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Aug. 16, 2022 — More investments in field hockey

We’re about a month away from of a sports complex we’ve touched on in recent years. We’ve seen news stories about the soft opening of Spooky Nook Sports’ second complex called Champion Mill in Hamilton, Ohio. Yep, it’s going to happen.

The 1.2 million-square-foot facility is in the final stages of renovation, with indoor and outdoor turf pitches, basketball courts, and 14 multi-use sports courts. Across the street is a conference center and hotel which are scheduled to start operations in October.

The cost for the renovations to the old paper plant is estimated to be some $125 million.

There have been a couple of setbacks during construction owing to damage from a 2021 windstorm, but the opening will see the realization of more dollars being invested in facilities which feature field hockey prominently.

Think of it: add up the costs for Spooky Nook, Champion Mill, Robinson Fieldhouse, the two Mangat Group projects in Glendale, Ariz., and the proposed United States Performance Center in Kannapolis, N.C. and you get an estimated billion-dollar investment in field hockey.

That’s billion. With a “b.”

Is that enough for the suits who run sports investments and sports media to keep marginalizing field hockey?

BULLETIN: August 15, 2022 — Athletes Unlimited confirms Marino’s championship

After a bit of movement over the last 20 hours or so, the final totals for the Athletes Unlimited women’s lacrosse league have been confirmed. A point has been added to leader Taylor Moreno’s total from overnight, and five points have come off second-place Sam Apuzzo’s overnight total.

This makes the final margin 16 points, confirming Moreno’s place as the second AU champion, with her score being 1798 to Apuzzo’s 1782.

The two luminaries had been tied on the scoreboard headed into the final three minutes of play, and theoretically finished Matchday 12 level on points after the win bonus for Moreno (45 points), the fourth-quarter bonus for Apuzzo (20 points), and the MVP-3 bonus (25 points) for Apuzzo as well.

The two luminaries had been tied on the scoreboard headed into the final three minutes of play, and theoretically finished Matchday 12 level on points after the win bonus for Moreno (45 points), the fourth-quarter bonus for Apuzzo (20 points), and the MVP-3 bonus (25 points) for Apuzzo as well.

It’s been an unprecedented year for AU women’s lacrosse — the only time a post-overtime shootout has ever been used in women’s lacrosse, and the only recount ever used to determine a champion.

Can’t wait for Season 3 next summer.

Aug. 15, 2022 — An eye-popping investment

When the Spooky Nook Sports complex was first developed on the site of an Armstrong Aluminum distribution center back in 2013, the outlay to build two turf pitches, indoor recreation facilities, and a hotel on the site ranged from anywhere between $25 and $42 million, according to published reports.

But there’s another sports investment, one with a sizable field hockey element, which is being planned in a non-traditional area of the country that is over and above that figure.

The Mangat Group, a developer in Arizona, is about to commence construction on a a pair of sports complexes in Glendale which are estimated to cost somewhere between $50 and $100 million.

So, what’s the field hockey element of this? Currently, there are two temporary hockey pitches on the land, used by the Phoenix Scorpions and the Arizona State University club team. And the final construction on that patch of land will include three field hockey pitches (presumably water-based). It will also include indoor basketball and volleyball courts, and a pickleball complex with several dozen courts. In addition, on a second site, a 20,000-seat cricket stadium is being planned.

The building projects are the collective brainchildren of Vispi Karanjia and Tony Mangat, and they are looking to start construction sometime early next year for a 2024 opening.

“I told (the city of Glendale) if you help me get the process going, I’ll make sure I build the thing in 2024,” Mangat tells The Phoenix Daily Independent.

The Glendale field hockey site’s scope is impressive — impressive enough that if the developers do their homework and build the three pitches to FIH standards, the site could host a World Cup one day.

About the only thing that would have to happen for the United States to use Glendale as a host site is for FIH to move the tournament window for that future World Cup to the winter.

It’s not unusual for that to happen in the sports world: FIFA has had to make all manner of changes to its calendar to hold the next men’s World Cup in Qatar, beginning Thanksgiving Week and ending in December.

It may seem like a far-off dream, but let’s see what happens with the follow-through from these sports property developers.

BULLETIN: August 14, 2022 — Has the championship of AU Lacrosse turned into a dead heat?

SPARKS, Md. — Today, the final two games in the 2022 Athletes Unlimited women’s lacrosse season were played.

What we do know is that in the first game, Team Johansen beat Team Glynn by a score of 16-13. And in the nightcap, featuring the two highest point-getters in the four-week-long league, it was Team Marino defeating Team Apuzzo 9-7.

But what we don’t know is who won the league championship. It seems after four weeks of unprecedented starpower and unprecedented events (including the first known post-overtime shootout in recorded history), we have a potential imbroglio and a possible recount as to who won the league.

During the final minutes of the afternoon game between Team Apuzzo and Team Moreno, the cumulative individual scores were flashed upon the scoreboard. Tied with 1767 points each were the two captains. One captain, Sam Apuzzo, was the 2018 Tewaaraton Award winner. The other team captain was goalie Taylor Moreno, who backstopped North Carolina to the 2022 NCAA title.

The tension grew throughout the game as the lead switched between the two luminaries. Apuzzo had a lead of 57 points headed into the game, but Moreno inched closer and closer as she made a number of six-point saves and Apuzzo was docked two for each shot that Moreno gobbled up.

The final minute ticked off with Team Moreno running out the clock and taking home 45 points for each member of the team, but Team Apuzzo won the fourth quarter, pulling back 20 points. This means that the game ended with Moreno leading 1792-1767, a 25-point margin.

There’s more. After every Athletes Unlimited game, team members vote for a game MVP. You would suppose that each of the 14 players on Team Apuzzo would vote for their captain, and each of the 14 on Team Marino would do the same.

But the teams aren’t the only voters: the MVP points went first to Kenzie Kent (75 points), second to Katie O’Donnell (50), and third to Apuzzo, who took home 25 points.

What that means is that the race for the Athletes Unlimited championship, after four weeks, 12 games, and numerous scoring opportunities, wound up in a tie, 1797-1797.

At the postgame ceremony, Moreno was declared the provisional AU Lacrosse champion. Moreno, ever gracious, called Apuzzo to the lectern where each gave postgame speeches as if they had won outright.

Still, the words of the announcer at U.S. Lacrosse Headquarters were something to pay attention to: Moreno was labeled at the provisional champion, and an announcement was made that the final totals were subject to appeals.

In other words, I think we’re going to have a recount.

That, for certain, is something we’ve never seen in lacrosse.

Since the end of the ceremony, there has been one adjustment to the scoreboard, and that affects the score of Apuzzo. She has dropped 10 points, so that Moreno leads 1792-1782.

They’ll be auditing the 12 games that the players participated in, so the numbers could very well change.

August 14, 2022 — New opportunities for one of the sport’s legends

Last May, John Savage, the head field hockey coach at Mamaroneck (N.Y.), retired from coaching the team that he had been a part of for the last 26 years, winning three state championships.

This fall, he is coaching a team which he had volunteer-coached during the global pandemic. That school is Newtown (Conn.), located where Savage lives.

It is a bit of an odd twist, as Savage is taking over for Ellen Goyda, who will now be coaching at the developmental level as Newtown Middle School’s inaugural field hockey coach.

Savage, a resident of Newtown since 2015, had gotten to know many of the incoming players the last couple of years during the pandemic.

“I really love coaching these young ladies. I just like to help out and be around young people and hopefully have a positive impact on their lives,” Savage tells The Newtown Bee.

Newtown, in 2019, was the No. 1 seed in the CIAC Class L tournament after a 16-0 regular season record. It is this kind of potential Savage hopes to harness.

“I’ve learned that it’s a mental game as well as a physical game. It has to be a team game where personal glory is put aside for team success,” Savage tells The Bee. “If you want to be a championship program you have to love each other.”

Should Savage be able to bring the Nighthawks to a state championship, he would belong to a small club of field hockey coaches. Only Jodi Hollamon (Maryland, Delaware) and Daan Polders (Colorado, Pennsylvania) have ever taken teams to public-school state championships in more than one state.

August 13, 2022 — More than just “leveling up”

Last weekend, on the north banks of the Piscataquis River in central Maine, a field hockey exhibition was played featuring alumnae of Dover Foxcroft Academy (Maine).

The site was Gene Philpot Field. But it wasn’t enough that the playing surface was named for the school’s longtime coach.

Philpot Field is located inside of Jim Robinson Fieldhouse, a $7 million facility built right next to the school campus. The floor of the main competition surface is lined for both soccer and field hockey, surrounded by a three-lane track.

As the pages of this site have detailed over the years, field hockey has had a lot of investment in infrastructure. Since the construction of an enormous artificial grass surface behind Angela Tammaro Field House in Greenwich, Conn., almost every scholastic field hockey team in America has moved off grass.

Slowly, a number of teams in Connecticut, Virginia, Missouri, and Texas have started playing on water-based artificial turf.

But playing in an all-weather facility? That’s a level above anything else we’ve seen.

Now, there have been indoor facilities where field hockey has been played before. Rutgers University’s football practice bubble on the Piscataway side of the Raritan River was, for several years, the site of the U.S. women’s national field hockey team’s selection camp.

We’ve also noted that a New York state playoff game in Section III was held at an indoor facility.

And we know of a lot of indoor soccer facilities around the nation which are privately-owned but not many are used for the stick-and-ball sport.

Philpot Field is a bit of a snug fit inside the field house, albeit there appears to be more room around the outside of the pitch than there was for the indoor bubble at Spooky Nook. I guess we’ll find out Sept. 2 just how many people the place can hold; that’s the date for the Ponies’ first home match against Guilford Piscataquis (Maine).

August 12, 2022 — Towards the future

It was revealed in at least one news report this week that Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse will be returning to its new home at U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md. next summer.

We don’t know yet whether the lacrosse played there will be the same 10-v-10 format that we’ve seen in most iterations of pro lacrosse since 2016, or whether the league will adopt the Lacrosse Sixes format, which is expected to be the preferred format for the sport to enter the Olympic program by 2028.

But there’s one thing that we do know about the site: it’s one which is smack in the middle of mid-Atlantic lacrosse country, right next to Baltimore and within easy driving distance of the complex.

I also find it interesting that Sparks is only about a half-hour away from the burgeoning lacrosse factory that central Pennsylvania is becoming. Sure, the traditional powers are in the southeast corner of the state, in Districts 1 and 12. But in the last few years, good teams from District 3 and elsewhere are making their way through the brackets.

And I can’t help but think that some kid in the stands at this weekend’s games may get inspired enough to propel her team to a state championship one day.

BULLETIN: August 11, 2022 — Eastern, staying home

When Danyle Heilig resigned from the head coaching position of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) after the 2019 season, there were three assistant coaches on her staff.

One, Alex Marshall, took over in 2020. All she did was coach the Vikings to the South-West D sectional championship with an undefeated record at 14-0. It was a season (and a post season) truncated by the global pandemic.

A second Viking assistant, Kerry Heck, took over for the 2021 season. All she did was steer Eastern to a 25-2 record, a 22nd straight state championship, and the final Tournament of Champions.

Today, the third Eastern assistant, Sara Snuffin, was named as the new head coach of the 21st Century’s most dominant scholastic field hockey program.

Snuffin is used to being around the Eastern program, having played goal during the Austin Cuneo years. But I think during the last couple of years, she will have picked up valuable advice and mentorship being around Marshall and Heck.

It would not be surprising at all if the Eastern Express doesn’t miss a beat this fall.

BULLETIN: August 11, 2022 — Year 3 of the NHSI with games hard to analyze

This afternoon, the folks at Max Field Hockey released the schedule for the third National High School Invitational, which will be held the weekend of Sept. 23 to 25 at The Proving Grounds in Conshohocken, Pa.

It is a tournament which will have 68 games featuring 59 schools. We’ve seen a couple of schools already put games on the schedules which are released to the public, but the full schedule is now up.

As we figured, the two best field hockey programs in the nation last year — Delmar (Del.) and Emmaus (Pa.) — aren’t in this competition. But there are plenty of championship-level sides, including the first visitors from the Golden State. I think the best game of the first day of of the tournament, to be held at 3 p.m., is San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.) taking on Winnetka New Trier (Ill.).

For the second day, the nightcap between Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) and Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) is going to be a dynamite game between two of the nation’s best programs.

On the Sunday slate, the Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) contest against Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) is going to be a good contest.

But with the graduation of so many tremendous offensive talents over the last two years in the scholastic game, it’s hard to figure out which of the other games in this tournament are going to the best games to watch.

Sure, there are great teams coming in, such as Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.), and North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.). But there are plenty of teams with great stories, such as the Christian Academy of Louisville (Ky.), Charlotte Myers Park (N.C.), and Buffalo Nichols School (N.Y.).

We’ll try to have our usual three-part preview the week of the tournament with context and perspective you won’t get anywhere else.

August 11, 2022 — The one-year experiment

When Mark Parsons left the Portland Thorns of the NWSL to coach the Dutch women’s national soccer team, his departure was under a bit of a cloud. A league-wide scandal surrounding player abuse had enveloped the Thorns franchise because they had employed Paul Riley, who had been removed from his position at the North Carolina Courage after a 2021 story in The Athletic.

While Parsons wasn’t involved in the scandal, members of Portland Thorns management, including general manager Gavin Wilkinson, were targets of supporters’ ire for hiring Riley.

And less than a year later, Riley is jobless. The national governing body of soccer in Holland has fired Riley after the Oranje, the second-place team at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, finished out of the medals at the recent European women’s soccer tournament. It was a highly unexpected result, even though the team finished undefeated in pool play. France, in the quarterfinals, came up with the overtime goal to advance 1-0.

By failing to make the final, the Netherlands not only are shut out of the 2024 Olympic tournament, but now have to win their final UEFA qualification game against Iceland in order to make the World Cup automatically.

That Sept. 6 game will not have Parsons on the sideline.