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Archive for November 13, 2021

Nov. 13, 2021 — Championship Saturday on-the-go

This morning, with whistles in Spotsylvania, Va., Centereach, N.Y., and Bordentown, N.J., a full Saturday of championship-level field hockey will spring into life.

Today, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., there will be six state finals in Virginia, five in New Jersey, and four in Maryland. There will be a panoply of quarterfinals in Pennsylvania, the New York state semifinals, and playoff action in Delaware, California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

In play today are several teams within our Top 10, as well as some great individual talents. There will be storylines playing out all day long, and we’ll try to keep tabs on them here on the blog.


10:15 a.m., Centereach, N.Y. — When this site first started, our eyes turned towards Long Island, where Centereach had a wonderful central midfielder named Colleen Barbieri and Garden City (N.Y.) was spinning a record 32-game shutout streak.

Times change. The legendary coaches for both of those programs — Diane Chapman and Nancy Cole — are no longer there. And, for the first time in more than 23 years, the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association is holding its state tournament on Long Island. In years past, the tournaments were held in places where it was liable to snow, such as Syracuse, Cicero, Williamsville, and Cortland.

But the winds are a bit warmer off Long Island Sound, and it’s a gorgeous day for the Class B semifinal between Garden City and Vestal (N.Y.). The teams are goalless at quarter-time.


10:40 a.m., Bordentown, N.J. — Olivia Bent-Cole is one of the best field hockey players in the junior class of 2023. She scored the opening goal for Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) in the NJSIAA Non-Public final. But a hat trick by Emma Ramsey has given Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) a 3-1 lead at the interval. Oak Knoll, before the worldwide pandemic hit, was the last winner of the Tournament of Champions trophy, a prize that is likely not to be awarded after 2021 because of a recent vote in the NJSIAA. Part of the reasoning (and they actually said this) was to have more teams end their seasons with a win.

If you wanted to do that, wouldn’t you go back to last year’s rules and have the teams play out to 21 sectional titles?


11 a.m., Spotsylvania, Va. — Don’t adjust your set; the teams are actually playing on blue turf.

The Virginia High School League’s Class 3 title game is a rematch of the 2020-21 final, played in April at the end of the Fall 2 season. On that occasion, Poquoson (Va.) edged Yorktown Tabb (Va.) 2-1 in overtime. But today’s Tabb is made of stern stuff. The Cats have taken a 2-0 lead and almost got a third at the stroke of three-quarter time, but the goal was disallowed.

Tabb is one of the great stories in scholastic field hockey in the U.S. the last few years. The team had several jaw-dropping seasons, including a 2011 campaign which saw them finish as the No. 2 team in the country. Head coach Wendy Wilson, having taken on the role of AD at the school, has taken back control of the field hockey team and has them playing at a high level. The Tigers have scored 117 goals (well, 119 with today’s game) this season and have yielded just eight.

Poquoson is an interesting story, too. They are your defending small-school state champs, and one of the team’s leaders, Regan Worley, is the daughter of Suffolk Lakeland (Va.) coaching legend Tara Worley.


11:15 a.m. — Centereach, N.Y. — On the school’s football field, the Class B semifinal between Accord Rondout Valley (N.Y) and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (N.Y.) is taking place. The teams are goalless, but BH-BL has been bossing possession. Rondout Valley has, I think, the most interesting nickname of anyone playing today: the Ganders.


11:20 a.m. — Cheshire, Conn. — The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Council is filling out the top half of the Class L bracket today, and two competitive teams are facing each other: Glastonbury (13-1-2) and Cheshire (14-2-1). Glastonbury was one of the best Connecticut schools in the non-championship COVID year, with a 14-0 record. The teams are goalless heading to the fourth quarter.


11:35 a.m. — Reading, Pa. — The thing you have to realize about the Emmaus (Pa.) field hockey team is that (in the parlance of Bill Belichick) it is “a team — T-E-A-M.” For all of the heralded players the Hornets have, it’s Abby Burnett with the first-half brace, and goalkeeper Emma Carl has been doing a superb job keeping Fairview Village Methacton (Pa.) off the board. The score is 2-0 heading to the fourth period in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals.

Which brings us to some of our laws of field hockey: I’ve always said that goalkeepers on dominant teams may often not see any action over the course of a game, but they put in the work during practice and get a lot of reps against their own teams. That’s why the majority of goalkeepers for the U.S. women’s national team the last 20 years have been from the University of North Carolina — Peggy Storrar, Jana Withrow, Amy Swensen, Jackie Briggs and the like.


11:40 a.m. — Delmar, Del. — “The Cousins” strike again for Delmar as the Wildcats have taken a 3-0 halftime lead over Glasgow Caravel Academy (Del.) in the quarterfinals of the DIAA Division 2 Tournament. The scores are by Maci Bradford, Josie Hollamon, and Jordyn Hollamon.

How do you stop those three skilled and quick players when they are in full song? Yes, you can try to cut off angles, but there are other players on the team that can beat you like Ella Shockley, Lilly Waters, and Laela Brown. They are No. 1 in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10 for a reason.


11:45 a.m. — Chestertown, Md. — One of the teams Delmar beat this year was Pocomoke (Md.) City. But despite the defeat, the Warriors have fought through the state’s Class 1A bracket to meet Lusby Patuxent (Md.). These are two teams from small towns (about 2,000 residents each) on opposite sides of the Chesapeake Bay, and, despite being 20 miles from each other, there’s no way to get from one school to the other without taking a three-hour drive involving the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The teams are goalless in the third quarter at Washington College, with Pocomoke hammering at the dam. One phase of play around Minute 41 sees City getting close, but a blast went wide of the goal cage.


12 noon — Centereach, N.Y. — We’re deep into overtime between Roundout Valley and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. Amelia Landry slices a backhand inches wide! Moments later, it’s Lauren Schoonmaker, who ended the season of Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) last week, who is unable to get the felling goal on a penalty corner.

The deeper this game goes, the better you like the chances of Garden City, who won the other Class B semifinal by a 1-0 score. It looks like we are set for a penalty shootout here in Centereach.

So the NYSPHSAA shootout is the same as the FIH shootout, except for the fact that the time to shoot is ten seconds, rather than eight. The goalkeepers have come up large in this phase of the game, and it’s taken until the fourth round of the shootout to get a goal. BH-BL is able to win the shootout 2-1 after Katherine Jensen makes two saves against Rondout Valley’s fifth shooter.


12:20 p.m. — Chestertown, Md. — Pocomoke is able to benefit from a goal two minutes from time to beat Patuxent 1-0. The Warriors clamber up to the side of the stands where it seems about a third of the town of Pocomoke is there supporting the team.


12:25 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.), a team which is a definite threat to win the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, is getting all it can handle from Tabernacle Seneca (N.J.). West Essex, a senior-laden team, gets a goal from junior Gianna Macrino in the fourth minute to take a 1-0 lead.

Though West Essex has seen its North Jersey section as nothing less than a birthright (having won its sectional 38 times), Seneca is pretty much a newcomer when it comes to state finals play. Seneca only opened in 2003 and is the fourth high school within the same district alongside legendary institutions like Medford Lenape, Medford Lakes Shawnee, and Marlton Cherokee.

Seneca ties the score in the 20th minute. The game is afoot!


12:45 p.m. — Spotsylvania, Va. — Chesapeake Great Bridge (Va.) has just taken a 2-0 lead over Spotsylvania Courtland (Va.), the host of the VHSL Class 4 title game. Great Bridge has been on the front foot here in the third quarter and has scored twice in this period to take control of this final.


1 p.m. — Centereach, N.Y. — The first runaway game of the day is in the Class C semifinals, as Whitney Point (N.Y.), a team just coming off its seventh consecutive sectional championship, leads Sag Harbor Pierson (N.Y.) 7-0.

Er, make that 8-0, as the Eagles put in a penalty stroke.

On the other field, Hoosick Falls (N.Y.) Central is taking a quick corner against North Salem (N.Y.) in the other half of the C bracket, but cannot score. Hoosick Falls has a player named Emma McCart, who has 43 goals this season.


1:10 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — We are now in a weather delay at Bordentown because of a driving thunderstorm as a cold front crosses through. It’s the same front that brought a snow squall to yesterday’s NCAA octofinal game at the University of Iowa. West Essex leads the Group II title match 3-1. Gianna Macrino has all three goals for the Knights.

So, we’ve seen Julia Ramsey with a hat trick for Oak Knoll in the opening game, Macrino with a hat trick in the second game. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of the haberdashery for the day.


1:15 p.m. — Delmar, Del. — The final whistle has sounded, and Delmar beats Caravel Academy 7-0. It is the Cats’ 94th consecutive victory, just 12 short of the fabled mark of 106 by Oklahoma City Casady School (Okla.). It’s “fabled” because it was amassed over 17 years, an unbelievable dominance of the Southern Preparatory Conference.


1:30 p.m. — Allentown, Pa. and Denver, Pa. — It has not been a good day for the two Mennonite schools in the bottom half of the PIAA Class A bracket. Oley (Pa.) Valley dispatched Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite, and Exeter Wyoming Area (Pa.) bested Jenkintown Christopher Dock (Pa.) 5-0. Dock and Lancaster Mennonite are believed to be the only two Mennonite schools playing field hockey in America.


1:45 p.m. — Chestertown, Pa. — It’s game on between Parkton Hereford (Md.) and Glenelg (Md.), a matchup of two storied programs in the Class 2A championship. Hereford has won nine state titles in its history, while Glenelg has won four.

Much like in the 1A game, the teams are a little tentative, but are attacking when given the chance. Hereford has a decent shot off a penalty corner, but the Bulls do not score.


1:49 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — After a 61-minute delay due to thunderstorms, West Essex and Seneca resume the New Jersey Group II final. Right off the first whistle, West Essex gets a penalty corner chance.

West Essex gets a pair of chances; one which dribbles wide, and another smacks the post! The Black Knights are buzzing now and have Seneca on the back foot.


2:00 p.m. — Spotsylvania, Va. — The Class 5 state final is the latest instance of the Mill Dam Creek derby. First Colonial and Frank W. Cox are located about a mile apart in Virginia Beach, on opposite sides of the Mill Dam Creek that runs through town.

They are the grand rivals of Hampton Roads, having won the lion’s share of state championships on offer in the area. Indeed, since 2011, one team has ended the other’s season every year but once.

Cox is led by Zella Bailey and Quin Brathwaite, while FC has top scorer Finley Payne, who has 57 goals on the season, a remarkable number.

Each team gets a corner in the first 10 minutes, but you have to like what Cox does with its transition from defense to offense. The Falcons almost created a snowbird in the attack end, but FC was able to tackle back and end the threat.


2:15 p.m. — Centereach, N.Y. — In the NYSPHSAA Class A semifinals, Northport (N.Y.), the No. 6 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, already has a 1-0 lead over Clarence (N.Y.). Northport has hit a purple patch of form when it comes to girls’ field-invasion sports. The Tigers were the nation’s finest girls’ lacrosse team last spring, and have a number of athletes from that team playing field hockey.

Northport has a pair of penalty corners at the close of the first quarter, but Clarence solves them and clears.


2:30 p.m. — Denver, Pa. — Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.) takes a 1-0 lead over Palmyra (Pa.), a school which has made a Class AA finals appearance a birthright over the last seven seasons. The Cougars have, in one of the most difficult PIAA brackets to win, gotten to the final six times in the last seven seasons.

Palmyra won the title a year ago, and also were co-champions in 2014 with Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.). Interesting to note: it was that tie game that was the catalyst for the PIAA breaking the tie in the final via penalty shootout.

The goal-scorer is Alaina McVeigh; it is her 170th career goal, good for 16th on the all-time career goal-scoring list.


2:40 p.m. — Centereach, N.Y. — OK, so get your Scrabble tiles out. In the Class A semifinals for the New York public schools, we have Clifton Park Shenendehowa (N.Y.) against Mamaroneck (N.Y.). Shen gets a dream start, with the Plainsmen scoring off a corner. Lauren Shanahan gets credit for the marker.

Both schools are names taken from the Iroquois nation. Shenendehowa means “great plains” and Mamaroneck loosely means “the place of gathering.”


2:45 p.m. — Chestertown, Md. — Camerson Henson gets the late goal for Glenelg in the MPSSAA Class 2A state tournament, and surely the Gladiators have this one sealed. Even with a late restart deep in the Hereford offensive end, Glenelg runs out the clock to seal a 1-0 win.


3:00 p.m. — Spotsylvania, Va. — Cox scores off a corner in the 41st minute of play and the Falcons, the No. 3 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, has the lead in the Class 5 final. The final quarter is upon us.


3:01 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.), playing in its first NJSIAA final, takes a 1-0 lead on a deflected goal that goes high into the mesh, but the umpires let it stand. Not sure whether it was the goalkeeper or another member of the defense which played the ball, but senior back Katie Roberts will claim the goal. Now, while the Lions have never been in a state final, Moorestown (N.J.) was the trailblazer for the sport in America, having fielded the first scholastic team in 1909, and earning 17 state championships.


3:10 p.m. — Spotsylvania, Va. — Cox scores off a corner in the 51st minute of play and the Falcons lead 2-0. Cox is looking at earning its 23rd state title. That would tie the Falcons with Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), which will play for its 24th state title in a couple of hours, and put them one behind Severna Park (Md.) — which plays its title match at 6:30 p.m. — and Ann Arbor Pioneer (Mich.).


3:15 p.m. — Centereach, N.Y. — The two NYSPHSAA Class A semifinals are on hold because of the same thunderstorm and weather front that halted the New Jersey title games a couple of hours ago.


3:25 p.m. — Denver, Pa. — In the 57th minute of play, Gwynedd-Mercy Academy gets a goal from Sydney Mandato to get the eventual game-winner over Palmyra (Pa.).


3:30 p.m. — Reading, Pa. — In the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals, Downingtown (Pa.) West has taken Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) to extra time. Both of these sides have been in the PIAA championship game in the last five years and have sent numerous players to Division I college teams.


3:42 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — Moorestown gets off a shot on its fourth corner, but misses the cage on the restart. The Quakers have not put a ball on frame on any of their PC chances. At the end of three quarters, North Hunterdon still leads 1-0 on that first-quarter goal.


3:55 p.m. — Reading, Pa. — After extra time, Lower Dauphin beats Downingtown West 3-2. The Falcons take on Central York (Pa.) in the Class AAA semfinal round. The winner of that game plays Emmaus (Pa.) or Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) in next Saturday’s final.


4:00 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — Can North Hunterdon see out the last two minutes against Moorestown? North has never been in this situation before, and it shows; a turnover deep on the left wing yielded a Moorestown shot on goal that was deflected wide by the goalie. Oddly enough, it was the Quakers’ first shot on frame the entire game.

The North fans are chanting and clapping as the clock expires! North Hunterdon wins its first state championship in program history with an upset win over Moorestown.


4:05 p.m. — Chestertown, Md. — It is the MPSSAA 3A title match between Gambrills Arundel (Md.) and Clarksville River Hill (Md.). River Hill has had a number of decent players in recent years, and won a title in 2010, but are seemingly putting together a consistent effort at making a self-sustaining athletics program.

And River Hill scores in 10th minute on a field goal by Laura Mason to open its account.


4:15 p.m. — An observation here regarding the PIAA Class 2A bracket. Gwynedd-Mercy has already won, and Archbishop Carroll (a state finalist last year) is playing right now. Villa Maria, the team that handed Eastern its only shutout loss in the last 22 years, is playing at 5 p.m. What if all three made the last four of this bracket?


4:20 p.m. — Spotsylvania, Va. — In the VHSL Class 6 final, Arlington Yorktown (Va.) takes a 1-0 lead over Chesapeake Western Branch (Va.). Yorktown, as you may remember from a story I did back in 2002, is one of the high schools closest to the walls of the Pentagon.


4:25 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — We’re back on with the NJSIAA Group IV title game between Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Phillipsburg (N.J.). The Stateliners are in their first state final in a while; the Vikings are looking to win their 23rd consecutive state championship that has been on offer. Ryleigh Heck, she of the 115 goals this season, hacks a backhander from the right wing that bounds over the endline untouched.

Minutes later, Heck is all by her lonesome five yards from goal. Somehow, her shot does not go in, but that’s life as one of field hockey’s greatest scorers.


4:30 p.m. — Centereach, N.Y. — Apparently, the weather affecting the NYSPHSAA Class A semifinals wasn’t just a thunderstorm. There was a tornado warning that necessitated an evacuation of both fields. They’ll start up within about 15 minutes or so.


4:40 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — At the end of the first period, Eastern leads Phillipsburg 1-0 on a Kara Heck blast from about 15 yards out. I give P’burg credit for not folding. Indeed, the Liners are playing better in the first minutes of the second term, holding the ball and not letting easy through balls into the Eastern attack third.

And just as I type that, a deep ball gets through and Olivia White taps it in from about two yards out. Eastern 2, Phillipsburg 0.


5:12 p.m. — Centereach, N.Y. — Northport advances to the “A” final for New York with a 5-0 win over Clarence. The other game between Shenendahowa and Mamaroneck is coming up after this one since only one of the two pitches has lights.


5:15 p.m. — Spotsylvania, Va. — Can Yorktown see this game out against Western Branch in Class 6? There are just two minutes remaining. Western Branch cannot seem to get anything going, as Yorktown is playing excellent midfield defense.

And now, with 3.7 seconds left, a player is down injured for the Patriots. Does Western Branch have anything in its playbook off this restart? Yorktown takes it to the corner flag and winds down the clock and the Patriots win the state final!


5:20 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — Eastern has opened the floodgates. Ryleigh Heck and Riley Hudson have generated all kinds of offense, including a goal in the final second of the third quarter than went through five Phillipsburg players. The Vikings have scored on all five shots they took in the third quarter. That’s a way to bat 1.000.


5:25 p.m. — Chestertown, Md. — We’re at full-time in the Class 3A final, with Arundel beating River Hill 2-1. Arundel, a participant in the first two iterations of the National High School Invitational, has seemingly learned its lesons playing against some of the nation’s best.


5:40 p.m. — Bordentown, N.J. — The final horn goes, and Eastern wins its 22nd consecutive state championship with an 8-0 win over Phillipsburg. Credit Ryleigh Heck with three goals on the night, giving her 118 for the season.


5:45 p.m. — Centereach, N.Y. — Remember that early goal that Shen scored against Mamaroneck? It’s still the only goal of the match as we’re at the halftime interval after a hefty delay for that tornado.

OK, although there are a handful of games yet to play, we’re signing off for the evening. Eight hours of this has been tremendously exhausting. We’ll have some hot takes from the NCAA tomorrow afternoon once all the games are played.