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Archive for November 1, 2021

Nov. 1, 2021 — Several new playoff wrinkles

State tournaments have been run pretty much the same over the years this site has been in operation, with very few changes year over year. In 2021, like when this site started in 1998, you have the district process for qualification in Pennsylvania, the regional qualification system in Virginia, while just about everyone else others takes a group of qualifiers, put them into single-elimination brackets, then play them off to one or more state championships.

Two of the nation’s largest field hockey states have overhauled their state tournaments entirely for this year. New Jersey, after using four regional sections to enter a four-team state tournament bracket, has instead gone to the formula that the state has used for lacrosse and swimming. That is, have teams play off in the north half of the state to face the champion of the south to determine a state championship. For the NJSIAA, this will still yield five state champions to play off against each other in the Tournament of Champions.

Massachusetts, for its part, is also ditching its sectional championships. Instead of having four sectional champions play off against each other in two divisions, the MIAA has gone to four enrollment classes, and one big statewide bracket in each class. This, I think, will give a number of teams like Masconomet, Doherty, and Lunenberg, all of whom have played very well in the last few years, but have always seemed to run into a state power like Watertown or Acton-Boxboro and have not gotten a chance at a state title.

Now, there are some interesting championship-level participants who are in new places when it comes to the postseason. You may remember 15 years ago when Selinsgrove (Pa.) was the best team in the U.S. for most of the season, until the PIAA Class AA semifinals when Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), a team with two future U.S. national team members in its lineup, scored a late goal to pull out a one-goal win. Back then, Selinsgrove made the tournament as the District 4 champion, and Wyoming Seminary made the tournament as the District 2 champs.

Tomorrow evening, however, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.), Sem’s great rival, meets Selinsgrove in the District 2 final. That’s because Selinsgrove and Sunbury Shikellamy (Pa.) are the only two Class AA schools in District 4. The two teams were put in the same quarter of the the District 2 bracket, so that the winner of that game was not only the District 4 champion, it could get into the PIAA Class AA Tournament by virtue of how it plays in the semifinal and final round of the District 2 tournament.

A version of this occurred a couple of years ago when there were a number of play-in games for the PIAA state bracket, but those were when all of the teams in those games were identified after their respective District tournaments had concluded.

Now, the other team which is in an unfamiliar place is Princeton (N.J.) Day School. This program has played with distinction in the Prep “A” Division of the New Jersey Independent Schools Athletic Association, at one point winning four straight state titles in the larger division rather than the Prep “B” Division for smaller schools.

This year, however, you’re seeing Princeton Day in the NJSIAA Non-Public North bracket alongside a number of other teams which used to play prep-school field hockey such as Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), Summit Kent Place (N.J.), and Martinsville Pingry School (N.J.). The Panthers open their inaugural campaign in the NJSIAA bracket with a Wednesday match against Montclair-Kimberley Academy (N.J.).