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Archive for October, 2022

Oct. 31, 2022 — Remembrances of a weekend

Your Founder spent parts of Friday and Saturday immersed in events surrounding the National Women’s Soccer League’s 10th championship final.

The numbers of scarf-clad supporters coming from all 12 league cities are a testament to the staying power of the league, in direct contrast to what had happened in the previous two USSF-sponsored Division I leagues, the WUSA and WPS. Both of these leagues had only about six or seven teams, and they had front offices with little clue as to how to build a long-lasting fan culture amongst people in the host cities.

I saw some folks I had not seen in a while, people who I have been in the wars with while watching games involving two iterations of the Washington Freedom, the Washington Spirit, and the U.S. women’s national team.

But the most surprising and pleasant reunion I had over the weekend was with a member of the Kansas City Current’s front-office staff, who was a lacrosse player of fine repute when I was in the dailies. She would go on to play Division I soccer at Loyola College in Maryland.

“I still have all of these binders of articles you wrote about me,” she told me.

I take a lot of pride in that. I worked for a decade in the world of daily journalism in the smallest city in America with two competing daily newspapers. We had to get our information out in the morning, and we had to get it right. We got scoops on each other and we found ways to make our coverage in the sport better.

Today, the newspaper I wrote for is a shell of its former self. Journalists file stories from home with little of the accountability required from being in a newsroom for eight hours or more. These days, it’s all turnkey journalism, where box scores are automated and very few newspapers are printed since the data is now all on the World Wide Web.

My mind goes back to a staff meeting in 1995 when the publisher of the paper (il capo de tutti capi, you might say), told a room full of writers and editors, “People don’t want to read a newspaper on the Internet.”

That was a fateful misstep.

I feel lucky to be in this space, pretty much being able to write as I please, take an historic view of the sport, and break new bounds in scholastic sportswriting.

And I’m proud of the body of work done in the last 24 years.

Oct. 30, 2022 — … leading to three rollercoaster games

Today at Gloversville (N.Y.), a tripleheader of games to determine the Class A, B, and C champions for Section II of the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association took place.

We wrote about the under-.500 Clifton Park Shenendehowa, who was looking to get past its subpar season to win a 13th consecutive Class A sectional championship. But early in the fourth quarter, Bethlehem Central scored on an option-right penalty corner shot from Hayley Backlund which stood up in a 1-0 win.

The Class B game, contested between undefeated South Glens Falls (17-0) and an experienced Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake side (16-1) went into overtime. The game-winner was scored by Lillian Willis in the second-minute of overtime as South Glens Falls. On the play, she self-started from just outside the circle. pulled to the right and changed the angle of attack, went into the circle, made a first shot attempt, then snared the rebound. It was the first phase of play in the 7-v-7 overtime, and it means that there will be a new state champion in Class B, as the Spartans had been the defending champions.

In Class C, the game between 2021 finalists Hoosick Falls Central and Johnstown was not decided until the last three minutes. With the game tied 2-2, Hoosick had a free hit from a promising position, which led to a rebound off the goalie pads. Emma McCart, who had a hat trick in last year’s final against Johnstown, picked the ball out of the air and batted in the rebound.

Friends, welcome to the world of playoff field hockey. The next three weeks are going to be good.

Oct. 29, 2022 — A rollercoaster season

The 2022 scholastic field hockey season at Clifton Park Shenendehowa (N.Y.) has been one of the strangest that a perennial power has had in recent memory.

Shen, having graduated 13 seniors from last year’s team, stumbled at the start of the season, scoring just one goal in the first five matches. The Plainsmen, who lost to Northport (N.Y.) in last year’s Class A state final, finished the 2022 season 6-10.

Suddenly, Shenendehowa began to start playing better from the Section 2 six seed. The team beat Latham Shaker (N.Y.) and Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) to make tomorrow’s championship game of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association sectional championship.

The stakes are high: the winner plays next Sunday, Oct. 6, against Scarsdale, and will be a win away from making the state semifinals. And like in previous years, the semifinals and final are on consecutive days. And like last year, the final two rounds at at Centereach (N.Y.).

It would be an achievement if a team made the state semifinal with a 10-10 record. But that story will have to wait until tomorrow’s final.

Oct. 28, 2022 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Oct. 26

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Statwatch, the part of our Web presence that attempts to bring together the past, the present, and the future through the numbers that define the game.

This week’s most interesting statistical occurrence is the fact that a second field hockey player, Tyler Everslage of Louisville (Ky.) Assumption, broke the 50-goal barrier in the KHSAA state title game, a 3-2 win over Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.). Now, you may be asking yourself, “How is a 50-goal season so unusual? It’s being done all the time.”

This is true. When we started this site, there were maybe about 25 field hockey players who had ever scored 50 goals in a season. Since the start of the Score-O Decade (2010), the 50-goal mark for a season has been reached on 87 occasions. Here’s the thing, though: one year ago this week, there were 10 players who had exceeded the 50-goal barrier.

What’s going on here? While I’d like to think it’s a karmaic shift back away from high-scoring players and towards good defense and goalkeeping, I also wonder if this is because a lot of your better athletes are choosing soccer for their fall sport, or choosing to concentrate on a sport other than field hockey year-round.

Attached below are numbers published by amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media. We encourage coaches, ADs, team managers, and staffs to register for the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your league, section, or 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
78 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
50 Tyler Everslage, Louisville Assumption (Ky.)
42 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
42 Aubreigh Uba, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
41 Danielle Hand, Queensbury (N.Y.)
39 Jessica Albertson, Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa.)
39 Katie Clarke, Purcellville Loudoun Valley (Va.)
39 Izzy Morgan, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.)
38 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
38 Ava Michael, Benton (Pa.) Area
37 Madison Beach, Glenbrook (Ill.) South

SEASON ASSISTS
40 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
34 Abby Burnett, Emmaus (Pa.)
28 Sammie Goin, Leesburg Independence (Va.)
27 Lillian Willis, South Glens Falls (N.Y.)
27 Madison Beach, Glenbrook (Ill.) South
27 Erika Culp, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.)
25 Julia May, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
25 Molly Digiulio, Buffalo Nichols School (N.Y.)
25 Melea Weber, Emmaus (Pa.)
23 Halley Beaudoin, Fairfax (Va.)
23 Olivia Pifer, Louisville Mercy (Ky.)

CAREER GOALS
212 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
171 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
161 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
128 Lauren Masters, Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.)
117 Tyler Everslage, Louisville Assumption (Ky.)
116 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
114 Olivia Bent-Cole, Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.)
106 Maggie Sturgis, Marblehead (Mass.)
100 Ava Bleier, Pittsford Sutherland (N.Y.)

CAREER ASSISTS
125 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
99 Abby Burnett, Emmaus (Pa.)
79 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
78 Hope Haynes, Houston Kinkaid (Tex.)

GOALS SCORED, TEAM
184 Emmaus (Pa.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
109 Delmar (Del.)
65 Emmaus (Pa.)
50 Northport (N.Y.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
109 Delmar (Del.)
65 Emmaus (Pa.)
50 Northport (N.Y.)

ACTIVE COACHING VICTORIES
1036 Susan Butz-Stavin, Emmaus (Pa.)
868 Linda Krieiser, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)
753 Karen Klassner, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
726 Eileen Donahue, Watertown (Mass.)
724 Cheryl Poore, Harwich (Mass.), Monomoy (Mass.), and Nauset (Mass.)
704 Sharon Sarsen, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y)

Now, here’s where you come in. If you see something that requires adjustment or correction, please send me an email to us at TopOfTheCircle.com. Send us some evidence (a website will do), and we can make a quick fix.

Thanks for visiting us at Statwatch, and we’ll see you in a week.

Oct. 27, 2022 — A purple and orange threat is awakening

In 96 days, the inaugural season for the Clemson women’s lacrosse team will commence.

It is a program which could be having the highest expectations placed upon them of any Division I debutante since Michigan began playing lacrosse as Team 1 in the fall of 2013.

There are several factors surrounding the high expectations. First is the investment and effort that the Clemson athletic department is putting forth for this program. A lot of pundits are pointing to the school’s success in football as a model for the lacrosse team.

The second aspect leading to the high expectations is the coaching staff. Head coach Alison Kwolek did great things in the mid-majors with Richmond, making the national Top 10 on two occasions. She has added former Penn State All-American Madison Carter and former Cornell assistant Bill Olin as assistants, and they could form some of the secret sauce for the coaching of the new team.

And that new team could be spectacular. Clemson was incredibly active in the transfer portal, announcing 19 athletes making their intention to join the new program. The two most prominent, for me, are attacker Jaylyn Jimerson from Syracuse, and goalie Emily Lamparter from Maryland. The program also has at least seven rock-solid commitments in the next two scholastic classes.

Clemson’s group has bonded quickly during the fall-ball season, which concludes this weekend with games at the home of your defending national champions, the University of North Carolina. And if playing on that field, and going through those locker room doors, and seeing all of those trophies isn’t a visualization exercise for the Tiger program, I don’t know what is.

Oct. 26, 2022 — This time, it’s personal

Monday was just another ordinary day at St. Louis Central Visual and Performing Arts (Mo.). That is, until a 20-year-old with a rifle entered the school and started shooting anything that moved.

One of the people who died was a member of the 1979 AIAW Division II field hockey national championship from Southwestern Missouri State, Jean Kuczka. Kuczka was a goalkeeper on the team, which beat Colgate 2-0 in a final played at Princeton University.

Kuczka played in four games, and the Bears shut out three of them. She had played her scholastic field hockey at Sappington Charles Lindbergh (Mo.), a field hockey program which gained attention last year for not giving up a goal in open play the entire season, only failing to advance in the playoffs because of a post-overtime tiebreaker.

Kuczka, despite putting away her leg guards years ago, had not lost the itch to coach. This year, she coached the cross-country team at St. Louis Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience (Mo.), which shares a campus with the Central Visual and Performing Arts School.

And as it turns out, Kuczka’s final save on Monday cost her life, but saved the lives of dozens of students who were heading in the other direction, fleeing the gunman, according to witnesses.

“When I found out, the first thing I could think about was … that’s how much she cared about the students,” student Alexis Allen-Brown told CNN. “She was going to save those babies.”

The numbers of mass shootings across America since 2009 have been studied and compiled ad nauseum, especially when a mass shooting becomes entwined with a certain place — Columbine, Jonesboro, the Pulse nightclub, Sandy Hook, Uwalde.

But for me, this tragedy is personal. This is, as far as I can tell, the first member of the American field hockey community to lose her life in a mass school shooting.

Only it’s frightening that Monday’s shooting barely registered mention in the news this week, showing how inured the American psyche is to the possibility of mass violence at the barrel of a gun.

Oct. 25, 2022 — Top 10 for the week of Oct. 23

This week’s Top 10 reflects what happened last week when Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) shut out Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) in what could be the result of the year thus far in American scholastic field hockey. We also note that San Diego Canyon Hills (Calif.) has been playing lights-out hockey in the last five weeks, and they move up to third. There are some teams in the “bear in mind” section who have been also playing splendid hockey in the last several weeks, including Watertown (Mass.), which has given up a single goal all season.

Our RightToRightIsRight.com honorary No. 11 Team of the Week is Boyertown (Pa.). The school is located just off Route 100 in Berks County, right between Pottstown (where Hill School is) and Lower Macungie Township (where Emmaus is). Last week, the Bears won their first Pioneer Athletic Conference since 2002 with a 3-2 win over Royersford Spring-Ford (Pa.).

1. Delmar (Del.) 13-0
The Wildcats finish off the regular season this week, then are scheduled to play in the Henlopen Athletic Conference championship game on Nov. 5 before embarking on a quest for a seventh consecutive state championship

2. Emmaus (Pa.) 21-0
Hornets take on the winner of Stroudsburg (Pa.) and Allentown Parkland (Pa.) in the semifinals of the PIAA District 11-AAA tournament Nov. 1

3. San Diego Canyon Hills (Calif.) 21-0
The Rattlers have yielded exactly two goals in the last five weeks; last two regular-season games are this week before a near-certain berth in the CIF Open Division Tournament

4. Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) 15-1
Camden Catholic may be playing its best field hockey since it made three state finals between 2002 and 2011, only to lose every time to North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)

5. Houston Kinkaid (Tex.) 11-0
Kinkaid faces cross-town rival Houston St. John’s (Tex.) this Thursday

6. Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) 15-1
Hill’s offensive sting was blunted by the defense and goaltending of Camden Catholic; team has three more regular-season matches before embarking on the PAISAA Tournament

7. Northport (N.Y.) 17-0
Tigers started off its march to the state tournament with a 5-0 win over Bohemeia Connetquot (N.Y.) in the quarterfinal round of the NYSPHSAA Section XI Class A Tournament

8. Norfolk (Va.) Academy 13-2
Tigers have two trips to Richmond this week; today to The Steward School and Friday to Richmond Collegiate School

9. Palmyra (Pa.) 13-2-2
Cougars get the top seed in the PIAA District 3-AA tournament, with conference rival Hershey (Pa.) second and fellow Mid-Penn Keystone rival Mechanicsburg (Pa.) fourth; an interesting interloper could be unbeaten Glen Rock Susquehannock (Pa.) at third

10. Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.) 14-2
The Dragons take on North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) later this week in what is a key tuneup for the state tournament

11. Boyertown (Pa.) 16-3-1
Katelyn Dulin’s two first-half goals stood up in the win in the PAC championship final

Who’s out: None

And bear in mind: Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 14-1, Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 12-1, Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 21-5-1, Portland Cheverus (Maine) 15-0, Annapolis Broadneck (Md.) 14-0, Watertown (Mass.) 16-0, Ann Arbor Pioneer (Mich,) 11-1-1, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 10-5, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 15-1-1, Chappaqua Horace Greeley (N.Y.) 12-1-2, Mechanicsburg (Pa.) 13-3-1, Glen Rock Susquehannock (Pa.) 16-0, Hershey (Pa.) 13-2-1, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 14-3-1, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) 16-1-1, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 13-4-1

Oct. 24, 2022 — NJ’s county tournament season gets another entrant

It’s about this time of year when a number of New Jersey teams play in-season FA Cup-style single elimination tournaments to earn regional honors in preparation for state tournaments.

A number of these are county-based, as Union, Essex, Mercer, Somerset, Union, Bergen, and Somerset have their own tournament, and then there is the combined Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex tourney that goes all the way from the edge of the capital region all the way up to the top of the state.

In addition, there are some conference tournaments, such as the Greater Middlesex County and the Shore Conference Tournaments.

There is, however, a new entrant in the mid-season tournament wars this season, and that’s the Cape Atlantic League Tournament. The CAL tournament is a six-team bracket, with four teams playing into a bracket with two top seeds, Hammonton St. Joseph’s Academy (N.J.) and Newfield Our Lady of Mercy (N.J.), awaiting the winners.

I expect that this could be a good and competitive championship with some more participation out of the members of the conference; only six of the 17 teams in the CAL played in this year’s tournament.

Oct. 23, 2022 — Proving a theorem

We’ve had a number of observational aphorisms about the games of field hockey and lacrosse, and today, we’re declaring a new Eighth Law of Field Hockey: “At the beginning of the season, offenses are ahead of defenses. But goalkeepers often have an outsized effect on the outcomes of games occurring later in the season, including tournament games.”

Such was the case on Friday night as Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) took a 2-0 lead on a Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) team which was No. 3 in the country in last week’s TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10.

It’s an overused trope that a 2-0 lead can often be the hardest to hold on to because of the momentum involved when a team is coming back from that kind of deficit. But for the Irish, it was all about tactically salting away the rest of the game after Madison Logan followed up Olivia Bent-Cole’s corner shot in the second quarter.

In this game, however, it was much more than that. It was even more than Bent-Cole, one of three high-school players in the U.S. senior women’s national team pool. Because as time elapsed in this game, it became The Emily Nicholls Show. Nicholls, the team’s goalkeeper who has given her verbal commitment to Rutgers, was magnificent for the second half of the game, interposing herself in all of Hill’s corner play and stopping shots from all angles.

In all, she had 14 saves, most in the second half as Hill strung together corner chances. Nicholls was unwavering in her commitment to the back line, and helped bring Camden Catholic a famous victory.

A hearty “Well-played!” from this corner.

Oct. 22, 2022 — A smorgasbord of collisions

Today is an interesting day for the game of field hockey. Some competition is winding down, and a number of states are in playoffs already.

But the docket of NCAA Division III games is a meaty smorgasbord indeed. There are 72 Division III games scheduled for today, and more than a few are likely to identify the 18 automatic qualifiers who will make the 2022 championship bracket in Pool A.

A number of these games are end-of-season games with teams playing out the string. A cursory look shows one matchup with one win between the two teams, another with three wins, and another with just five. I’m sure there are others out there.

But the Williams-Trinity game in the New England Small Conference Athletic Conference is a Top 10 matchup at high noon from Hartford, and could shake up the ranks of the at-large crowd.

You see, the NCAA Division III field hockey tournament has usually had a very low number of at-large teams. I seem to remember one year that it only had three at-large bids; nowadays, it’s seven. But those seven aren’t selected until the committee selects one independent Division III team in Pool B.

This year, there 11 independents that go into Pool B:

  • Christopher Newport
  • Husson
  • Maine-Farmington
  • Mary Washington
  • Meredith College
  • New England College
  • Salisbury
  • Southern Virginia
  • Thomas
  • Virginia Wesleyan
  • Wells

Only when that Pool B team is picked are the other seven at-large teams are selected from the non-winners of tournaments as well as the 10 teams not selected from Pool B. Those seven at-large teams go into Pool C.

So, here’s why the Trinity-Williams game could be one of those “fulcrum” games, which could determine the outcome of a number of teams. Right now, Trinity and Williams are ranked fourth and fifth in the country using the Average Computer Ranking on FieldHockeyCorner.com. The ACR for this ranking is an average of win-loss record and goal differential (up to five).

The two teams, however, are fourth and fifth in their own conference. As of this morning, Middlebury and Tufts are at the top of the table with seven wins and one defeat in league play, with Amherst and Trinity tied for third at 6-2, and Williams a game back at 5-3.

Suffice it to say, neither the Bantams nor the Ephs can afford to lose this game. Two weeks from today, the NESCAC quarterfinals begin, and the loser of this matchup could very well wind up having to go on the road for that match depending on how other teams in the league fare.

Stay tuned. The Road to Glassboro and the Final Four could have several twists in the tale today.