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Oct. 22, 2019 — Top 10 for the week of Oct. 20

There hasn’t been any movement in the last week in our Top 10, but there’s likely to be some going into District play in Pennsylvania as well as the end of the season in a couple of locations, and some highly-competitive games in various regions of the country.

This week’s RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Team of the Week are the Dexter (Mich.) Dreadnaughts, who won their first regular-season division champion with a 5-2 win over Ann Arbor Huron (Mich.)

1. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 18-0
Won 10th straight Union County Tournament with a 9-0 win over Clark Johnson Regional (N.J.); Royals have outscored their opposition 121-8 this season

2. Oley (Pa.) Valley 20-0
Won fourth straight BCIAA title and now looks towards the District 3-Class A Tournament after beating West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) 3-2; outscored the opposition 133-9 this season

3. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 17-1
After giving up four to Kingston Wyoming Seminary, the Vikings have shut out their last five opponents; the team has outscored the opposition 141-14 this season

4. Emmaus (Pa.) 21-0
The Hornets won the East Penn Conference championship 3-1 over Allentown Parkland (Pa.) and now await a second-round opponent in the District 11-Class AAA Tournament; outscored opponents 192-8 this year

5. Gloucester (Va.) 14-0
Dukes have Warwick (Va.) and Hanover (Va.) before the work of Peninsula District play begins; Gloucester has outscored its opponents 150-0 this season

6. Delmar (Del.) 13-0
The Wildcats close the regular season with Georgetown Sussex Academy (Del.) and Wilmington Padua Academy (Del.); the Wildcats have outscored their opposition 96-3 on the season

7. Somerset-Berkley (Mass.) 16-0
The team’s four-sided front-line attack is not just Cami and Lucas Crook; Riley Durette and Jackie Rosario have contributed to the Raiders’ considerable scoring output, which is 158 goals, having conceded only two

8. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 17-0-3
Now that the Falcons have won the Mid-Penn Conference Tournament, they now hold the No. 1 seed in the District 3-Class AAA Tournament

9. Palmyra (Pa.) 15-3
Cougars got a week off since they didn’t win a berth in the MPC Tournament, but are now the No. 1 seed in the District 3-Class AA Tournament

10. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 14-1
Falcons beat Virginia Beach Salem (Va.) and Virginia Beach Green Run (Va.) last week; outscored the opposition 80-6 this season

11. Dexter (Mich.) 16-2-2
Dexter opens Michigan Division 1 play against Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day School (Mich.) today

Who’s out? None.

And bear in mind:  San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 13-3-1, San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.) 17-3, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 16-1, Darien (Conn.) 13-0, Newtown (Conn.) 13-0, Greenwich (Conn.) Academy 12-1-1, Greenwich (Conn.) Sacred Heart 12-1, Louisville DuPont Manual (Ky.) 17-4-4, Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 18-7, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 16-4, Center Valley Southern Lehigh (Pa.) 19-0; Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 16-2, Hershey (Pa.) 14-4, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 12-1-1, Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.) 12-0

Oct. 21, 2019 — Varsity verification

It was mid-March when first word of college admissions irregularities started hitting the newspapers.

The gyre has widened to encapsulate a number of universities, such as Southern Cal, Yale, Wake Forest, and Georgetown. Some 51 people have been indicted on federal charges, and about half have already reached plea deals.

Oddly enough, it is one of the universities not involved in the Varsity Blues scandal which has become one of the first to institute reforms.

That school is Harvard, which has the most varsity athletic programs. One of the programs, its fencing team, had its own controversy when head coach Peter Brand is alleged to have sold his house — at a considerable markup — to the family of a potential recruit.

Harvard has now put in writing that coaches looking to admit a student-athlete provide proof of an applicant’s athletic ability for use by admissions officers. Presumably, a lot of that is done already through highlight videos which are often peddled by video companies which attend national tournaments in many sports.

But there’s one thing that I think will have the most lasting impact. That is the fact that Harvard coaches are now required to take conflict-of-interest training. This kind of training is very much a no-brainer for employees in many businesses and government organizations.

And the fact that it has taken this long for the most prestigious university in the country to start implementing conflict-of-interest training is, well, stupefying.

Oct. 20, 2019 — The beauty of competition

I didn’t do a Final Third today.

But thanks to the heroics of the Louisville Cardinals, I should have.

Louisville and Iowa played an ACC matchup yesterday with both sides in the nation’s Top 10, and they played a dilly of a game.

First off, there was the quality of what could have been the game-winning goal in the second half. On the play, Iowa’s Lokke Streibos pinged the ball off the backboard with a blast with a trajectory which was maybe 15 inches off the ground when it approached the goal cage, and when it hit the backboard, the ball bounced up. That’s how much spin and momentum was imparted to the ball.

In the final seconds of regulation, with Louisville needing a chance to tie the score, the Cardinals received a lifeline when Iowa was called for putting the ball over the endline deliberately, setting up an untimed corner at the end of regulation. Carter Ayars, crashing in from the wing, scored while on the ground to send the match to extra time.

In the final seconds of the first half of overtime, a lightning bolt pass from Alli Bitting to Madison Walsh was deflected past the Iowa goalkeeper to end the game with just four seconds remaining on the clock.

The beauty of competition is not just the product on the field. It’s how players have worked hard to get into the situations they are in, and how well the athletes execute in key situations.

Take, for example, last night in the denouement of the American League Championship Series. Houston manager A.J. Hinch, knowing he had a chance to end the series, planned out his pitching so that the guy he wanted, Alberto Osuna, was going to pitch the ninth inning with the Astros in a two-run advantage.

But an odd thing happened: Osuna blew the save, allowing New York to tie the game. (Mind you, Jose Altuve homered a few minutes later to send Houston to the World Series.)

My mind also hearkens back to Chris Wondolowski, who was, at one time, the leading scorer in the history of Major League Soccer. He worked hard throughout the 2010s to make the U.S. men’s World Cup team, and he even got a chance to be a hero in a 2014 elimination game against Belgium.

But when he got his chance, he missed the goal cage entirely, allowing Belgium to win in extra time. The United States has not played in a men’s World Cup game since.

It’s games like yesterday’s Iowa-Louisville game which can have ramifications for both teams in terms of conference tournament seeding, Ratings Percentage Index, and potential opponents for the NCAA Division I championship.

Oct. 19, 2019 — County tournaments gone wild

This weekend sees the championship final of six of the nine single-elimination in-season tournaments in New Jersey. Most of these are what are called “county tournaments,” although there are a couple of exceptions to the orthodox definition of the term.

We’ve already seen the final of the Greater Middlesex County Tournament, the Morris County Tournament, and the Passaic County Tournament.

Today’s finals are in Mercer, Somerset, Union, and Essex County, while tomorrow’s finals are in the Shore Conference Tournament and the Bergen County Tournament.

Each of them have their own stories, not the lead of which is the Union County Tournament final between Clark Johnson Regional (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.). The Royals will be going for their 10th straight county tournament championship, which would give the current No. 1 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10 a boost towards their postseason.

If there’s another team to watch in these six finals, keep an eye on the Mercer County final. Princeton Stuart Country Day School (N.J.) is a tiny independent Roman Catholic single-sex school which is known for punching above its weight when it comes to field hockey. The team has won four Mercer County Tournament finals, one shared in 1995 and three in an seven-year span from 2002 to 2008.

This from a school which can draw from only about 150 students from grades 9-12. In other words, it’s only about 60 percent of the size of Oak Knoll.

The Stuart Tartans will be going against The Lawrenceville (N.J.) School, which has dominated MCT competition the last 20 or so years, winning the tournament on 13 previous occasions.

Oct. 18, 2019 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Oct. 16

When looking at the national goal-scoring race, I am reminded of that old song about the three fish who swam out to sea before encountering a shark. At that point, the fish scurried back to their river, jumping right over a dam to get back to their safe haven.

This week, we had our first player jump the 50-goal barrier for the 2019 season, as sophomore Ryleigh Heck has had a torrid week with 16 goals. And the thing is, there are six other players within five goals of the 50-goal barrier, and all have a better-than-even chance to break through. Let’s give you some history: a year ago, there were five players who broke the 50-goal barrier. In 2017, it was 10; in 2016, it was 10 again, and in 2015, it was eight.

I have a feeling the Score-O decade is going to go out with a proverbial bang. And some literal ones on goalboards across America.

What we have below here is our usual collection of American scholastic field hockey statistics, culled from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, PhilaFieldHockey.com, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and The Denver Post.

We really like MaxPreps, because it is easy for the average coach, athletic director, or student manager to register for the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your conference, league, or your 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.

GOALS
55 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
49 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
47 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
47 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
46 Lily Santi, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
45 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
45 Jordan Carr, Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.)
40 Taryn Mayer, Lower Moreland (Pa.)
40 Elizabeth Agatucci, East Chapel Hill (N.C.)
37 Lauren Wadas, Palmyra (Pa.)
37 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)

ASSISTS
33 Abby Periard, South Oldham (Ky.)
27 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
24 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
23 Karen Csensits, Emmaus (Pa.)
23 Lilly Smith, New Hope-Solebury (Pa.)
20 Reagan Underwood, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.)
19 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
19 Izzy Zaleski, Lewisburg (Pa.)
19 Lindsay McFeeters, Northern Lebanon (Pa.)

CAREER GOALS
189 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
156* Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
137 Lily Santi, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
121 Jordan Carr, Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.)
118 Bridget Murphy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
108 Annie Grace Louthan, Chesterfield Matoaca (Va.)
106 Hannah Maxwell, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
106 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
105 Lauren Parente, Wyoming (Pa.) Area
104 Lauren Wadas, Palmyra (Pa.)
99 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
*–injured

CAREER ASSISTS
119 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
103 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)

GOALS SCORED, TEAM
189 Emmaus (Pa.)
150 Gloucester (Va.)
141 Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
137 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
122 Oley (Pa.) Valley
112 Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)

GAMES UNDEFEATED
121 Los Gatos (Calif.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
56 Delmar (Del.)
52 North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (Calif.)

We’re pretty sure we are missing some entries here, especially in team goals. If you see something amiss, feel free to send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the adjustment.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next week.

Oct. 17, 2019 — Red (and green?) coloring the mind

Tuesday night, I watched with some dismay as the U.S. men’s soccer team, a group of professional athletes with millions of dollars’ worth of salary, player development, and training behind them, lose to Canada for the first time since 1985.

The U.S. men have been on a precipitous slide for a number of years, even before the debacle of not being able to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Sure, there are more Americans playing overseas than ever before.

But only one, Christian Pulisic, is able to command hefty transfer fees like the $73 million that Chelsea FC paid to Borussia Dortmund a few months ago.

Too, despite the growth in organized developmental soccer from a bunch of kids running around on a weekend to the multi-level Development Academy teams and a burgeoning second tier pro league with 32 locations, the apparatus is not providing the U.S. national team with the talent needed to win enough games in the incredibly tough road matches that can be found in CONCACAF.

I mean, when the United States could come away with ties in the heat of The Office in Kingston, Jamaica; or the altitude and smog of the Azteca; or the unfriendly confines of Saprissa Stadium in Costa Rica; or the heat and humidity in Guatemala, Panama, or Trinidad — well, that was a feat. And there were plenty of times when unfancied U.S. teams could go in there and win.

But for the Americans to lose in Toronto? In front of half a crowd which is not exactly hostile?

Here’s the thing.

I’m now worried sick about the state of American national governing bodies of sport. And it’s not just about soccer, but a lot of the other athletic activities you might see once every four years.

If you look at the headlines, it seems like once every couple of months there is some sort of scandal involving inappropriate relationships that roils one sport or another, whether is swimming, gymnastics, taekwondo, or speed skating.

There are also shifting tides in how Americans view their particular sports. Americans’ interest in certain Olympic sports like boxing, cycling, and track and field are at an all-time low, and are supplanted by “extreme sports,” mixed martial arts, and games which are turned into sporting events.

Don’t believe me? Try and find a local boxing card in your community. Look at your calendar and tell me when your next major bicycle race is being held. Find a crowd of more than a few dozen at any track meet.

These three athletic disciplines have given us legends like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Major Taylor, Greg LeMond, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Jesse Owens — people who transcended sport.

I think there’s a major, major organizational problem in a number of sports under the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s purview. I’m really hoping I’m wrong.

I’m looking to see, for example, whether the U.S. women’s field hockey team can win a two-game series against India early next month.

Field hockey is a sport which has received millions of dollars in investment over the last decade or so, including a palatial “Home of Hockey” in Manheim Township, Pa. Yet, since the 2014 FIH World Cup, the American women’s world ranking has slipped from the top five all the way down to 13th.

And this, as a lot of money has been sunk into not only their development as a team, but in maintaining Spooky Nook as an entity and as a sports complex.

But unlike the men’s soccer team, the women’s field hockey team aren’t millionaires. Not in the least.

Part of me says that is the major problem: there has never been a professional league for women’s field hockey in the United States since Constance Applebee brought out those few borrowed hockey sticks and some cricket balls onto the Cambridge Common in 1901.

Perhaps, if the States don’t make it into this Olympic cycle, that’s a change that must take place for the game’s long-term survival — not only on this continent, but on others.

Oct. 16, 2019 — The final Olympic countdown

With only a couple of weeks before the U.S. women’s national field hockey team boards a plane to India for a two-game qualifier for one of seven available Olympic berths, a major milestone took place today: the declaration of the 20-woman roster.

Head coach Janneke Schopmann has picked a side which has a lot of the hallmarks of the Pan American Games team, but adding Gini Bramley, Alyssa Parker, Taylor West, backup goalie Kealsie Robles, and Mary Beth Barham.

The one name that is not on the Olympic qualifier roster that was on the Pan Am roster is Mackenzie Allessie. It’s something I find interesting, given the fact that she has not been wanting for goals, as she broke the national high-school record one year ago today.

Allessie graduated from Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) early to join the senior national team full-time, whereupon she scored in her second and third national-team appearances, and she also tied for the lead in scoring for the States (six) in the Pan American Games.  Currently, Allessie currently leads Ohio State University in goals (eight), shots on goal (25), and shot attempts (36) this season.

From a statistical standpoint, leaving the American wunderkind off the team means that nearly 20 percent of U.S. goalscoring from the Pan Am Games is not going to be available for the Olympic qualifiers.

But I think, as the youngest member of the U.S. team pool, there will be plenty of future opportunities for Allessie to make the team for major tournaments. After all, Katie O’Donnell may have missed her first chance at the Olympics in 2008, but had a wonderful 2012 at Rio.

Still, one is reminded of this site’s Fourth Law of Field hockey: “While games are won on the pitch, games can so often be lost through the decisions that coaches make in picking their teams.”

We’ll know if this works out in two weeks.