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Archive for November 9, 2022

Nov. 9, 2022 — Flexible quirks

Part of the magic of the field hockey postseason is the different ways that states choose champions.

Oh, sure, at their core, state tournament games are still 11-on-11 matches, four 15-minute quarters, winner goes on and the loser goes home.

But certain teams will travel radically different roads. Most teams have two to three days between games, sticking to a schedule mandated by the state governing body of the sport.

One odd quirk which has been in play for a while happens in the state of Maryland. When the four state tournaments get to the semifinal round, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association used to hold two doubleheaders on Monday, and two doubleheaders on Wednesday. This meant that, for the Saturday quadrupleheader of games, that two of the teams would have four full days of rest, while the other teams have just two. I’ve never understood that, though it’s reasonable to think that one of the two matchdays could have been pushed to Tuesday in case of poor weather on one or two of the scheduled dates. But this year, all of that has been changed; the doubleheaders in the MPSSAA are tonight and tomorrow.

In New Jersey, the state field hockey tournament used to be somewhat leisurely, with two games per week leading to the state championship games — and then (until this year) a Tournament of Champions with just one full day off between games. Though the T of C is no more, the sprint to the end has continued this year, with the sectional semifinal yesterday, sectional final tomorrow, and the state final quintupleheader on Saturday at Bordentown (N.J.).

But it has been tough going over the years for teams in Ohio, New York, and Virginia, whose teams think nothing of playing back-to-back games to win a state title. I saw first-hand why New York structured its state championships the way they do: the weather. When the games were held in Syracuse, there were threats of snow pretty much from the second week of October until mid-April.

The year your Founder traveled up to see the finals, a blizzard started falling right in the middle of the second scheduled game of the day on the Friday of the competition. The teams on the pitch struggled to finish the match, then the last four semifinal games were postponed for the next day, with the first state championship game following. Sunday, it was a doubleheader of state finals in the other two classes.

Virginia, until a few years ago, compressed its state tournament into three days, with consecutive quarterfinal, semifinal, and final matches at one site. Several years ago, Robin Woodie and Fredericksburg Stafford (Va.) won games on three consecutive days to win the Class AAA state tournament. But these were not just any opponents: all three oppoenents Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.), Virginia Beach Princess Anne (Va.), and Fairfax W. T. Woodson (Va.) — were former state champions.

This year, the Virginia High School League compresses its tournament, but in a different way. The quarterfinal round is held at campus sites, but the semifinals for the four classifications are held at two predetermined sites — Massaponax (Va.) and Fredericksburg Chancellor (Va.), with a quadrupleheader of finals the following day at Spotsylvania Courthouse Courtland (Va.).

Only this year, the VHSL has had to call a weather audible. Because the remnants of Hurricane Nicole are scheduled to go through the Mid-Atlantic states, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s field hockey semifinal matches will be on Saturday, with the finals on Sunday. The call was made this morning.

Thus far, Nicole has only affected Virginia’s schedule: the remnants are forecast to dissipate before Saturday tournament games in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.