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Archive for December, 2022

Dec. 31, 2022 — 190 right, 123 wrong

Today, I finished my Trivial Pursuit Classic Edition Year-In-A-Box calendar, one of those page-a-day calendars with a new trivia question every day. This calendar was pretty much the same level of difficulty as last year, and despite a 1-for-11 stretch to start the year, I was able to pull back to a rate of about 60.7 percent.

Yeah, it’s not Jeopardy-esque — where the current Tournament of Champions winner, Amy Schneider, answered 95 percent of questions correctly.

And yep, I keep score.

Dec. 30, 2022 — United States Coach of the Year: Ann Simons, Longmeadow (Mass.)

The seeds of the first state field hockey championship at Longmeadow (Mass.) were sown back in 2019, about the time when Ann Simons, head field hockey coach at the school since 1981, was thinking aloud about retirement.

“You have to set a number somewhere, otherwise you keep going and going,” she said to an interviewer at the time. “I have 13 juniors on varsity. I’ve decided that’s my last class I’ll be with.”

That was the plan, but the global pandemic intervened. That, and the performance of that senior class during a six-game fall season under the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s modified pandemic rules. Fall games featured 7-on-7 games with no penalty corners; any defensive foul in the circle short of a strokeable offense was a 23-meter free-in.

“That,” she said about her 6-0 team in 2020, “might have been the strongest team I ever had.”

Retirement talk was off. Realizing that her 2023 senior class might have had the moxie to make a run to a state championship, Simons continued to chase the white whale. In the fall of 2022, the Lancers won their first state championship in program history.

The fact that Longmeadow won the title, writing a storybook finish for the veteran coach, makes Simons the obvious choice for the TopOfTheCircle.com United States Coach of the Year.

Longmeadow, Mass. is a town of about 15,000 on the east bank of the Connecticut River, and sits right along the border of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Longmeadow is considered a Western Massachusetts team in the eyes of the MIAA. For decades, teams in the counties of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden were overlooked in the conversation about the best teams in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. When statewide tournament competition began in 1984, there was no postseason competition for smaller Division 2 schools in Western Massachusetts. Indeed, there weren’t any Western Massachusetts teams in in the Division 2 tournament until 1996.

There were occasional breakthroughs. In 1999, Greenfield (Mass.), a team led by future Olympian Kelly Doton, won the MIAA Divsiion 2 title. A year later, a Hadley Smith Academy (Mass.) team led by U.S. national teamer Kelly Dostal and coached by the legendary Sherry Webb, did the same.

But after that, the divide between Western Massachusetts and the rest of the state became more pronounced. Longmeadow, despite winning 15 Division 2 West brackets since 2002 (including nine straight between 2011 and 2019), could not win a state title.

Despite setback after setback, Simons kept on coaching, looking to see what she could do differently to improve the team.

“I just loved what I was doing,” Simons said. “I enjoyed watching the kids progress, and, down the road, I knew we had something here, so I decided to stick with it and do the best that I could do. I just wanted to do the best I could for girls’ sports.”

After the 2020-21 COVID-19 fall and spring field hockey seasons in Massachusetts public schools, the entire structure of state competition changed. No more were there to be four regional champions in two enrollment classifications. Instead, there were four MIAA state titles to be won in four statewide brackets of upwards of 32 teams in each.

“We’ve done well in Division 1, but we’re a small school,” Simons said. “It was difficult to compete with the likes of Andover and Acton-Boxborough, even though we had them on our schedule. I like what they did, going to four divisions.”

After Longmeadow fell out of the 2021 Division 2 tournament to Masconomet (Mass.), it was time to get ready for the 2022 season, one which she determined would be her last.

“You could tell that we were going to be a good team,” Simons said. “I just wanted to pick enough freshmen on the 2020 team so that they would improve once they got on varsity. I knew we had some talent.”

The Longmeadow Lancers played superb field hockey to start the season, beating a good Walpole (Mass.) side in late September, only to drop a 1-0 decision to Andover (Mass.) in early October. In addition, Longmeadow had scheduled games against Connecticut teams, something few Massachusetts public-school teams do.

“Sometimes we may get shortchanged because of power points,” Simons says. “We’re not afraid to go out there and play other competition, to show our kids where they need to be.”

The third week of October featured a challenge unheard of in American field hockey circles: five straight days with a varsity game. It started with a 4-0 win over West Springfield (Mass.) on Oct. 14th. The next day, the team crossed the nearby border with Connecticut to play Glastonbury, a 1-0 loss. The day after that came against multi-time state champion Acton-Boxborough (Mass.), a 1-0 win. The day after that was local rival South Hadley (Mass.), an 8-0 win, and finished with a 4-1 win over Agawam (Mass.) on Oct. 18th.

“That was tough for us, but we did not play well at Glastonbury, but it seemed as though neither team wanted to win that game,” Simons said. “I said to myself, ‘This cannot happen,’ because we needed to start playing better. We held 1-on-1 talks on the bus on the way to Acton-Boxborough — not just with the starters, but with the bench players. I would love to play everybody, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, you’re only going to play your top 13 or 14. Some of our players were getting antsy through not playing. But I tried to reassure everyone that they were going to get every opportunity, that you get better when you play better people, so at practice you need to stand out.”

The thinking within the Lancer team was that compared to this five-day block of games, a state tournament should be easy.

“Ever since that game, we clicked more and the team really came together,” Simons said. “They’re such good kids and they wanted to do it for me.”

The senior class was led by forward Riley Harrington, who had 14 goals and 20 assists on the season. Given the fact that Longmeadow scored 70 goals as a team, the number of assists for the future Quinnipiac student-athlete is an astounding figure.

“Everyone on our team has some type of worth, and you have to make them feel like they are wanted,” Simons said. “I would say that we have good communication on our team, and we have a lot of unselfish kids.”

But it can also be difficult to be trying to push that rock up the hill time after time without winning a state title.

That is, until Nov. 19th, when Longmeadow beat Bolton Nashoba (Mass.) for the state Division 2 championship, an unforgettable day for the team and its veteran coach. On the day, Longmeadow was able to get goals from Gracie Reisner and Harrington about four minutes apart to turn an early deficit into a 2-1 lead headed into the fourth quarter.

“Many coaches hope to get to a final, and we were in it,” Simons said. “Everyone had a good feeling about it. They said, ‘This is it. We’re going to do it.’ ”

The team, the coaching staff, and Longmeadow supporters from four decades were treated to a thrill ride for that last stanza before the clock hit zero. Then, a wave of exultation enveloped the turf at Westboro (Mass.) as the team celebrated.

“It’s a fantastic way to cap a career. This is one for the ages, it’s epic,” Simons told the media gathered at the game. “We peaked at just the right time, it’s been an interesting year, we’ve had our ups and downs.”

What has kept Simons coaching all these years? A big part of her coaching philosophy is found on the crest of her alma mater, Springfield College. On the seal is a triangle with the words “SPIRIT MIND BODY” on it.

“Some things never change, I mean, that’s the Triangle,” Simons says. “I think I try to live by that model also. But it’s more mental now. In their heads, they need to figure it out; they have to come prepared. They have to want it and push for it. Sometimes they just get a little lazy.”

But Simons has developed a thirst for information and for improvement in her latter years as coach.

“Thank God I’m retired now, because I used to spend five hours a day looking up video of our opponents to see what we needed to do,” she said. “The hard work paid off, obviously.”


Simons joins a list of coaches in the past who have received the award from this site:

2022: Ann Simons, Longmeadow (Mass.)
2021 Ruth Beaton, West Newbury Pentucket (Mass.)
2020-21: Carrie Holman, Vienna James Madison (Va.)
2019: Ali Good, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
2018: Bri Price, Hershey (Pa.)
2017: Mary Werkheiser, Norfolk (Va.) Academy
2016: Jessica Rose Shellenberger, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
2015: Danyle Heilig, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
2014: Eileen Donahue, Watertown (Mass.)
2013: Jim Larkin, Fredericksburg Chancellor (Va.)
2012: Ashly Fishell-Shaffer, Edgemere Sparrows Point (Md.)
2011: Lil Shelton, Severna Park (Md.)
2010: Sarah Catlin, Cincinnati St. Ursula (Ohio)
2009: Danyle Heilig, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
2008: Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, Pewaukee Trinity Academy (Wisc.)
2007: Wendy Reichenbach, Palmyra (Pa.)
2006: Barb Dwyer, Ladue Horton Watkins (Mo.)
2005: Robin Woodie, Fredericksburg Stafford (Va.)
2004: Monica Dennis, Grosse Pointe South (Mich.)
2003: Kearney Francis, Silver Spring Springbrook (Md.)
2002: Slade Gormus, Midlothian James River (Va.)
2001: Amanda Janney, Ft. Worth Trinity Valley (Tex.)
2000: Eileen Allan, Pompton Lakes (N.J.)
1999: Amy Wood, Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Md.)
1998: Diane Chapman, Garden City (N.J.) and Brenda Beckwith, Winslow (Maine)
1997: Maryellen Clemencich, Allentown (N.J.)
1996: Tracey Paul, Escondido San Pasqual (Calif.)
1995: Nancy Fowlkes, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox)
1994:
Mike Shern, Lacey (N.J.) Township
1993: Pat Toner, Newtown Council Rock (Pa.)

Dec. 29, 2022 — Pele, 1940-2022

It was only about 10 days ago when Lionel Messi was regarded as the “greatest of all time” in soccer after Argentina’s World Cup win over France.

But Edson Arantes do Nascimento — forever known as Pele, or the Black Pearl, or The King — this long-time superstar, this first global superstar of the world’s global game, wrested the title of “greatest of all time” back simply from taking his last breath this afternoon.

It is hard to argue against the Brazilian.

Pele was a statistical singularity. He played on three World Cup-winning teams, more than any player, male or female. He has scored more than 1,200 goals for club and country. He scored in two World Cup finals, something done by only one other male player.

Pele was a social justice warrior. He was a voice for the poor in a country where dark-skinned people were marginalized. He never forgot where he came from, visiting hospitals, doing charity work, and doing a lot of work with youth soccer.

Pele was an artist. Some of his goals — and assists — still boggle the mind when you watch the footage. One of his most legendary moves wasn’t captured on film: it instead had to be generated by computer. In the sequence, he would do a skill called a sombrero — volleying the ball to himself into space behind an opponent. But Pele did this four times in one phase of possession in a win by Santos (his club team in Brazil) over league rival Athletico Juventus, eventually scoring off a jumping header.

Pele was a true showman. In his 1977 retirement match in East Rutherford, N.J., he took to the Giants Stadium Astroturf (something unheard of today), he connected on a free kick when everybody in the building — including the opposing team — knew what was coming.

Pele was also a transcendant figure as the game changed from a game played by hard men with a heavy leather ball to a game played by athletic and skilled players who were pushing around the lighter Telstar spotted ball which became a global hallmark of the game.

Pele was one of the only players who is being remembered today as much for his missed chances as for the goals he scored. His artistry and his imagination were years before the likes of Maradona, Messi, and Mbappe.

But I think one of his biggest impacts has to have been his two-year professional stint for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. It was, in the 1970s, unthinkable for a world global superstar to try to kick-start a sport in a country where a national team game would get only a couple of thousand fans in a high-school stadium in St. Louis.

There’s a Greatest Sports Legends episode in which Pele was interviewed by legendary George Plimpton in amongst the soccer fields of Trenton State College, an interview was conducted around 1980. Though the North American Soccer League would fold only about five years later, his efforts eventually kick-started efforts to start a sanctioned Division I professional league in the United States, to get the game going amongst female participants.

Without Pele, there wouldn’t be crowds of 80,000 people watching soccer matches in the United States. There would not be four stars on the U.S. women’s national team’s shirts. Without Pele, there would not be young Americans plying their trade in a national league or for overseas clubs. And it wouldn’t have sparked a culture in which the United States would buy more World Cup tickets than almost every other participating nation during recent World Cups.

Thanks, Pele.

Dec. 28, 2022 — Reflections on a list

If you look at yesterday’s blog entry, you’ll notice that it has a collection of who we believe were the nation’s top field hockey scorers from 1982 to the present.

There are plenty of stories involving these athletes, with, of course, one omission.

But there’s one quirk about the last 40 years. And that’s the national scoring champion of 2008, an attacker from Allentown William Allen (Pa.).

That player was Lucas Long, the only male player (that we can figure out) to ever lead the country in scoring in a game which has been a predominantly female sport in the schools since sticks were first picked up in organized interscholastic play in 1909.

Sure, there have been males playing field hockey in the U.S. in universities even before Constance Applebee brought the game to Harvard, and there was even the depiction of field hockey on a series of Boy Scout trading cards printed in 1933 shows young Scouts playing on a campsite.

But Long is one of the lucky ones. His Canaries team were the last opponent that Katie O’Donnell’s Ambler Wissahickon (Pa.) team faced her senior year. And Long may have been a couple of inches away from being the state champion in that 2008 season.

A number of other boys have never had the chance to play on a full high-school team. Some state governing bodies of sport have thrown up barriers to their play, some barriers have been erected by concerted action by coaches’ associations, and others by individual school districts.

But for every record-breaker like Lucas Long, there have been many young men who have been banned from the field by every kind of machination available.

Now, there’s been attempts to organize boys’ varsity field hockey in various places. One school in Connecticut reportedly had enough for an entire starring 11, but there weren’t other teams nearby looking to do the same.

In California, two schools — La Jolla (Calif.) and Lakeside El Capitan (Calif.) played a three-game series in 2010 after a great deal of prep on the part of coaches Nick Conway and Sandy Martinez. But that experiment lasted just one season.

But now, we’ve seen where Massachusetts — a state which has seen a number of male players affect the outcomes of some state tournaments — has been working on trying to make it easier for boys’ varsity programs to start play. The solution: start with a 7-on-7 league rather than requiring enough players to field an 11-player team including the goalkeeper.

One school –Malden (Mass.) — attracted enough attention so that 80 players came out to a clinic led by Harry Singh, the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team. Malden is a town of 66,000 only about three miles north of Boston. As such, it has a great chance to survive through the number of players interested.

Thing is, Massachusetts has some 230 public, private, and parochial schools. I would think that, with the number of boys’ ice hockey players in the commonwealth, and with coaches who could see the benefits of free dry-land training in a relatively contact-free sport, the game could take root.

We’ll see if more schools take to the boys’ game.

Dec. 27, 2022 — Your national scoring champion

Olivia Fraticelli was practically born into the game of field hockey. Her mother, Kat Arnold, was a 48-goal scorer for Toms River (N.J.) East in 1995 before matriculating to Division I Rider University. Her aunt, Kris Arnold, also played with distinction for Toms River East before matriculating to The College of New Jersey, winning a Division III national championship in 1999.

Growing up, it was expected that she would be on some sort of rectangular pitch with a ball; she played both soccer and field hockey before choosing the stick-and-ball game.

As a sophomore, she scored 49 goals in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for Toms River (N.J.) North. She improved to 53 goals in 2021, and found net a colossal 89 times in 2022. Fraticelli is your national scoring champion for the 2022 season.

“I just love this sport and my team had all the talent,” she says. “We had enough talent to do some great things this year. And with that, came the goals, the scoring, and the winning. It was a lot of fun.”

The Mariners had a 20-win season and was in the last four of the prestigious Shore Conference Tournament. TRN, however, could not find its way past Point Pleasant (N.J.) Boro, who was playing its best field hockey in decades.

Then again, so was Toms River North, looking for its first major trophy since 1987, when it won the state championship. This year’s quest, however, ended in the state Group 4 sectional final against eventual champion Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.).

Fraticelli’s career numbers are amongst the very best ever seen in scholastic field hockey. Her 89 goals for the 2022 season are the eighth-best in history for one season. Her 223 career goals put her sixth all time.

“Last year, it was crazy with Talia (Schenck) and Ryleigh (Heck),” Fraticelli says of the national scoring landscape. “But I think this year, the goalies and the defenses have been getting better.”

She is the sixth different New Jerseyan to lead the nation in field hockey goal scoring since 2009. And, as it turns out, she will be following the footsteps of Austyn Cuneo and Nikki Santore and taking her talents to Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. The program earned the No. 1 overall seed for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

“I wanted to stay close to home,” Fraticelli says. “Rutgers was my dream school from the start, and my first sleepaway camp was there, and every since then I knew I wanted to go there. Plus, they’re in the Big Ten, which is so competitive and a lot of fun.”

In the fall of 2023, Rutgers is looking to rebound from an 8-10 season which ended with a first-round overtime loss to defending national champion Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament.

“Rutgers, I think, is a really gritty team,” Fraticelli says. “They are very strong and have defensive skill. It’ll be interesting playing with the international players because you can learn something new about the game.”

Olivia Fraticelli joins this talented list of field hockey players who have led the country in scoring the last four decades. Please let us know if there are any additions or corrections that need to be made to the list below. This especially goes for 1988, the lone hole in my hockey knowledge.

2022: Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North, 89
2021: Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 125
2020-21: Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) 90
2019: Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 78
2018: Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 124
2017: Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 91
2016: Megan Rodgers, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 81
2015: Nikki Santore, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2014: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 95
2013: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 96
2012: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 68
2011: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2010: Danielle Allan, Pompton Lakes (N.J.) 56
2009: Kelsey Mitchell, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2008: Lucas Long, Allentown William Allen (Pa.) 43
2007: Lauren Gonsalves, Harwich (Mass.) 56
2006: Kaitlyn Hiltz, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 50
2005: Kelly Fitzpatrick, Palmyra (Pa.) 66
2004: Amie Survilla, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) 64
2003: Anne Marie Janus, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 44
2002: Shauna Banta, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Amanda Arnold, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) 49
2001: Tiffany Marsh, Marathon (N.Y.) 57
2000: Rebecca Hooven, Plumsteadville Plumstead Christian (Pa.) 54
1999: Rebecca Hooven, Plumsteadville Plumstead Christian (Pa.) 48
1998: Kelli Hill, Manasquan (N.J.) 43
1997: Tiffany Serbanica, Madison (N.J.) Borough 43
1996: Carla Tagliente, Marathon (N.Y.) 51
1995: Kim Miller, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 63
1994: Michelle Vizzuso, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 69
1993: Melissa Pasnaci, Miller Place (N.Y.) 60
1992: Diane DeMiro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 56
1991: Denise Nasca, Centereach (N.Y.) 56
1990: Shelley Parsons, Waterfall Forbes Road (Pa.) 50
1989: Christine McGinley, Medford Lakes Shawnee (N.J.) 40
1988: Unknown
1987: Kris Fillat, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 53
1986: Dana Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 57
1985: Hope Sanborn, Walpole (Mass.) and Sharon Landau, Mamaroneck Rye Neck (N.Y.) 53
1984: Michelle Vowell, Garden Grove Santiago (N.Y.) 56
1983: Tracey Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 82
1982: Mare Chung, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 48

Dec. 26, 2022 — A silent event

Five days ago, the 5 1/2-week transfer portal for NCAA field hockey closed.

The transfer portal has become a transformative part of college sport in the last few years, especially as players in many sports have built valuable brand profiled in the name, licensing, and image (NLI) era.

What I find interesting is that revenue sports like football have had the identities of transfer-seekers bandied about in the media. Heck, even women’s lacrosse has seen enormous upheavals in rosters because of the use of the portal, especially after the 2020 Covid year.

The field hockey portal has, as far as we can tell, been silent.

According to data from early 2022, this is not unusual. Over the last couple of years, only 23 undergraduate athletes per season sought to enter the transfer portal. This is not only the lowest total in terms of athletes, but the lowest percentage of athletes within a sport — about 1 1/2 percent.

Why are the numbers so low? The way I see it, the risk vs. reward ratio is not in the average field hockey player’s favor. Though we’ve heard of some NLI deals for field hockey players north of $10,000, I don’t see players breaking ranks from their current teams and moving en masse to an NLI-friendly athletic department.

At least, not yet. Since the NCAA keeps the identities of transfer portal candidates secret, we’re likely going to have to wait until August when updated Division I rosters are published.

Dec. 25, 2022 — A “bubble” Christmas

This Christmas morrning, I’m waking up in a hotel room in New Jersey, one which is a short drive from my sister’s place.

A handful of our family are spending time there today, but, in a situation that can only happen during a global pandemic, the location is a “bubble” of sorts. My sister is very immunocompromised at this moment and she wears a mask in the house whenever there’s company.

I’m doing the same, and not just because of my unwillingness to spread germs. Her house, and my hotel room, are very dry places, and last night I developed a dry cough. It was a persistent cough that made it difficult for me to sleep.

That is, until I wore a cloth mask in bed. What that did was trap moisture from my lungs, and I was able to breathe better.

I also had a Coronavirus antigen test on hand, and the test came out negative.

I’m still going to listen to my body and try another test in a day or so, but I think I can spend time in my sister’s bubble with confidence that I won’t get her sick.

Now, there’s been a lot of discussion and debate over the last 30 months over the use of medical masks in our society. It’s a debate which has seen misplaced arguments and disinformation. But all of the static does not disprove one important fact: they work. And not only that, they have been adopted by certain countries on a much more widespread basis.

During the winter, it is not uncommon to see senior citizens in Japan wearing surgical masks on the subway. It’s not just because of the lack of personal space on public transport, but there is an ethic that the masked citizen should protect others from anything that s/he has, rather than have a mask being a sign of fear or weakness.

I’m heading to the bubble today without either. And I’m wearing a mask.

Dec. 24, 2022 — A subtle move towards equity

Matt Kinnear is one of the most influential people in the world of American lacrosse. For the last 7 1/2 years, he has been the editor-in-chief of Inside Lacrosse, one of the bibles of the sport.

During his time at IL, he has overseen more and more content on girls’ and women’s lacrosse, and there is even a designated web presence, ILWomen.com, that covers everything from the international game to the recruiting of high-school players with a level of detail that is the envy of similar publications in football and boys’ basketball.

This past week, Kinnear published a sentence which you wouldn’t have heard any manager of a boutique lacrosse website say:

I wasn’t at the Men’s NCAA Championship in person; I opted to cover the women’s games alongside Alyssa [Murray Cometti] while another crew went up to Connecticut.

The attitude amongst lacrosse media over the last few decades is that the women’s game was, somehow, existing on a lower plane than the men’s game. It was such that, a few years ago, sports network would offer women’s lacrosse, at most, a fifth of the coverage that would exist for the men.

But Kinnear saw that the current generation of female player were gaining mass fan support, both in the stands and in social media. Players like Izzy Scane, Jamie Ortega, Charlotte North, and Emily Hawryschuk weren’t just lacrosse players: they were influencers, they were activists, an they were media stars.

Kinnear would write this in his wrapup of the NCAA championship weekend:

A packed house at Homewood [Field] showed the possibilities —particularly in the light of a scathing gender equity report from the NCAA— for the college game’s marquee event, and that the ceiling hasn’t been touched.

And importantly, it broke through a glass ceiling for women’s lacrosse media.

Dec. 23, 2022 — The Final Top 50

After massaging this list of teams over several tall glasses of egg nog (non-alcoholic, mind you), we think we came up with a fairly good Top 50. A lot of the decisions over these teams came from what I saw with my own eyes over video the last two weeks of the season, including what we saw during our On-The-Go narrative on Nov. 12th.

For the third year in a row, Delmar (Del.) graded out as the best team in the country. I know there’s a lot of other teams who have a claim to the top spot on basis of their resumes of who they played. But Delmar, as I have argued, has played a different style of hockey than any other team in the U.S. because of the well-skilled Bradford and Hollamon sisters. It is a style which is likely to change in 2023 as only Jordyn Hollamon remains of the four cousins.

San Diego Canyon Hills (Calif.), led by a fine senior named Venassa Orlina-Mincy, is our No. 2 team, with Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) a gallant third. It’s a great group of teams leading the Top 50, a list which has been upset because of the number of teams which have won their first major trophies in 2022.

1. Delmar (Del.) 19-0
2. San Diego Canyon Hills (Calif.) 26-0

3. Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) 21-1
4. Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) 19-1
5. Northport (N.Y.) 23-0
6. Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.) 20-2-1

7. Watertown (Mass.) 22-0
8. Mechanicsburg (Pa.) 21-4-1
9. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 22-3-1
10. Whitney Point (N.Y.) 21-0
11. Yorktown Tabb (Va.) 24-0
12. Darien (Conn.) 23-0
13. North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 20-3-1
14. Emmaus (Pa.) 26-1
15. Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.) 20-5
16. Boiling Springs (Pa.) 26-0
17. Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio) 18-2
18. Houston St. John’s (Tex.) 18-2
19. Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 22-5-1
20. Andover (Mass.) 22-1
21. Houston Kinkaid (Tex.) 15-2
22. Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) 25-4
23. Smyrna (Del.) 16-2
24. Richmond (Va.) Collegiate 17-5
25. Palmyra (Pa.) 20-3-2
26. Owings Mills Garrison Forest School (Md.) 16-1-1
27. Walpole (Mass.) 21-2
28. Charlotte Myers Park (N.C.) 21-1
29. West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) 25-2-1
30. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 17-6
31. Frontenac Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 23-2-1
32. Longmeadow (Mass.) 20-2-2
33. Ann Arbor Pioneer (Mich.) 12-1-1
34. Fairfax (Va.) 24-1-1
35. Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio) 14-5
36. Annapolis Broadneck (Md.) 20-0
37. Greenwich (Conn.) Academy 19-4
38. Uxbridge (Mass.) 22-0
39. Skowhegan (Maine) Area 18-0
40. Providence Moses Brown (R.I.) 16-1-1
41. Crofton (Md.) 16-2
42. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 17-4
43. Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 18-1
44. Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) 16-3
45. Charlotte Providence Day School (N.C.) 11-5
46. Watertown Taft (Conn.) 18-1-1
47. North Branford (Conn.) 19-1-1
48. Vestal (N.Y.) 15-5
49. Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) 14-6-1
50. Lawrence (Maine) 19-0

And bear in mind: San Jose Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) 20-2-1, Huntington Beach (Calif.) 20-1, Branford (Conn.) 14-4-1, Washington St. John’s College (D.C.) 12-1, Winthrop (Maine) 16-2, Glenelg (Md.) 12-6, Dexter (Mich.) 13-5, Exeter (N.H.) 17-1-1, Weare John Stark (N.H.) 16-0-1, West Deptford (N.J.) 18-4-1, Hinesburg Champlain Valley Union (Vt.) 15-2, Woodstock (Vt.) 15-1, Chesapeake Great Bridge (Va.) 17-3, Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels (Wisc.) 18-4

Dec. 22, 2022 — True equality?

This week, the second session of the 117th Congress finishes its work with passing of several budget items and a number of bills. One of these is Senate Bill 2333, the Equal Pay for Team USA Act of 2022.

This legislation comes on the heels of an historic agreement signed last fall by U.S. Soccer, and the players’ association for the U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer teams, creating a formula for equal pay and compensation which included sharing of FIFA revenues for both genders.

The new legislation is a simple series of U.S. Title Code 36, which you might know if you’ve ever seen the small type accompanying the Olympic rings on printed materials in the United States.

The edit that caught my eye was the new Paragraph 7 of Section 220524(a). It says:

[W]ith respect to a sport for which a national governing body conducts separate programs for female and male athletes, ensure that female and male athletes who represent the United States in international amateur athletic events receive, from funds directly provided by the national governing body to the athlete (excluding any prize or award based on the athlete’s performance in an international amateur athletic competition), equivalent and nondiscriminatory compensation, wages, benefits, medical care, travel arrangements, and payment or reimbursement for expenses, all insofar as these are implemented in connection with such amateur athletic events, where ‘equivalent’ means ‘equal’ except that it shall be permissible—
(A) to consider merit, performance, seniority, or quantity of play in determining contract or other terms of participation; and
(B) to provide more beneficial terms of participation to athletes representing the United States in international events to address disparities in outside income, including in compensation made available by international sports federations and other event organizers, or the need to foster underdeveloped programs or address documented and justifiable personal need on the part of specific athletes or teams…

In a sport like field hockey, in which the men’s program has faced systematic challenges for most of the last 70 years, this appears to be a call to fund the men’s program on an equal basis with the women’s. That is, have equal resources for coaching, equal facilities, and equal benefits.

But there does appear to be some wriggle room. The subsection marked “A” would allow USA Field Hockey to consider a team’s world ranking, quantity of play (which is virtually nil in the developmental apparatus for boys and young men in the U.S.), and performance on the Pan American and world stages.

The regrettable thing is that this law was passed in the midst of dreary results for both genders. The U.S. men have not qualified for an FIH World Cup or an Olympics on their own (i.e., without being the host nation) since 1956. And the U.S. women have failed to qualify for two consecutive world-level tournaments for the first time.

And there’s no wriggling away from that.