TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for Uncategorized

BULLETIN: Sept. 15, 2022 — Delmar (Del.) reaches rarefied air

This afternoon, with a 10-0 win over Laurel (Del.), the six-time defending state champion Delmar (Del.) field hockey program has won its 100th consecutive game.

Here’s how rare this achievement is: only Watertown (Mass.) and Oklahoma City Casady (Okla.) have ever strung together more consecutive victories in the recorded history of scholastic field hockey, dating back to 1909.

Let us take a deep dive into the two streaks longer than Delmar’s. First off, Watertown’s 124-game winning streak was part of a 184-game unbeaten streak that lasted from 2008 to 2017. Casady’s 106-game win streak lasted from 1956 to 1969, which gives you an idea as to the length of seasons that each of these teams had to play.

Delmar, if it keeps its rich seam of form, would get to Watertown’s mark sometime in the middle of the 2023 season. But even with that, Delmar would have to be undefeated another 60 games (roughly four DIAA seasons) to get to Watertown’s unbeaten mark.

The coaches of the other two teams to achieve 100 consecutive win are true national legends. Dorotha Edwards coached Casady from 1956 to 1991, winning 375 games and winning more than 20 Southern Prep Conference championships. Eileen Donahue has coached Watertown for the last 37 years, winning 711 games, eighth all-time.

For Delmar’s part, the Wildcats’ last defeat was Oct. 22, 2016, a 1-0 loss to Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.). Over the last 15 years, the Delmar-Cape rivalry has been a great happening in Sussex County. Last year, Delmar beat their Henlopen Athletic Conference rival by identical 2-1 scores in league and in conference championship play.

The Wildcats and Vikings teams are scheduled to meet Oct. 6th in league, and, if the two teams finish at the top of their respective HAC divisions, they’ll meet again Nov. 5.

Those games should be a true treat for American field hockey aficionadoes, especially seeing as both sides were in the TopOfTheCircle.com presesaon Top 10.

Sept. 15, 2022 — Interesting goings-on in two of the nation’s best field hockey conferences

In the heart of central Pennsylvania, along Route 422, sit three of the schools in the Mid-Penn Conference’s Keystone Division. Right in a row, you have Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.), Hershey (Pa.), and Palmyra (Pa.), who have engaged in some titanic fixtures over the years.

Across the Delaware River in New Jersey, the 1990s saw the breakaway of several large field hockey schools, including Marlton Cherokee (N.J.), Medford Lenape (N.J.), and Medford Lakes Shawnee (N.J.), to go from the Burlington County Scholastic League to the Olympic Conference. While these three schools have had great traditions in the 20th Century, the story over the last two decades in the Olympic is the ascendancy of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and their strings of state and sectional championships.

The 2022 season, however, may see some change and intrigue in these two powerful field hockey conferences.

First off, the Olympic Conference has added a pair of teams with great traditions, Mount Holly Rancocas Valley (N.J.), and the first American scholastic field hockey team, Moorestown (N.J.). This means that Moorestown is guaranteed to meet Shawnee, and both are, in turn, guaranteed to meet Eastern.

Back in Pennsylvania, a lot of preseason talk is about Mechanicsburg (Pa.), a team which not only made the semifinal round of the PIAA Class AA Tournament, but is one of two teams scheduled to meet Eastern at the National High School Invitational next week. It’s a game which raises the profile of this contending team, but the thing is, there are still plenty of AA-sized rivals in District 3 awaiting them in league and District play.

Keep an eye on the teams in these two leagues. I think what happens here will go a long way to determining several state champions this year.

Sept. 14, 2022 — The right group to push the rock?

A few weeks ago, we discussed the 32-player roster for the United States as the women’s national team program embarks not only on its FIH Pro League campaign, but Olympic qualifying and the Pan American Games.

Today, the U.S. men’s national team released its extended roster of players who will be representing the U.S. in competitions leading up to Santiago 2023.

The roster has a number of familiar names including Patrick Harris, Pat Cota, and Ajay Dhadwal. There are some other folks of note who could help the States break a 66-year drought of qualifying for the Olympics when not the host nation.

Start with JaJa Kentwell, a gifted attacker who is from a field hockey family. Goalie Jonathan Klages has proven himself on the national level, winning Goalkeeper of the Tournament in the 2019 Hockey Series Finals. Gerald Cutone, a converted ice hockey player, is from a family of athletes; his father Butch played ice hockey in Germany, and his mother Kelly was a nationally ranked figure skater.

The road is long for these boys in blue, as it has always been for men’s field hockey in the United States. With so little institutional support and few places to play in the United States, just about every player has to self-fund in order to train, get to training camps, and travel for tournaments.

Perhaps this collective will have that kernel of determination, fire, and thirst for excellence which will give them international success.

Sept. 13, 2022 — A trivia answer? Much more than that

The field hockey program at Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.) has labored pretty much in anonymity since the school replaced the former Swedesboro High School in 1963.

But then, Kingsway found success. The team has won four sectional championships since 2003 and, just as importantly, was one of only about a dozen schools to have gained at least a draw from Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) during the coaching era of Danyle Heilig. The team also got a pair of out-of-state wins over Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) and Severna Park (Md.) at last year’s National High School Invitational.

Last weekend, the Dragons took the trip up to Chatham to play Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), one of the finest programs in the country. Kingsway was able to take a 2-0 lead on goals from Isabella Sanchez and Ella Stephenson to defeat Oak Knoll 2-1.

It is easily one of Kingsway’s signature results, one which stands the team in good stead for later in the season. But there are other goals for this side. The Dragons have a pair of fixtures at the NHSI in a couple of weeks, including Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) and a Norfolk (Va.) Academy side that beat Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) last week.

But first, Kingsway meets a good Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.) side on Saturday in deep South Jersey, near the shadows of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

It should be a great appetizer for this year’s NHSI.

Sept. 12, 2022 — A brand new day in field hockey

In the southeast corner of Champions Field on the campus of Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.), there were two teams contesting for the ball in the second half of Matchday Two of the Bi-State Challenge.

In camera range of the Delmarva Sports Network production were six players — three for Delmar (Del.) and three for Pocomoke (Md.), who just happened to have brown skin. The color commentator in the booth made note of it, saying it was great for diversity and inclusion for the sport.

That commentator was me.

Since this site started in 1998, I have been an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sport of field hockey. I also know that it is very much an uphill fight. But with small victories here and there, especially when it comes to adding field hockey in new areas of the country, the game is getting more and more diverse at the grass roots level.

Yes, there is still a lot of work to do to get more Mimi Smiths, Linnea Gonzaleses and Amy Trans onto high-performance teams. But all it really takes is the willingness of coaches to bring inclusiveness into a team culture, and to make it known that field hockey is for everyone.

And this ethic is sprouting up all over the place. Today, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), the greatest field hockey program of the 21st Century, started its season with a 3-1 win over conference rival Tabernacle Seneca (N.J.). Scoring two goals today was an African-American junior named Olivia White. Last fall, she had a shorthanded goal for Eastern in the final five minutes of play, leading to Ryleigh Heck’s game-winner at the horn. The second-leading scorer for the Vikings was Brooke Ruiz.

It certainly is a new day in the annals of American field hockey when it comes to inclusion.

Sept. 11, 2022 — Delaware 4, Maryland 0, wary eyes 44

This weekend’s Bi-State Challenge at Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) was a great showcase of hockey showing off good players and teams.

The outcome was very heavily tilted towards the two Delaware teams in the competition. The host Vikings beat Pocomoke (Md.) 5-0 on Friday, then followed up with a 4-0 win over Severna Park (Md.).

Delmar, like Cape Henlopen a DIAA state champion, eased to a 9-1 win over Severna Park on Friday, then bested Pocomoke 8-0 yesterday.

Delmar and Cape Henlopen, of course, were taking furtive glances at each other, since each team is the benchmark for each other when it comes to playing championship-level field hockey.

These two sides have had some heated battles in the last decade, and last year, Delmar won two games against Cape, both by 2-1 scorelines.

The teams will be meeting in Henlopen Athletic Conference play on Oct. 6 at Delmar, and could very well meet again in the conference championship game the first week of November.

Should be some awesome hockey coming from these two sides.

Sept. 10, 2022 — A tournament, with champions

This year’s Bi-State Challenge, a four-team scholastic field hockey tournament hosted by Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) has more starpower than ever.

Yes, three out of the four participants in last year — Delmar (Del.), Pocomoke (Md.), and the host Vikings — return. But there’s another team participating in this year’s tournament, Severna Park (Md.).

This means that all four teams are sitting state champions — Delmar is the current DIAA Division 2 title-holder, Henlopen holds the Division 2 championship, Pocomoke won the MPSSAA 1A trophy last fall, and Severna Park won its 25th state championship last fall in the 4A bracket.

To say the least, this doesn’t happen all that often — especially when it comes to the number of state championships won. Aside from Severna Park’s 25 titles, Pocomoke has 20, Henlopen has 12, and Delmar has six.

But even though Delmar may have “only” six titles, these championships coincide with a rich seam of form for the Wildcats, as the team formed a win streak which has reached 97 games with last night’s 9-1 win over Severna Park. In the nightcap, the host Vikings were able to fend off Pocomoke with a 5-0 win. The Warriors, however, were close to evening the score at 1-1 in the middle of the first half, but a goal was waved off for an attacking foul. Minutes later, Cape took a 2-0 lead and went on to win from there.

This afternoon, Delmar meets Pocomoke, and Cape Henlopen meets Severna Park. It should be a great day of hockey.

Sept. 9, 2022 — The “other” revolutionary sports-labor event of the week

While the world of sports has been focused on the historic agreement between U.S. Soccer and its men’s and women’s player unions that was signed this week, there was a less-ballyhooed event for an American sports business when it comes to labor relations.

That was the announcement that thousands of minor-league baseball players have turned in authorization cards to allow players from Tuscon to Trenton, from Portland to Palm Beach, to join the Major League Baseball Players’ Association.

This will, I think, change the national pastime forever. And the thing is, the rich owners of the 30 major-league clubs only have themselves to blame. When MLB took over day-to-day control of the minor leagues a couple of years ago, a number of distressing changes ensued.

Entire leagues went by the wayside, such as the New York-Penn League and the Appalachian League. A number of cities either found themselves without a major-league affiliate, saw their teams retrench and rebrand as independent, or found their team moved down a division or two — a kind of involuntary relegation.

Jobs were cut; some 42 teams (meaning about 2,100 players) were axed. At the same time, working conditions for minor-leaguers have not improved. Travel for many of these players is by bus, with players making anywhere from $400 to $700 a week. And the pay scale is only for the season.

The lords of baseball are starting to feel pressure to change their ways. In the summer, MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor league players who alleged minimum wage and overtime violations.

But that’s only about the contract

While the world of sports has been focused on the historic agreement between U.S. Soccer and its men’s and women’s player unions that was signed this week, there was a less-ballyhooed event for an American sports business when it comes to labor relations.

That was the announcement that thousands of minor-league baseball players have turned in authorization cards to allow players from Tuscon to Trenton, from Portland to Palm Beach, to join the Major League Baseball Players’ Association.

This will, I think, change the national pastime forever. And the thing is, the rich owners of the 30 major-league clubs only have themselves to blame. When MLB took over day-to-day control of the minor leagues a couple of years ago, a number of distressing changes ensued.

Entire leagues went by the wayside, such as the New York-Penn League and the Appalachian League. A number of cities either found themselves without a major-league affiliate, saw their teams retrench and rebrand as independent, or found their team moved down a division or two — a kind of involuntary relegation.

Jobs were cut; some 42 teams (meaning about 2,100 players) were axed. At the same time, working conditions for minor-leaguers have not improved. Travel for many of these players is by bus, with players making anywhere from $400 to $700 a week. And the pay scale is only for the season.

The lords of baseball are starting to feel pressure to change their ways. In the summer, MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor league players who alleged minimum wage and overtime violations.

But that amount is about the size of a contract for a single star player in the majors. The collective wealth of owners is being questioned not only by fans, but by the government. Later this year, a U.S. Senate committee will be holding hearings on the matter.

It shouldn’t be difficult. With the major-league owners now collectively owning and running their minor-league outfits, there is an inherent responsibility to pay a fair wage. And now that a player union numbering several thousand people will be unionizing, there will be regrets about the owners’ power grab of a couple of years ago.

Sept. 8, 2022 — The Year of Coaches?

We wrote last weekend about the opening game of Manheim (Pa.) Township, specifically focused on the fact that it was the first game for head coach Jessica Rose Shellenberger after a tremendous career at Mount Joy Donegal last decade.

But this week, there have been a couple more veteran coaches who have made their return to the sidelines after some time off.

In the New Jersey capitol region, Judy Goldstein has returned to the sidelines of Hamilton (N.J.) West after a decade away. This will be her 39th season as head coach at both Hamilton and at Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.).

Goldstein is known, from her time in the Shore Conference, for having former U.S. women’s soccer captain Christie Pearce on her roster. Pearce, an all-around athlete in field hockey, basketball, and soccer, capped her career in 2015 with a World Cup win in Vancouver.

A couple of hundred miles down the coast, the field hockey team just off Nebraska Avenue in the Northwest quadrant of the nation’s capital has undergone several changes.

The school is no longer named for former president Woodrow Wilson; it is instead Washington Jackson-Reed (D.C.).

In addition, one of the founders of the field hockey team, Patricia Nantume, is back with the side after a decade away, She took over from Sarah Whitener.

The Tigers’ program has been around a while, but have bumped up their schedule a bit. In the early days, Wilson would have to schedule fellow DCIAA member School Without Walls and a smattering of other programs in the region.

But with Walls no longer having a team, Jackson-Reed now plays a collection of teams from the Virginia High School League and the Independent School League.

It’s good to have veteran coaches back on the sidelines helping to develop their player’s skills and acumen for the game.

Sept. 7, 2022 — One last go

This evening, the latest rivalry match between Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) and Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) will be held at Karen Klassner Field.

It will be the last regular-season meeting between before Klassner’s retirement as head coach.

Indeed, for many a season since the start of Crestwood’s program in the 1970s, the rivalry match between the schools boiled down to a matchup between Klassner and fellow team builder Elvetta Gemski. For a good portion of the last 30 years, the two programs started developing extraordinary players with national-team chops. Start with Crestwood grad Diane Madl, who played for the United States in the 1996 Olympics.

After that came the Blue Knights’ Lauren Powley, the center-mid for the U.S. team for a period of time, then go to the attacking talents of Sem’s Kelsey Kolojejchick and Kat Sharkey, who were with the U.S. side during the period when the States were up to the fourth-ranked team in the world. More recently, Anna Dessoye of Crestwood has amassed 59 caps with the U.S. side.

These two programs are located just 12 miles from each other, but it is difficult to give this rivalry game a snappy label. We’ve tried giving it the name “The Back Mountain Derby,” only to realize that the more appropriate label for that game would be Wyoming Seminary vs. Lake-Lehman or Dallas, since these three schools are located within that 120-square mile area of Luzerne County known as The Back Mountain.

We could call it the I-81 Derby or the Rt. 309 Derby, but you have to deviate from those two roads in order to get to Klassner Field in Kingston.

I’ve always thought this rivalry game deserves a crisp moniker, but it’s something which I think may only come from everyday conversation or by complete serendipity. But for now, this Wyoming Valley derby match (one of many, mind you) is going to take place tonight, and it deserves your attention.