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Dec. 3, 2019 — Region of the Year

There was one city in the country this year that somehow managed to dominate the two championships that were held in the state in which this metropolis was located.

The two championships were for the state’s public schools, and the state’s private schools, and the location is a complete 180 from how the state’s field hockey culture originally developed.

When public-school field hockey was introduced to the state of North Carolina in the early 1990s, there was already a pretty good legacy of private-school hockey. But when the sport was introduced into the public schools, the concentration was in the Research Triangle where Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Forest already had college programs.

But nearly 30 years later, the public-school finalists for 2019 were Myers Park High School and Charlotte Catholic, and the private-school finalists were Providence Day School and Charlotte Country Day School.

This makes the TopOfTheCircle.com Region of the Year for 2019 the city of Charlotte, N.C.


The “Capital of the New South” joins a range of other geographical locations selected in past years:

2019; Charlotte, N.C.
2018: PIAA District 3, Pa.
2017: Houston, Tex.
2016: Commonwealth of Virginia
2015: Summit, N.J.
2014: CIF Central Coast Section, Calif.
2013: VHSL North, Va.
2012: State of New Jersey
2011: Lancaster-Lebanon League, Pa.
2010: No award
2009: No award
2008: CIF San Diego Section, Calif.
2007: PIAA District 4, Pa.
2006: Winston-Salem, N.C.
2005: Louisville, Ky.
2004: Kent and Sussex County, Del.
2003: PIAA District 2, Pa.
2002: State of North Carolina
2001: Lancaster County, Pa.
2000: Cecil County, Md.
1999: PIAA District 3, Pa.
1998: State of Maryland
1997: CIF San Diego Section, Calif.
1996: Hunterdon and Warren County, N.J.

Dec. 2, 2019 — The easiest way to win … or lose

It’s one of the aphorisms of sport: “Don’t beat yourself.”

When teams are at or near the top of their competitive level, playing for championships, one of the great secrets of coaching is to get players to not commit mental errors — misjudgments of either the rules of the game or situations within it which often cost games.

In field hockey, the most frequent mental error I have seen in the last three or four years is when the offense turns the ball over after being awarded a free hit in the striking circle, for not moving the ball five yards (or five meters under FIH play) before entering the circle.

In girls’ and women’s lacrosse, I’ve seen multiple mental errors when it comes to the “self start” rule. One cost a team a conference championship in last year’s postseason when the player self-started just after the issuance of a penalty card and didn’t wait for the umpire’s whistle to restart play.

This past weekend, there were a pair of football teams which usually cling to the mentality of “don’t beat yourself,” which wound up making a passel of mental errors to lose key ballgames.

The University of Alabama, for example, committed 13 penalties in the Iron Bowl matchup against Auburn. But the last one was the most costly: Alabama was anticipating a punt with under two minutes to go which could have yielded the tying or winning score. But in lining up against Auburn’s ersatz formation that had the punter out on the wing, Auburn had 12 players lined up — a mental error.

One day later, the New England Patriots, a franchise which had won six NFL championships in the last 19 seasons, fell behind 21-3 on the way to a 28-22 defeat in part thanks to the inability of the Patriots defense to mark backs and tight ends in pass coverage. It wasn’t one big play that cost New England, but a series of small and consistent errors.

As good as these tackle football teams have been in the last 20 years or so, they are the models for teams which would like to beat them in championship situations, and there are plenty of coaches who have been figuring out the best ways to compete, and to put pressure on the seeming leaders of their respective sports competitions.

Dec. 1, 2019 — Schedule for the awards season

It’s December, which means our usual blog entries detailing the best of the field hockey season just past. Here’s what we’re planning:

Dec. 3: Region of the Year
Dec. 6: United States Coach of the Year, the nominees
Dec. 10: The State of Hockey
Dec. 13: Games of the Year
Dec. 17: The Final Top 50
Dec. 20: Final Statwatch for 2019
Dec. 24: Your national scoring champion
Dec. 27: United States Coach of the Year

Nov. 30, 2019 — Finding a needle on Black Friday

If you have been watching our Final Third broadcasts this year, you may have noticed a couple of times when I’ve been a little fidgety in the seat. That’s because the chairs that I have been using developed a degree of discomfort because of the angle of the seat padding. You may have noticed that, during one broadcast, I had to replace the seat cushion in mid-corner.

Well, I’ve been on a bit of a journey this year to find a chair with a tall-enough pneumatic tube, a wide and thick seat, and with good back support. But instead of buying an expensive model at an office supply store, we took the adjustable backless barstool we’ve been using this year, but planned to add a cushy seat to it.

As with all things worth doing, this was not easy. The office chair we decided on for the seat was designed differently from the barstool. Whereas the barstool’s seat was attached to the pneumatic adjustable bottom with four bolts, the office chair comes in three pieces: the back, the seat, and an integrated bottom of the chair and a crossmember on which the other pieces are bolted.

What we needed was a piece of sheet metal that would handle the weight as well as be big enough to reach the bolt holes in the seat.

I spent a good part of Black Friday looking through a couple of the large warehouse-sized hardware superstores, dodging the displays featuring fake trees, tool boxes, and other doodads.

Oddly, one of the store chains showed on their website that there were four pieces of sheet metal that would fit my needs, but there were none on the showroom floor at either my local store or the one about five miles down the road. Indeed, it seemed as though there was little accountability for the incorrect entry on the website.

But I went to the chain’s main competitor, which showed three pieces of the sheet metal that I needed. And wouldn’t you know, there were actually three 16-gauge pieces of sheet metal of the measurement I needed?

As retail is getting more and more computerized, either through online shopping or with companies using metrics to try to anticipate consumer needs, I’m flummoxed at the diametrically opposing ways that two major hardware companies account for their inventory.

Then again, perhaps it isn’t all that surprising, given the pressure that brick-and-mortar entities are under from the likes of Amazon.

Nov. 29, 2019 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Nov. 23

We’ve already remarked about how nine field hockey players nationwide (that we know of) have hit the 50-goal mark for the 2019 season. But there have also been some additions to an even more exclusive club: the 30-30 Club for players who have had as many as 30 goals and 30 assists in one varsity season.

Of course, this being The Score-O Decade, the population of the 30-30 Club has ramped up quite a bit in the last few years, but these players are a far sight rarer than those with 50 goals. Here are the latest 30-30 players from this season, including 40-40 scorer Cami Crook, a junior from Somerset-Berkley (Mass.):

G-A Name School
41-40 Cami Crook Somerset-Berkley MA
32-30 Annabelle Hasselbeck Weston Rivers School MA
31-32 Natali Foster Elverson Twin Valley PA
33-35 Annika Herbine Emmaus PA
41-30 Lilli Smith New Hope-Solebury PA

Posted below is our weekly collection of American scholastic field hockey statistics, culled from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, PhilaFieldHockey.com, The Washington Post, Long Island Newsday, 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
78 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
76 Katie McLaughlin, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.)
67 Lily Santi, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
66 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
63 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
58 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
56 Jordan Carr, Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.)
53 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
51 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
49 Lauren Wadas, Palmyra (Pa.)
48 Taryn Mayer, Huntingdon Valley Lower Moreland (Pa.)
47 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
46 Bridget Murphy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
45 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)

ASSISTS
40 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
38 Abby Periard, South Oldham (Ky.)
37 Carly Cole, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
35 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
33 Ciana Riccardo, Downingtown (Pa.) West
32 Allie Palumbo, Mullica Hill Clearview (N.J.)

32 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
30 Sarah Beers, Oley (Pa.) Valley
30 Lilly Smith, New Hope-Solebury (Pa.)
30 Annabelle Hasselbeck, Weston Rivers School (Mass.)
29 Amy Griffin, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.)
29 Zoe Campisi, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.)
29 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
28 Hannah Berry, Holden Wachusett (Mass.)
28 Annabella Mason, Alexandria West Potomac (Md.)
28 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)

CAREER GOALS
206 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
157 Lily Santi, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
156* Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
137 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
134 Jordan Carr, Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.)
133 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
132 Bridget Murphy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
122 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
117 Annie Grace Louthan, Chesterfield Matoaca (Va.)
116 Hannah Maxwell, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
116 Lauren Wadas, Palmyra (Pa.)
109 Lauren Parente, Wyoming (Pa.) Area
107 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
106 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
103 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
102 Rachel Bohn, Newport (Pa.)
102 Alex Wesneski, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
100 Katie McLaughlin, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.)
*–injured

CAREER ASSISTS
125 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
115 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)

GOALS SCORED, TEAM
221 Emmaus (Pa.)
200 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
192 Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
188 Gloucester (Va.)
167 Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
156 Oley (Pa.) Valley

CONSECUTIVE WINS
64 Delmar (Del.)
58 North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (Calif.)
42 Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.)
42 Somerset-Berkley (Calif.)

If you see a wrong number of if you feel we’re missing something, 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 during the season, and we’ll have a Final Statwatch in December.

Nov. 28, 2019 — Giving thanks

One of the bright spots of the 2019 season was the play of Lynnfield (Mass.) as it made its deepest run into the postseason in nearly two decades.

They were led by goalkeeper Ava O’Brien, who is enjoying her athletic career as a field hockey goalie, knowing that she is showing early signs of multiple sclerosis. Here’s a wonderful story by Anne Marie Tobin.

Nov. 27, 2019 — Contrary to the concept

This website, for the past 21 years, has endeavored to cover the good that happens in field hockey and women’s lacrosse. We’ve seen achievements and accomplishments which Constance Applebee and Rosabelle Sinclair could have only dreamed of when they taught their respective games to their students a century ago.

But occasionally, there is other news, the kind which makes your heart sink.

On Monday, a pair of women’s lacrosse players on the varsity roster of Life University were charged for their part in an armed robbery of a suburban Atlanta party being held at an Air BnB property.

Lauren Riley and Lyndsey Kallish, two sophomores, face 19 charges, including multiple counts of armed robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and a single charge of first-degree home invasion. It is alleged they scouted a party in the Air BnB before two armed men robbed partygoers of cash, cell phones, and sneakers.

Riley and Kallish both participated in the inaugural season of Life University’s team, which competes at the NAIA level. The Eagles finished with a record of 7-8.