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June 18, 2021 — Final field hockey Statwatch for 2020-21

It’s been a wild and unprecedented domestic field hockey season. It lasted all the way from the first hockey balls struck in Ohio last August, and ended with a home-and-home series which finished, fittingly, less than 200 yards from where Constance Applebee was a field hockey coach and instructor for six decades.

As such, we’ve had to monitor a lot of games outside of the normal calendar, and we’ve also had to keep track of limited statistics, given the short seasons that many teams played. But we have taken note of players who have excelled, people like Hope Rose and Ryleigh Heck and Cami Crook, all of whom dominated their opponents during the 2020-21 academic year.

Below is a collection of American scholastic field hockey statistics from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media. We rely quite a bit on MaxPreps, which we believe is an easy platform for people to record their team’s data — so much so that it is now becoming a standard tool for playoff seeding in at least three states. I encourage coaches and managers 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
90 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
74 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
49 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
47 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
44 Elle Murray, Worcester Doherty (Mass.)
37 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary Academy (N.J.)
37 Courtney Farren, Woodbury Heights Gateway (N.J.)
34 Alaina McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwenedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
34 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
33 Kierra Ettere, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
33 Rylie Wollerson, Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa.)
33 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)
32 Julianne Kopec, Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic
32 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
32 Brynn Crouse, Dillsburg Northern York (Pa.)
32 Marita Johnson, Hudson (Ohio)
31 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
30 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
30 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)

ASSISTS
35 Dylan Breier, Louisville DuPont Manual (Ky.)
34 Pasleigh Atwood, Warren Quaboag Regional (Mass.)
28 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
28 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
27 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
25 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
25 Gianna Puorro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
23 Molly Stephens, Cohasset (Mass.)
23 Grace Hughes, Oletangy Liberty (Ohio)
22 Kayla Kiwak, Exeter Wyoming Area (Pa.)
21 Alexis Kociban, Emmaus (Pa.)
21 Maddie Epke, Guilford (Conn.)
21 Kathrine McLean, Glen Gardner Voorhees (N.J.)
20 Carli Servis, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
20 Zella Bailey, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.)
20 Jaden Rae, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)

CAREER GOALS
233 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
198 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
141 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
141 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
135 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
131 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
124 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
115 Courtney Farren, Woodbury Heights Gateway (N.J.)
108** Elizabeth Yeager, Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.)
105 Abby Hartwell, Franklinville Delsea (N.J.)
105 Chloe Ward, Warwick (Va.)
102 Kate Herlihy, Cape May Court House Middle Township (N.J.)
102 Alaina McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
102 Stevie Drum, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.)
101 Elle Murray, Worcester Doherty (Mass.)
**–five-year total

CAREER ASSISTS
153 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
110 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
91 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
77 Delmar (Del.)
55 Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
44 Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
77 Delmar (Del.)
55 Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
44 Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.)
44 Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)

Friends, here is where you come in. If you see a figure or total that needs an addition or correction, 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 dropping in for this season like no other. We’ll continue our work this fall as field hockey enters the post-COVID era.

June 17, 2021 — Striking a balance

If there’s one major trend when it comes to the expansion of collegiate women’s lacrosse at the Division I level the last couple of decades, it’s the fact that many of the newer schools — Arizona State, Oregon, Southern California, Florida, Louisville, Cincinnati, Michigan, and Colorado among them — spend an awful lot of their athletics budget on football. Lacrosse is an easy sport to add, logic dictates, to create a Title IX balance.

So, I find it interesting that a football school from the Atlantic Coast Conference — a conference that has had a representative in the Division I women’s lacrosse title game the last eight times of asking — announced its intention to field a women’s lacrosse team.

But the school isn’t Miami, which had set off a seismic quake in the collegiate universe when an announcement — since rescinded — was made in 2004 for a 2007 start.

Instead, it is Clemson, a school which has been in the top four each of the last six years in football.

Of course, the top question on everyone’s mind in the lacrosse community is the degree to which the school will devote resources to the team in order to help them succeed.

And the thing about Clemson is that it is located in the heart of Southern scholastic lacrosse excellence. The school can attract players from top programs such as Milton (Ga.), Delray American Heritage (Fla.), and Myers Park (N.C.) as well as state Class AAAA champion Daniel Island Bishop England (S.C.).

Now, the first thing that the athletic department has to do is to find a coach. And given the coaching moves around Division I since Memorial Day Weekend, I’ll be interested to see just who is chosen to navigate this nascent program.

June 16, 2021 — The medicine game ascends again at Salmon River

Five years ago, the documentary “Keepers of the Game” made its debut in repertory theater across the United States. The story surrounded the girls’ lacrosse team at Fort Covington Salmon River (N.Y.) as it progressed through the NYSPHSAA state tournament, ultimately losing out to Skaneateles (N.Y.) in the regionals back in 2015.

Since that year, Salmon River, located on the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory straddling the U.S.-Canada border, has been an annual contender for Section X and state tournament championships. All the while, the team has been battling financial and cultural obstacles to play a game seen as being reserved for men and boys.

The latest triumph for Salmon River was yesterday’s 21-1 win over Potsdam (N.Y.) in the sectional semifinal round, bringing the Shamrocks’ record to 21-1 on the season.

With the win, Salmon River will have a chance to end its season with a championship tomorrow against Canton (N.Y.). That’s because New York decided to cancel state tournament play and teams are only playing towards sectional championships.

Salmon River High School will have a chance to do a gender double tomorrow as both the girls’ and boys’ lacrosse teams are scheduled for the Section X final tomorrow afternoon.

Should be an interesting doubleheader to watch.

June 15, 2021 — Field hockey: Games of the Year, 2020-21

This list of games for the field hockey season just past was one which had a smaller number of games overall, reflecting the shortened schedules of individual teams. But you’ll notice that a number of games on this list turned on individual brilliance from top players coming through for their teams in key situations.

10. Kingston Wyoming Seminary 1, Exeter Wyoming Area 0, 2 OT
Nov. 2, 2020
PIAA District 2 Class A final
District 2 has been a great incubator of PIAA state champions over the years, but what was known during this COVID-19 season was that only one 2-A team could make the state bracket. It took a double-overtime goal from sophomore Kim Barbacci to decide this game, sending the Blue Knights to a tournament which they would win three weeks later

9. Cape May Court House Middle Township (N.J.) 1, Haddon Township (N.J.) 0, OT
Nov. 21, 2020
NJSIAA Southwest Class A final
Middle Township, whose home hockey ground overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, has been in the headwaters for state championship honors for some time. But in 2021, the team was able to finally win a terminal contest (albeit for a sectional title) thanks to a goal from Hannah Urbaczewski in overtime

8. Palmyra (Pa.) 2, Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 1, OT
Nov. 21, 2020
PIAA Class AA final
Palmyra, one of the finest programs out of central Pennsylvania, had it all to do against Carroll, the first District 12 school ever to make into the PIAA field hockey final. The Cougars were able to put all of their guile and experience to good use to win in extra time

7. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 1, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 0
Apr. 12, 2021
VHSL Region 5A quarterfinal
In any other year, Cox and First Colonial would likely have been placed at opposite ends of the bracket, which would have given both teams an opportunity to advance to an eight-team state tournament. But with the VHSL making its field hockey tournament a single-elimination event and with restrictions on travel in place, this latest edition of the Mill Dam Creek Classic was put in the first round of the regional tournament. Nevertheless, the game lived up to its billing. It took a Quin Braithwaite goal in the third quarter to put Cox through to the semifinal round

6. Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) 4, East Chapel Hill (N.C.) 3, OT
Dec. 17, 2019
NCHSAA fall final
In a truncated state championship tournament featuring teams from the East Region, a dramatic game was ended by an equally dramatic goal. In the third minute of overtime, attacking midfielder Elle Freedman curled into the circle, spun, then cracked a backhander into the goal

5. Fredericksburg Stafford (Va.) 3, Leesburg Riverside 2, 2 OT
Apr. 20, 2021
VHSL Class 5 semifinal
Stafford, a school which has tasted state championship glory before, was down two to Riverside before two fourth-quarter goals leveled the match. A thrill-a-minute overtime period ensued, one which ended less than three minutes from time

4. East Greenwich (R.I.) 1, Providence La Salle Academy (R.I.) 0, OT
Nov. 21, 2021
RIIL Division 1 final
La Salle was able to bottle up East Greenwich, the defending state champions, for 60 minutes of regulation. But when reduced-side overtime began, it gave a lot of openings for attack-minded players. Players such as Alexandra Mega, the sophomore who showed an amazing array of skills throughout regulation. She saved her best effort for last, running 65 yards through the La Salle defense and depositing the ball over the goal line

3. St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 1, St. Louis John Burroughs (Mo.) 0, OT
Nov. 2, 2020
Midwest Tournament final
Villa Duchesne found its heroine in its best player, Taryn Tkachuk. Her backhander under the crossbar in overtime provided the Saints with the championship despite having to play with a wrapped hamstring

2. Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) 2, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 1, OT
Nov. 12, 2020
PIAA District 3 Class AAA final
In terms of history, these two schools, located about nine miles apart, are as different as chalk and cheese. Lower Dauphin, a team with a Hall-of-Fame coach as well as several state titles, was a state finalist as recently as 2019, losing in a penalty shootout. Central Dauphin, for its part, had never won a District 3 title. But the team had a once-in-a-generation scorer named Hope Rose. She had both goals in the District final which put the Rams into the state tournament bracket. Her game-winner in overtime was a thundering 60-yard run which culminated in an angled shot that went in

1. Concord Bishop Brady (N.H.) 2, Canaan Mascoma Valley (N.H.) 1, OT
Oct. 29, 2020
NHISAA Division III semifinal/final
The drama in this contest comes directly from the title of this game. Mascoma Valley was about to win the semifinal match against Brady, but the Giants would tie the game on an untimed corner at the end of regulation. During the five-minute period between regulation and overtime, word spread to the teams of a circumstance that could only occur during a pandemic. That same afternoon, a player from the winning Berlin (N.H.) team from the other semifinal match in Division III tested positive for COVID-19. This meant that the Berlin team would have to quarantine for several days, meaning that Berlin would not be able to participate in the state final. That made the Mascoma Valley-Bishop Brady game the state final, a game which Hallie Laramie ended five minutes into extra time

June 14, 2021 — A seismic shift

Remember this?

Well, in the last few days, this subhead appeared on the social media account of the leading field hockey goal scorer in the National Federation, someone who just happens to be the Big Ten Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year:

After two award-winning seasons at Ohio State, Mackenzie Allessie has chosen to change college teams and has transferred to Penn State.

Penn State’s athletic department confirmed this development with a story today naming Allessie and former Camp Hill (Pa.) and Virginia player Gery Schnarrs as those coming through the transfer portal. They join a star-studded team including leading scorer Sophia Gladieux, who, like Allessie, has scored more than 200 goals in a scholastic field hockey career.

When you look at recent history, there are plenty of transfer stories in field hockey and lacrosse. Austyn Cuneo transferred from North Carolina to Rutgers after just two years. Caitlyn Wurzburger decomitted from Syracuse women’s lacrosse team and committed to North Carolina while still in high school. And, of course, there’s current Tewaaraton Award winner Charlotte North, who transferred from Duke to Boston College and won an NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse title this year.

As I mentioned in the blog entry two weeks ago, student-athletes have made the term “transfer portal” part of the ordinary discourse of college sports in the last few years, especially when you have had a global pandemic which has given players an extra “Covid” year of eligibility.

And so it continues.

June 13, 2021 — Championship courage

With 2:25 to go in yesterday’s Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Committee Class L championship game, and with Guilford (Conn.) leading Redding Joel Barlow (Conn.) 10-9, a Barlow player raced to the edge of the 8-meter fan and was checked. A long, loud whistle sounded, and one of the three umpires made the signal to the scorer’s table to halt the clock to not only set the players for a free position, but to assess a yellow card.

Maddie Epke, the fine midfielder for Guilford, was sent to the penalty bench. It was her first yellow card, but it was Guilford’s fourth team yellow. By rule, the Guilford team would have to play short for the rest of regulation and any overtime which ensued.

Barlow scored to the the game at 10-10, which set up a near-crisis scenario for Guilford. Epke, who would normally take the draws as the team’s center, was off for two minutes. Someone else would have to win the draw.

Fortunately, the rules stipulate that three players remain in the center of the park when a draw was being taken. Guilford’s Hannah Tillier was able to take the draw and win it to Lorelei King.

Despite playing shorthanded in the offensive end of the field, Guilford was able to solve the Barlow defense and get the ball to M.J. Santa Barbara for a goal with 1:06 remaining in regulation, which was good enough for an 11-10 win.

The win didn’t come without further peril: Tillier would lose the next draw and Barlow got the ball to the attack zone on the power play. In that final minute, Barlow managed to get off a good shot from within eight meters, but it rang off the goalpost in the dying seconds.

Now, it’s situations like this which point out the disconnect between National Federation and NCAA rules. In college, a fourth team yellow results in a two-minute nonreleaseable penalty, after which teams return to full strength.

Perhaps the NFHS can revisit this wrinkle in the rules one day.

June 12, 2021 — How a Championship Saturday could be a preview of the fall

Today, a number of states including Connecticut, Michigan, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey crown girls’ lacrosse champions. The teams playing these championship games have come through the usual brackets as designed by the state governing bodies of their respective sports.

But in New Jersey, the girls’ lacrosse bracket has had a pair of different formats since going away from a single state champion in the early 2000s. This season, as has been the case in many seasons past, each of the group classifications has two sectional brackets; one for the northern half of the state, one for the south.

In field hockey, however, there have been four sectional brackets in each classification: North I, North II, Central, and South.

But a couple of days ago, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to restructure field hockey’s state tournament, which may see each of the state’s classifications go to just two sectional brackets in each: one for the north, one for the south.

Now, we don’t know precisely what the field hockey committee has in mind, but I would envision five classifications, including a single Non-Public tournament (lacrosse has a Non-Public A and a Non-Public B).

Then again, perhaps the realignment may be more geographical in nature; we’ve seen situations where a school listed as a Central Jersey team in soccer, football, and basketball might wind up be in North II for field hockey.

I’ll be interested to see the results of the field hockey realignment. Meanwhile, enjoy the lacrosse finals today.

June 11, 2021 — Field hockey: United States Coach of the Year, the nominees

The United States Coach of the Year Award is given to a head coach or co-head coaches who made a noticeable difference in the performance of a scholastic field hockey team in a particular season. The coaching performance is not limited to progress made in the year which the award is given.

Here are this year’s nominees:

Chantal Ayers, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) — Assembled a very skilled and fit team which was able to win the autumn state championship in overtime against East Chapel Hill (N.C.)

Christina Elisio, Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) — Steered the Patriots to the PIAA Class AA state final game, and was an overtime goal away from becoming the first District 12 team to win a state field hockey title

Jodi Hollamon, Delmar (Del.) — The Wildcats dominated the opposition in 2020, allowing only two goals all season on the way to winning a sixth straight championship

Carrie Holman, Vienna James Madison (Va.) — The Warhawks were able to go through the entire 2021 spring season without yielding a goal, even while Holman was expecting; she coached the state championship through remote messaging

Alex Marshall, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) — She took over head coach Danyle Heilig’s position and the team seemingly did not miss a beat, winning all of their games over the course of a shortened season as well as a sectional title

Debra McMullen, East Greenwich (R.I.) — Managed to catch lightning in the proverbial bottle, managing her team during a short season and getting the team to believe it could win a RIIL state championship

Lissa Opolsky, New Tripoli Northwestern Lehigh (Pa.) — In her eighth season at the helm, the former Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) star goalie was able to beat a number of local rivals for the first time an steered the team through a memorable run through the PIAA Class A Tournament

Tara Rose, Cincinnati Indian Hill (Ohio) — Team won its way into the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) state tournament for the first time in 20 years

Courtney Spleen, San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.) — Had a stellar, albeit shortened, season with a senior-laden squad which could have been even more loaded but for a transfer and a player who had conflicts with the start of lacrosse

Gina Welling, Nortport (N.Y.) — Coached her team to its first sectional championship in program history, a 1-0 win over Garden City (N.Y.)

The recipient will be announced June 29.

June 10, 2021 — What USA Field Hockey can learn from a USA Lacrosse broadcast

This evening, on the boutique Lacrosse Sports Network, a broadcast from Sparks, Md., originally billed as an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the U.S. women’s national lacrosse team during its training camp turned into something else.

The “Behind The Dream” broadcast was, in essence, a telethon (without the telephones, mind you). The show featured interviews with U.S. candidate players like Taylor Cummings, Charlotte North, Marie McCool, and Izzy Scane, as well as figures within USA Lacrosse such as assistant coach Joe Spallina. The action on the pitch was secondary; there was no play-by-play of what was going on; the broadcast was heavy on the fundraising end.

The show raised about $14,000 in the first hour, with another 19 days left in the fundraising period.

This is something that USA Field Hockey has never done. They have fundraised with silent auction and with golf tournaments. But they’ve never put a fundraiser on TV, either cable or streaming, to reach a wider audience.

Too, I picked up on something that USA Lacrosse chair Sol Kumin said during his sideline interview. He said, “Our national team is our most valuable asset.”

That is something you do not hear from the people who run field hockey in this country. Instead, it seems to me as though the asset given the greatest priority are the players from 17 to 22 years of age who matriculate from the Futures and/or Nex-US program into the high-performance pool.

Once these players leave college, they can either be on the U.S. women’s national roster, or they will drift off into the world of coaching or the working world, never to return. There is no post-graduate national field hockey league for potential national team players or Olympic hopefuls.

Perhaps a little fundraising, or outreach to organizations to Athletes Unlimited, is in order here.

June 9, 2021 — La Dolce vita

This year, New Canaan (Conn.) has been a girls’ lacrosse team which has had to go through a lot to even be able to play this year. The team had to overcome a positive test within the team which necessitated the postponement of its season opener until the last 10 days of April.

But the Rams won 20 consecutive matches, including three over its league and state rival, Darien (Conn.). The teams met twice in their league and once for the FCIAC title. But in yesterday’s CASCIAC Class L state semifinal against Darien, the close defense of Kate and Maggie Bellissimo, Nelle Kniffin, and Kaci Benoit in front of goaltender Shea Dolce.

Dolce, an physically imposing goalie who is headed to NCAA champion Boston College once she graduates next year, had six stops. But her defense was just as impressive in haranguing and imposing their will on New Canaan’s front seven. There was a phase of play spanning four minutes in the first half when the Rams had the ball, but could not put a shot on frame because of the defense.

And all this, remember, without a 90-second possession clock to aid the defense.

“We were so prepared for this game,” Dolce tells The Stamford Advocate. “It stinks losing to a team as talented as New Canaan three times, but this whole season we’ve been waiting for this moment. We owe it all to the coaches. They’ve been pushing us so hard in practice and we earned it today.”

Darien advances to Satuday’s Class L final against Fairfield Ludlowe (Conn.). The Wave have won the last 10 times they have played in a CIAC title match.