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March 6, 2021 — The Final Third, Lotus Flower Edition

Please join us at shortly before 11 a.m. Eastern time on our Facebook Live presence for lacrosse action from all three divisions of the NCAA as the season truly unfolds before our very eyes. Join us and give us a like and share, would you?

March 5, 2021 — Not a law yet

Yesterday, I was tuning into a pair of Virginia High School League games, and both played out very much alike when it came to the result.

These were two derby matches — Yorktown Grafton (Va.) vs. Yorktown Tabb (Va.), and Fredericksburg Stafford (Va.) vs. Stafford North Stafford (Va.). They unfolded about the same way, in that one team seemingly had an athletic and territorial advantage over the other, but the goalkeepers of the teams which were on the back foot were making a number of amazing saves to keep their opponents off the board.

Now, in my observations on scholastic field hockey over the years, I have posited that it takes longer for defenses to jell over the course of a season than offenses. But we haven’t codified this in one of our laws of field hockey (which you can read here). I think one reason why is that goalkeepers in the modern game have become so much better at not only shot-stopping, but taking control of the striking circle. I think this goes double in this Fall 2 field hockey season, as a number of players starting this week have just come off of the National Indoor Tournament, and goalies, especially, are in prime shape.

As it happens, Tabb beat Grafton by a 4-0 count, and Stafford took care of North Stafford 7-0. But I want to give the Grafton and North Stafford goalkeepers a shout-out because of their ability to frustrate their high-caliber opposition.

March 4, 2021 — The more things stay the same

Last night, there was a South Florida derby match as the girls’ lacrosse teams from Orlando Bishop Moore (Fla.) took on defending 2019 state champion Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.).

Lake Highland Prep thought it might have had a dream start with a goal less than 30 seconds into the first half, but it was waved off. Bishop Moore took advantage and scored straightaway. The home crowd cheered; could the varsity do what the JV had done moments earlier in winning the preliminary match 8-7?

The Highlanders varsity, being a Chris Robinson-coached team, did what you might expect. It punched in goal after goal after goal on the way to winning the game 23-4.

This year’s Lake Highland Prep team is one which is bereft of the opportunity to match its skills with teams willing to come to Florida for spring-break lacrosse. There’s no Milton (Ga.) on the team’s list of fixtures, no teams from the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, and nobody from the usual group of top lacrosse programs outside of the Sunshine State.

That has not mattered. The first three games of the season, Lake Highland Prep outscored their opponents 72-1. And in the fourth game of the young season, the Highlanders took down Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.), the superprep team from a school which is unashamedly athlete-focused. But LHP won this contest by a score of 18-5.

The regrettable thing about the 2021 girls’ scholastic lacrosse season is that we may never truly know how good this Lake Highland Prep side could be against the best of the best. But then again, they may be proving how good they are already with their results on the pitch.

March 3, 2021 — Extreme tubing (for me)

I have accomplished a lot during my time on this earth. I have visited London, Paris, Madrid, and Venice during a backpack trip to Europe, I have degrees from the two highest-ranked universities in their particular fields of endeavor, shaken the hands of Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, driven 105 miles an hour in a police car, and have started up and maintained this website for two decades.

And I can’t cook a potato.

Nope, I’ve been completely unable to bake, fry, poach, boil, microwave, or otherwise apply the correct amount of heat in order to make a potato into its edible state.

It’s been a considerable source of frustration for me through my adult life. Yes, I can get whatever starch I need from microwaveable rice, putting bread in a toaster, or heading up already-cooked potato products (such as steak fries and tater tots) in the air fryer.

But last week, I ran across a bag of new potatoes in the area where day-old produce was laid out for quick sale. I figured it was worth the time and the risk to make one more go of it. Only this time, I had a secret weapon.

For it was a couple of Christmases ago that I received one of those cloth microwaveable bags (which are invariably red in color) that claims to be able to hold potatoes while you microwave the contents for four minutes, and the inside will come out perfectly every time.

I filled the bag with about eight small potatoes, and did so with a bit of apprehension. What if the recommended time frame was too much for the small potatoes, and was instead meant for larger tubers? What if enough microwaves bombarded the contents of the bag? Would they burn from the inside?

I carefully did the cooking in two stages, per the instructions on the bag. Putting the potato bag on the rotating plate in the oven, I ran the microwaves for two minutes, then flipped the bag over again for two more minutes.

To my amazement, when I removed the potatoes from the bag, they were cooked. No mushies, no dry patches, nothing amiss whatsoever.

It’s a new day.

March 2, 2021 — Top 10 field hockey teams for games played through Feb. 28

With the start of spring field hockey this past week in California, followed by play in up to six other states, we start seeing some action amongst our Top 10 field hockey teams. There are also going to be a number of crucial matches on both coasts in the first half of March, so we’ll see who comes out ahead when our next rankings come out the first Tuesday in April. i

Our No. 11 Team of the Month is St. Louis University. The Billikens were a program shattered when former coach Maria Whitehead died 14 years ago. But lo, the team has won its first three games, giving them confidence for when they hit the heart of their Atlantic 10 schedule later this month. Head coach Zoe Adkins, the British Columbia native, has gotten the team playing well.

1. Delmar (Del.) 15-0
Season complete: Wildcats beat Bear Caravel Academy (Del.) 4-1 to win their fifth consecutive state championship. The stateliners yielded exactly two goals during the season whilst crafting a number of artful goals on the attack end

2. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 14-0
Season complete: Vikings got by Medford Lakes Shawnee (N.Y.) 9-0 to win NJSIAA Southwest D sectional championship

3. Emmaus (Pa.) 11-0
Season complete: Solid team effort gave the Hornets a 4-0 state championship win against Harrisburg Central Dauphin in the PIAA AAA final

4. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 14-0-1
Season complete: Beat Summit Kent Place (N.J.) 3-0 in NJSIAA Central-East E sectional final

5. Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 17-0
Season complete: Beat Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.) 3-0 to win PIAA Class A final

6. Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) 0-0
Season complete:
 Sacred Heart has finished its playdays and did not have a timed, scored, and umpired game during the open week of competition in November

7. St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 14-0
Season complete: 
Won Midwest Field Hockey Association championship with a 1-0 overtime win over St. Louis John Burroughs (Mo.) on a backhand golazo by Taryn Tkachuk

8. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 0-0
Falcons open the season with Virginia Beach Ocean Lakes (Va.), then have Virginia Beach Kempsville (Va.) on Thursday; the March 11th match against First Colonial may be the fulcrum on which the entire season balances

9. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 0-0
The Conquistadores travel to San Diego Bishop’s School (Calif.) tomorrow, before Friday’s home tilt against Escondido San Pasqual (Calif.)

10. Cohasset (Mass.) 13-0
Season complete: Dominated all comers in the South Shore League; it’s an open question how they would have done in the MIAA state tournament bracket

11. St. Louis University 3-0
Season complete: Billikens have not conceded a goal this season, but a two-game set against Miami will test their resolve

And bear in mind:  San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 0-0, Glastonbury (Conn.) 14-0, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.) 0-0, Longmeadow (Mass.) 6-0, Walpole (Mass.) 8-0-1, Franklin (Mass.) 11-0-2, Andover (Mass.) 6-0, Dexter (Mich.) 16-0-1, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 12-0-1, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 13-1, Charlotte Providence Day School (N.C.) 12-0, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) 7-1, Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio) 18-3, Palmyra (Pa.) 15-2, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) 16-2, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 6-0, East Greenwich (R.I.) 9-0, Langley (Va.) 0-0, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 0-0

March 1, 2021 — The field hockey season opens in Los Angeles — for only two days

Remember this?

Well, late last week, a judge in Vista, Calif. ruled that youth sports, including high-school sports, could resume in the CIF San Diego Section “as long as the(y) follow the same or similar COVID-19 protocols imposed for competition in professional and/or collegiate sports,” according to text of the order.

This puts San Diego County on par with field hockey and lacrosse teams in most of the Bay Area and in greater Los Angeles, some of whom are already having varsity matches.

This brings up a Kafka-esque situation for Los Angeles County. Last Friday, for example, Huntington Beach (Calif.) took on Newport Beach (Calif.) in the season-opener for both teams. However, the reopening of the sports calendar in California does not allow the CIF Southern Section to extend the field hockey season, which was scheduled to be on Saturday.

A two-day season? Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

Feb. 28, 2021 — The Final Third, Remix Edition

Please join us shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern time for whiparound coverage on what we call The Final Third. We may be found here; make sure you give us a like and share when you find us.

Today, in a year like no other, we’ll be doing something we’ve never done before: provide coverage of two different sports at the same time.

This could be real interesting or an absolute trainwreck. Join us, would you?

Feb. 27, 2021 — Using a worldwide pandemic as a pretense

The ballooning of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year has been tragic and deadly. There have been more than 114 million confirmed cases worldwide, and the death toll in the United States has reached the half-million mark. As much as the virus outbreak has affected people, it has affected the world economy and affected the direction of nation-states.

But I think what the pandemic is going to be remembered for is the damage to the economy. Many stores, restaurants, and other businesses have closed. There have been more than $7.4 billion of losses for arts organizations in New York City alone. Those businesses which haven’t already been pushed over the edge are still precariously perched on the edge of having to close.

Regrettably, a number of Coronavirus-related shutdowns were shown to be not entirely based on economic necessity, but the pandemic was used as a pretense for the closure.

Some of the more egregious cases were the rash of sports cut by American colleges and universities. More than 200 sports teams have been cut in from four-year colleges in the NCAA and NAIA, everything from Akron’s golf teams to Stanford’s field hockey team.

And yet, there have been a number of backtracking from some of these cuts in recent months. William & Mary reinstated its cut teams last November, and Brown reinstated five sports after a threatened Title IX lawsuit.

Which brings us to a strange situation in the world of soccer. Yesterday, it was announced that Ron Burkle, the majority investor of a potential MLS franchise in Sacramento (with a possible NWSL team in the same stadium), was pulling out of the investment group for the team. One reason cited in yesterday’s statement from Major League Soccer: the Coronavirus pandemic:

Earlier today, Ron Burkle informed the League that based on issues with the project related to COVID-19, he has decided to not move forward with the acquisition of an MLS expansion team in Sacramento.

The original start date for the team was supposed to have been 2022, but the proposed stadium in the Sacramento Railyards district was behind because of issues with construction, presumably because of the hundreds of workers needed to build the project, which has not yet started.

But the pullout by Burkle is befuddling and saddening. Usually, deep-pocketed owners come into soccer franchises with a long-term vision. Regrettably, Burkle seems to be in the camp of the short-term strategy, used by the people who run hedge funds and other equity companies which have turned them into instant billionaires.

Which makes you wonder if Burkle’s financial empire is built on pillars of sand.

Feb. 26, 2021 — One more time, together

The end of the domestic indoor field hockey season comes this weekend with USA Field Hockey national tournament being held in Richmond and at Spooky Nook. While the Nook will be holding tournaments for U-10 and U-12 divisions, the Richmond Convention Center will be holding the U-19 championship, which will see many of the best scholastic field hockey players in the U.S.

Chief among them is the constellation of players on the U-19 WC Eagles Diamonds team, which is the favorite in Pool A. The team includes the two leading goal-scorers from the fall scholastic season, Hope Rose (90) and Ryleigh Heck (76) as well as the the player with the third-most goals amongst active scorers, Annika Herbine (141).

Also of note are Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) players Kelly Smith, Ashley Sessa, and Macy Szukics, as well as Mount St. Joseph Academy (Pa.), U.S.junior indoor national team member Megan Maransky, and future Duke player Alaina McVeigh, late of Gwynedd-Mercy Academy.

Look out also for a couple of great stories on the roster, neither of whom played a single varsity match last fall. The skilled Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) standout Elizabeth Yeager did not play because of the shutdown of New England Preparatory Schools Athletic Council play. Instead, SHA played a series of friendlies and playdays last fall. Also, watch out for goalkeeper Kylie Walbert, whose high school, Ashburn Virginia Academy (Va.) does not have a varsity field hockey program.

Collectively, this team may be the single best indoor field hockey side at a National Indoor Tournament since the Thoroughbreds team from the 1998 tournament, which had the likes of Abbey Woolley and Abby Martin as part of a group which had every single player sign with a Division I college.

The regrettable thing is that COVID-19 and restrictions on crowds will deprive many folks from watching this team and the others participating in these tournaments. Here’s hoping that this won’t be the case next winter.

Feb. 25, 2021 — The erstwhile continental rival

Yesterday, with a 6-0 win over Argentina, the United States women’s national soccer team secured the 2021 She Believes Cup tournament, a tournament that simulates a World Cup group except for the number of substitutions allowed.

But there’s one team in this tournament that bears a bit of scrutiny when it comes to the future direction of its program. You see, it was eight summers ago that Canada was within 35 seconds of playing the United States to a 3-3 draw, which would have sent the Olympic semifinal match into penalty kicks.

For years, the Canadian women have given the U.S. some legendary matches. With players like Christine Latham, Kara Lang, Charmaine Hooper, and Christine Sinclair, the Maple Leafs have punished American mistakes and exposed weaknesses.

The problem is that Canada has not yet become that one team that the United States can use as a world-level measuring stick. Over the years, the U.S. has a record of 52 wins and seven draws against a mere three defeats. In other words, the United States and Canada are in a very unbalanced rivalry.

The team that Canada brought to the She Believes Cup was a very green team, and yet, they held the U.S. to a 1-0 result on a Rose Lavelle goal 11 minutes from the final whistle. Canada, however, did very little on the attack end. Even while chasing a result against Brazil yesterday, the team had its chances but looked amateurish on its finishes.

Christine Sinclair, obviously, will be a welcome return when she comes back from injury.