for more Statwatch.

BULLETIN: Oct. 28, 2021 — The 100-goal mark has been broken (and, as we thought, not for the first time this season)

Ryleigh Heck, the UNC-bound center forward for the Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) field hockey team, became only the third American scholastic field hockey player to register 100 goals in a season. She scored eight goals in a 12-0 win over Jackson (N.J.) Memorial in the first round of the NJSIAA Group IV South Tournament.

She is the second player this year to cross the 100-goal barrier; Talia Schenck of Lawrence (N.J.) crossed the barrier just nine days ago. Both are behind Penn State’s Mackenzie Allessie, who in 2018 knocked in 124 goals for Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.).

Eastern advances in the tournament to play Tuesday against the winner of Marlton Cherokee (N.J.) and Sewell Gloucester County Institute of Technology (N.J.). Lawrence, for its part, has to play Allendale Northern Highlands (N.J.), the fourth seed in the Group III North bracket.

Oct. 27, 2021 — The saga of Stanford

Yesterday, the Stanford field hockey team dropped to 3-7 on the 2021 season with a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the University of California, Davis.

The Cardinal, in its first season after being brought back from the beancounters’ chopping block, has had to undergo a number of challenges. The first was having a new coach come in after Tara Danielson resigned. Roz Ellis has done a splendid job, even with a lot of moving parts when it came to transfers and incoming first-year players.

But the major story overhanging the team this year is the fact that the team began the year without a fully-kitted goalkeeper on the roster. Since that story has spread about the field hockey community, the team has put a former Indiana all-state soccer player named Caitlin Casey in the pads. The Cardinal have not put Casey on the field yet.

It’s not as though Stanford has been getting beaten to the point where a goalkeeper may have made a difference. The defensive line of the Cardinal have yielded more than three goals only twice this season; give great credit to first-year fullback Cara Sambeth, who has nine defensive saves this year and has helped limit opposing chances.

Stanford, mind you, has been doing all of this with the new rules which have taken the “kicking back” out of the game, and teams are required to use an 11th field player instead of a player with special privileges if they need to take the goalkeeper off.

This weekend sees the end of Stanford’s season with America East conference games at New Hampshire and at UMass-Lowell. For Stanford to make it back into the NCAA Tournament, they’ll have to win these two games to get into the top six in the conference.

Once that happens, Stanford would have to run the table in the America East Tournament, like they did last spring, in order to get the conference’s AQ berth. If they do, it would be a major achievement and a great story.

Let’s see what this team can do.

Oct. 26, 2021 — Top 10 for the week of Oct. 24

The playoffs are afoot, and most of our Top 10 are starting tournament play this week. Many of these games are of the “lose and go home” variety, although in Pennsylvania and Virginia, there are scenarios where you can lose and still make it to the next round because the tournaments are qualifiers. When looking at some of these brackets, the favorites are obvious and the outcomes reasonably predictable.

But in this post-COVID season, who knows what is going to happen?

Our RightToRightIsRight.com honorary No. 11 Team of the Week is West Newbury Pentucket Regional (Mass.). The Sachems have historically been the minnows in the Cape Ann League’s Kinney Division, sometimes going two or three consecutive seasons without winning a game. But this year’s team is built on defense, chiefly goalkeeper Charlene Basque, who has 12 clean sheets this year. The Sachems are not only the current No. 3 seed in the new Massachusetts Division III statewide bracket, they also won their first divisional title in school history.

1. Delmar (Del.) 12-0
Wildcats take on Wilmington Padua Academy (Del.) at the DE Turf facility on Thursday

2. Emmaus (Pa.) 21-0
Hornets’ road to a 33rd consecutive District 11 championship begins Thursday against Allentown Parkland (Pa.)

3. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 13-0
Falcons entering District play on a hot streak, outscoring last week’s foes 25-0

4. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 13-1
Churchwomen have the heart of their Inter-Ac schedule the next couple of weeks

5. Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) 13-1
Beat Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 3-1 and Blairstown Blair Academy (Pa.) 9-0

6. Northport (N.Y.) 15-0
Tigers begin their NYSPHSAA Section XI Class A defense against Huntington (N.Y.) on Thursday

7. Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 15-2
Knights are the second seed in the PIAA District 2-AA Tournament despite beating Exeter Wyoming Area (Pa.) in the regular season

8. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 18-2
A 5-1 win over Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) may show that the Vikings are entering the state tournament as an in-form side

9. Lower Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.) 13-2-1
GMA draws Wallingford Strath Haven (Pa.) in the first round of the PIAA District 1-AA Tournament

10. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 17-0-1
Falcons won’t play their first PIAA District 3-AAA game until Saturday evening

11. West Newbury Pentucket Regional (Mass.) 15-1
Lana Mickelson leads the team with 12 goals and Haley Dwight has registered 13 assists

Who’s out: Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) 1-0 loss to Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.)

And bear in mind: San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 13-1-1, San Diego Canyon Hills (Calif.) 15-2, Aurora Regis Jesuit (Colo.) 14-0-1, Darien (Conn.) 14-1, New Canaan (Conn,) 15-0, Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) 12-3, Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 11-1, Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 23-3, Watertown (Mass.) 16-0, Andover (Mass.) 15-0-1, Walpole (Mass.) 14-0, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 17-2-2, Ann Arbor Pioneer (Mich.) 18-0, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 16-3, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 17-2, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 14-0-2, Garden City (N.Y.) 12-0, Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio) 15-0-1, Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio) 14-1-1, Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) 17-2-1, University School of Milwaukee 14-0-1, Houston Kincaid School (Texas) 13-1

Oct. 25, 2021 — County tournaments gone wild

Yesterday, county tournament season wrapped up in New Jersey.

Throughout the Garden State, a number of counties (and two conferences) play in-season FA Cup-style single-elimination tournaments as a prelude to the state tournament.

Part of the romance of the county tournament is that sometimes you’ll have a contest between two teams which do not ordinarily meet each other. Part of it is also that higher seeds do not normally win games, leading to some interesting finals.

But in the last decade and a half or so, you could simply go straight chalk to predict who would win county championships. Top teams like North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.), West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.), Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), and Bridgewater-Raritan (N.J.) have dominated the finals and strung together multi-year winning streaks.

This year was a more exciting season of county tournaments than usual. That’s because of a pair of teams which are close to your Founder’s heart. Both Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.) and Lawrence (N.J.) were in the coverage area of the newspaper I wrote for in the mid-1990s.

North, a team which could be a considerable candidate for state tournament honors, won the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament a week and a half ago. The Lions won their first county championship since 1986 with a 3-1 victory over Washington Warren Hills (N.J.).

A few mile south, Lawrence (N.J.) won its first Mercer County Tournament since 1983 with a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over Princeton (N.J.) Day School.

Both of these teams have some amazingly skilled individuals. Lauren Masters, North’s center forward, has 32 goals and 16 assists. Her senior teammate, Ryan Anderson, has 28 goals and 16 assists.

For Lawrence, the main attraction is senior Talia Schenck, who has a state-record 104 goals and an array of skills which will serve her well at the next level.

This week, however, these two schools are starting their run through the NJSIAA Group III North tournament. The teams are in the same half of the bracket and could meet each other on Nov. 5 in the semifinal round. That is, unless another county tournament winner spoils the party.

That winner is Bergen County champion Allendale Northern Highlands (N.J.), which has a 17-1-1 record this season.

Is it too easy to call Group III North the toughest bracket of the 10 that start play today?

Oct. 24, 2021 — A day of work

Today, the three-time defending national champion University of North Carolina field hockey team, struggling in the midst of a 9-6 season, ramped up their competitive level.

The task was playing a friendly against the U.S. women’s national team, which has recently relocated from Karen Shelton Field at UNC to Carol Bessant Field at Queens University in Charlotte.

For the UNC team, it’s a break from playing other college teams, but certainly it wasn’t a break from high-intensity opposition. It’s something which, frankly, the Heels need heading into the final regular-season contest against Virginia.

Carolina has not had its talismanic forward Erin Matson for the last three games since suffering a finger injury. We don’t know exactly the nature of the injury, but for someone so incredibly important when it comes to offensive cohesion for this championship-level side, it must be serious when three games are missed.

In truth, however, the real concern for head coach Karen Shelton and her staff has to be the Carolina defense. Whereas the last three championship teams gave up only about a goal per game, this year’s team has averaged more than twice that.

But what’s more telling is the efficiency of opposing teams. This year, Carolina’s foes are shooting more than 41 percent from the field, which is much, much higher than during this program’s run of championships.

Carolina has a difficult road ahead of it in order to four-peat as NCAA champions. The biggest obstacle is, I submit, the rise of the Big Ten Conference. Time was, the ACC would send upwards of six teams to the NCAA Tournament. This year, the top five teams in terms of Ratings Percentage Index (that important formula that takes into account a team’s results, its opposition’s results, and its opposition’s opposition results) are from the Big Ten.

And since we’ve seen that the NCAA Division I Tournament Committee has tended to go with RPI ratings the last few years, Carolina’s road begins with this Friday’s game against Virginia. Right now, UNC is ninth in RPI ratings (through calculations through our friends at FieldHockeyCorner.com). Virginia is 17th in RPI, and, let’s remind you, the NCAA Tournament field is just 18 teams (ten automatic qualifiers, eight at-large teams).

This means that a Carolina loss this Friday, and a first-round exit from the ACC Tournament, could (note the emphasis on “could”) result in the defending champs not making it to the field of 18.

If there’s a team to watch going into the conference tournament season, that team is UNC, and for good reason.

Oct. 23, 2021 — Is the penalty stroke a lost art?

In the last couple of days, we’ve seen a pair of penalty strokes called in some high-level field hockey games.

Yesterday, two undefeated Connecticut teams, Darien and New Canaan, met in what is sure to be a preview of not only the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference final, but perhaps even the state’s Class L final next month. In the second half, New Canaan was awarded a penalty stroke. The player pinged the stroke with great pace in the top shelf, but the goal was waved off because the shooter took her stroke before the umpire blew the whistle.

Today, in the Berks County final between Oley (Pa.) Valley and Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.), another stroke was called, but the Twin Valley player air-mailed the attempt over the goal frame.

Time was, the penalty stroke was a key skill for any and all players within a field hockey team. It meant converting opposing defensive mistakes into goals, but it also meant winning games in tournament play.

A lot of that changed in the middle of the last decade when FIH mandated the 23-meter penalty shootout as the preferred method of breaking ties.

Slowly but surely, many competitions like the NCAA and many state tournaments have gone to the penalty shootout rather than penalty strokes to determine an ultimate winner.

This, I think, has made many coaches de-emphasize penalty strokes during practice and training and emphasize instead the breakaway drill. This is understandable, given the winner-take-all nature of the penalty shootout and the fact that most leagues no longer break ties after overtime during the regular season.

But for me, I wonder if you’re going to see the penalty stroke done away with and the rule changed to that which has been found in Hockey 5s, where a strokeable offense is penalized with a penalty shootout attempt.

Something to think about for the future of field hockey.

Oct. 22, 2021 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Oct. 20

Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the Score-O Second Decade version of Statwatch.

We called the decade of the 2010s the Score-O Decade because of the number of offensive records set because of the prominence of artificial competition surfaces, eyewear which made players braver in the circle, and a larger difference between the haves and have-nots in scholastic field hockey.

With the exception of eyewear, the 2020s are starting off much the same way as the way the 2010s ended. Here’s how things have been going. Brian Bobal of Advance Media pointed out that both Talia Schenck of Lawrence (N.J.) and Ryleigh Heck of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) had identical strike rates of slightly more than five per game heading into play a week ago. Heck, last year, had the greatest single-season strike rate in Federation history last year with 5.24 goals per game. I’d be interested to see what happens towards the end of the season when defenses key on them..

Below is our usual weekly compilation of American scholastic field hockey statistics, culled from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media.

We would like to get as many coaches and other field hockey people to register for the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your conference, league, or your state governing body to enter field hockey information there, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible. 

SEASON GOALS
100 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
88 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
55 Alana McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
53 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
50 Ava Zerfass, Emmaus (Pa.)
50 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
50 Rylie Wollerton, Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa)
49 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
47 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
42 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)

SEASON ASSISTS
40 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
40 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
36 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
33 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
30 Alexis Kociban, Emmaus (Pa.)
29 Emma Winther, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
29 Macey Vice, Lawrence (N.J.)
28 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
26 Sammie Goin, Ashburn Independence (Va.)
24 Hope Haynes, Houston Kincaid School (Tex.)

CAREER GOALS
287 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
231 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
157 Alaina McVeigh, Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
128 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
126 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
126 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
116 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
107 Victoria Griffiths, Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.)
105 Julia Bressler, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
99 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
97 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
96 Cait Lutz, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
85 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)

CAREER ASSISTS
115 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
94 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
89 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
79 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
78 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
77 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
88 Delmar (Del.)
34 Emmaus (Pa.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
88 Delmar (Del.)
34 Emmaus (Pa.)

If you see something missing or out of place, do send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the needed changes.

Thanks for reading; we’ll try to do better next week.