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Nov. 21, 2022 — It’s not over!

Today at 3 p.m., the NCAA Division II field hockey tournament committee announces the six teams which will be playing for the D-2 national championship.

Three conference tournaments were decided yesterday, with East Stroudsburg beating Millersville in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, Converse beating Mount Olive in the South Atlantic Conference, and Adelphi beating Pace in the Northeast-10.

However, according to the NCAA bylaws, none of the three tournaments yielded an AQ berth for the winner. Instead, the NCAA Tournament Committee selects three teams from the pool of 21 in the Atlantic Region and three from the pool of 14 in the East Region.

Now, we can try to guess which six teams are going to make it, but it would be only that — a guess. Like in every NCAA Tournament, there will be some teams who are on the outside looking in, and will be upset that they were left out of the bracket.

That being said, who’s going to make it from the Atlantic? Here are the contenders:

East Stroudsburg (18-2)
Converse (17-2)
Millersville (16-5)
Kutztown (15-3)
Shippensburg (15-3)
West Chester (14-4)
Mount Olive (14-4)

From the East Region, these are the six teams with more than 10 wins on the season:

Assumption (14-5)
St. Anselm (14-6)
Adelphi (13-8)
Pace (13-8)
Bentley (11-8)
St. Thomas Aquinas (10-9)

The committee looks at a number of criteria, including strength of schedule, ratings percentage index, and how teams did in their last seven games of the 2022 season.

For me, the team to watch out of the 13 listed is West Chester. Despite its 14-4 record, it has the highest strength of schedule and second-best in ratings percentage index. If they make it, a very good team in the Atlantic pool will be sent home, and it will be a long nine months for the non-selected teams to mull over what they could have done differently.

Nov. 20, 2022 — The Final Three

This morning in Windsor, Conn., the New England Preparatory Schools Athletic Council will be holding its annual championship games.

For most hockey aficionados, the Class A title game, at 11 a.m., is the one to watch between Greenwich (Conn.) Academy and Watertown Taft (Conn.). Both are long-time New England powerhouses and rivals, though GA has had the better of it in the last few years. Taft has not won the NEPSAC title since 1999, but GA has three top-flight titles since then.

In the Class B tournament, Newbury Governor’s Academy (Mass.) takes on Concord Middlesex (Mass.), while South Hamilton Pingree (Mass.) meets New Hampton (N.H.) in Class C.

The NEPSAC teams play fine hockey, often at a higher level than their public-school sisters. The global pandemic put a hard stop on the New England prep schools in the fall of 2020, but have been coming back with strength and ambition.

It is a good cherry on top for the scholastic season.

Nov. 19, 2022 — A first try at lessening the officiating crisis

According to a press release a month ago, more than 50,000 scholastic sports officials have quit the business since March 2020, the beginning of the global Coronavirus pandemic.

No sport, it seems, has been immune to the officiating shortage. The shortage is especially acute in developing sports in developing areas, especially in athletic pursuits experiencing high growth, such as lacrosse.

The National Federation of State High School Associations has created a public information campaign called “Bench Bad Behavior,” which concentrates on lessening the abuse leveled at umpires, referees, linesmen, lane monitors, and other game officials in scholastic sports by both coaches and spectators.

Indeed, according to a survey of officials who have left the profession, the following came out in the data:

  • 84% said fans treated them unfairly
  • 59% said they didn’t feel respected
  • 55% left due to verbal abuse
  • 46% said they felt unsafe

Read that first line again. Nine out of 10 game officials left the profession because of unruly spectators.

The website has a number of posts and a toolkit that you can download including signs to be posted at games, a script for public-address announcers to read, and player/parent contracts.

At the same time of the Bench Bad Behavior campaign, the NFHS has also started an initiative to recruit game officials through the website HighSchoolOfficials.com. Through the site, the Federation is attempting to recruit for everything from the revenue sports to activities such as bass fishing, scholastic bowl, speech and debate, and even theater and film competitions.

I’m hoping that these measures may help in getting more game officials to consider a career in sports officiating, but I think there are some others that need to be considered, such as a bump in pay to compete with the growth of pay-to-play club competitions in many sports nationwide.

Nov. 18, 2022 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Nov. 16

This week, the statistical occurrence of greatest note is the fact that Emmaus (Pa.) had a winning streak of 69 games ended by West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) during Wednesday night’s PIAA Class AAA semifinals. When you look at the long and illustrious history of Emmaus field hockey, it is the second-longest Hornet win streak of all time; the team had an 81-game winning streak that ended in 2017. The previous longest win streak for the Hornets were 56, 55, and 53 games. This tells you a lot about the strength of this awesome program in such a tough area of the country to win a state championship.

Emmaus has been tremendous in the record books. Susan Butz-Stavin had more head coaching wins than anyone. A number of players, such as Meredith Sholder, Annika Herbine, and Rachel Herbine are part of the career 100-goal, 100 assist club. And the numbers don’t hide the fact that the players coming out of that program are absolute winners.

What you see in the red type below are numbers published by, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media. We encourage coaches, ADs, team managers, and staffs to register for the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your league, section, or 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.

SEASON GOALS
89 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
55 Kate Fiest, Yorktown Tabb (Va.)
50 Tyler Everslage, Louisville Assumption (Ky.)
49 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
47 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
47 Darian DeLeo, Clearview (N.J.)
49 Maggie Sturgis, Marblehead (Mass.)
44 Aubreigh Uba, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
44 Maggie Sturgis, Marblehead (Mass.)
44 Katie Clarke, Purcellville Loudoun Valley (Va.)
44 Olivia McKenna, Northport (N.Y.)
43 Maggie McCrae, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
42 Jordyn Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
41 Jessica Albertson, Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa.)
41 Danielle Hand, Queensbury (N.Y.)
41 Izzy Morgan, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.)

SEASON ASSISTS
45 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
39 Abby Burnett, Emmaus (Pa.)
35 Sammie Goin, Leesburg Independence (Va.)
33 Erika Culp, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.)
31 Molly Digiulio, Buffalo Nichols School (N.Y.)
30 Halley Beaudoin, Fairfax (Va.)
29 Lillian Willis, South Glens Falls (N.Y.)
29 Smilla Klas, San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.)
28 Madison Beach, Glenbrook (Ill.) South
28 Kate Fiest, Yorktown Tabb (Va.)
26 Ella Murphy, Buffalo Nichols School (N.Y.)
26 Katie Clarke, Purcellville Loudoun Valley (Va.)
26 Francesca McCaughey, East Greenwich Rocky Hill Country Day (R.I.)
26 Sophia Borgese, Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio)

CAREER GOALS
223 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
175 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
169 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
141 Lauren Masters, Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.)
123 Olivia Bent-Cole, Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.)
120 Maggie Sturgis, Marblehead (Mass.)
120 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
117 Tyler Everslage, Louisville Assumption (Ky.)
109 Kate Fiest, Yorktown Tabb (Va.)
106 Emma Watchilla, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
103 Kate Galica, Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)
103 Darian DeLeo, Clearview (N.J.)
101 Ava Bleier, Pittsford Sutherland (N.Y.)

CAREER ASSISTS
130 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
104 Abby Burnett, Emmaus (Pa.)
83 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
79 Gigi Edwards, Frontenac Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
78 Hope Haynes, Houston Kinkaid (Tex.)

GOALS SCORED, TEAM
212 Emmaus (Pa.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
114 Delmar (Del.)
55 Northport (N.Y.)
52 Watertown (Mass.)
46 Yorktown Tabb (Va.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
114 Delmar (Del.)
55 Northport (N.Y.)
52 Watertown (Mass.)
46 Yorktown Tabb (Va.)

ACTIVE COACHING VICTORIES
1041 Susan Butz-Stavin, Emmaus (Pa.)
872 Linda Krieiser, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)
759 Karen Klassner, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
730 Eileen Donahue, Watertown (Mass.)
724 Cheryl Poore, Harwich (Mass.), Monomoy (Mass.), and Nauset (Mass.)
705 Sharon Sarsen, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y)

We think we have these right, but we’re prone to mistakes in our old age. If you see something wrong, just send an email to us at TopOfTheCircle.com. Send us some evidence (a website will do), and we can make changes on the go.

Until next week, then. Excelsior!

Nov. 17, 2022 — Inside the Division I Final Four

Tomorrow at around noon, the final two NCAA Division I women’s college field hockey games will commence as North Carolina battles Penn State in a game at the University of Connecticut.

The four teams that have made it to Storrs have made it through many troubles and opponents, making the winner of Sunday’s grand final a truly worthy champion.

All four of these teams have great players, but also have some truly stars of the U.S. scholastic realm, and are ready to make some history.


NORTH CAROLINA vs. PENN STATE
The obvious: The struggle for dominance amongst Division I field hockey conferences is manifest in this match between the current Big Ten Conference regular-season co-champion and the ACC champion.

The not-so-obvious:
Rare is the time that you will see 81 seasons and 1,348 wins in the coaching boxes. But that’s what you’ll see when Karen Shelton and Char Morett-Curtis face each other. But for all of Penn State’s excellence over the years, the Nittany Lions have yet to win a national championship.

Key players: UNC: Erin Matson, sr., f; Meredith Sholder, sr., m/d; Ryleigh Heck, fr., f; Ashley Sessa, fr., f, Paityn Wirth, sr., f. PSU: Mackenzie Allessie, sr., f; Sophia Gladieux, jr., f, Anna Simon, gr., F, Jemma Punch, sr., f., Brie Barraco, sr., g.

UNC wins this game if: They limit turnovers and jump on Penn State early. If they get two in the first 5 to 10 minutes, it could be all but over by the interval.

Penn State wins this game if: Brie Barraco has the game of her life in goal. Which has been known to happen in circumstances like these.

The skinny: The number of goals that many of these players have scored in high school is enormous. In the lineup tomorrow is the all-time leading goal-scorer in scholastic field hockey in Allessie. You will also see No. 3 (Heck), No. 7 (Sholder), No. 8 (Gladieux), and No. 12 (Wirth). If this is a goalfest, I’d definitely favor UNC, but it Penn State plays the kind of defense it did in the quarterfinals against Albany, the Lions could be making that one move towards a level it has never attained.


MARYLAND vs. NORTHWESTERN
The obvious: A Big Ten battle featuring your defending national champion

The not-so-obvious: When Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014, many followers of women’s sports believed that this would set up a golden age of rivalry between the Terp women’s lacrosse team and Northwestern. In field hockey, the move had an effect on the head-to-head matchup. Before the move to the Big Ten, Maryland had won 13 straight. Since then, Northwestern leads the record, eight games to six, including a number of very close games.

Key players: UMD: Bibi Donradt, gr., f; Hope Rose., so., f; Danielle vsn Rootselaar, gr., m; Leah Crouse, gr., f/m; Emma Deberdine., sr., m; Rayne Wright., jr., d. NU: Lauren Wadas., jr., m; Maddie Zimmer., jr., m; Bente Baekers., gr., f; Alia Marshall, sr., m/d; Peyton Halsey., sr., m; Annabel Skubisz., jr., g

Maryland wins this game if: Hope Rose is allowed time and space to create chances in the attack. She is a disruptor and can open space in the back.

Northwestern wins thie game if: Lauren Wadas and Maddie Zimmer are allowed to create chances in the front third; they are rare players who can take the ball right as defenders. Annabel Skubisz could win the game by herself, however.

The skinny: The teams have split games already this season and each team has a 2-1 win over the other. Can you say “overtime”?


Nov. 16, 2022 — Drama in the Top 5

This afternoon, three out of our Top 5 teams were involved in playoff field hockey games.

Each of them has their own background, their own stories, and their own results. While they would have a lot do in order to match last Saturday’s nationwide drama, the three ranked teams and their opponents gave it their all.

The mid-afternoon game was the championship game of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA). And you can’t help bur having a sense of deja vu when it comes to the game. Like last year, the matchup featured No. 5 Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) against Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.), in a game played at The Proving Grounds in Conshohocken, Pa.

Despite the fact that Hill had a win over the Churchwomen already this season, the Blues went into today’s game on a bit of a tear. Since their Oct. 21st loss to No. 4 Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.), they have outscored their next six opponents by a combined score of 35-2.

Episcopal, the defending PAISAA champions, held Hill down defensively and went into the final minute of play in a 2-2 tie.

But like last year, a goal in the final minute was scored to decide the winner. Only this time, it was Hill’s Opal Sparling scoring with 32 seconds remaining to give Hill the 3-2 win and the program’s first PAISAA title.

About the time that game ended, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 semifinals commenced. In the game, No. 1 Delmar (Del.) zipped out to a 4-0 first-quarter lead. But when you look at the team’s overall production, forget about the number of goals, and focus on the quality.

Maci Bradford, the senior headed to Maryland, hit a backhand shot while falling down in the circle in the 10th minute of play. Two and a half minutes later, Jordyn Hollamon, the sophomore sensation, made a backhander on the move that looked effortless. In the third quarter, Bradford stuck in another reverse shot, then got her hat trick dribbling in on the Wilmington Friends goalie with 3D skill and bunted it over the line. Then, as the half ended, Josie Hollamon, another senior headed to Maryland, got a third rebound off a penalty corner and hit top cheese.

These were the definite highlights of the Wildcats’ 8-0 win, setting up a final with Claymont Archmere Academy (Del.).

While the Wildcats were finishing off the final quarter, the PIAA Class AAA semifinal game between No. 2 Emmaus (Pa.) and West Lawn Wilsom (Pa.) was taking place at Hamburg (Pa.).

Emmaus, like Delmar, has a wealth of attacking talent, from 40-40 Club member Rachel Herbine to classmates Ava Zerfass and Abby Burnett, to junior Melea Weber. The team leads the nation in scoring with more than 200 goals, and did pretty well in its non-league competition this year, coming from two down to beat Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) and beating Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.) four days later.

As you might expect, from a team with an attacking mentality, Emmaus took the lead early in the second quarter, as Zerfass punched in her 28th of the season. But the Hornets found it tough to get anything more past goalie Catherine Wolf. Five minutes into the second half, Grace Chisholm tied the game.

Now, a word here about Wilson. Their coach, Kim Underwood, has developed some unusually talented defensive players during her tenure — perhaps no more so than her daughter Bryn, who is a goalkeeper for American University. Some of that goalkeeping talent might have rubbed off on Wolf, who made stop after stop against the Emmaus offense.

But in a bit of foreshadowing in the final minutes of play of the third quarter, Wilson hit the post with a shot. The teams fought throughout the fourth quarter until the 60th minute.

On a 16-yard free hit, Wilson escaped the Emmaus press with a deep pass that led to a 2-on-1 which Emmaus goalie Emma Cari cleared. Wilson had some pressure at the perimeter, but the Hornets cleared. Wilson rescued the ball and fed it into the offensive right-wing corner. The next pass found teammate Erika Culp, who then found Candace Horace at the left post for a goal scored with 4.2 seconds on the clock.

Emmaus’ 69 game win streak had ended. In a parallel worthy of what happened earlier today, tonight’s tournament game was the exact same circumstance as the game that resulted in Emmaus’ last lost. In 2019, Wilson beat Emmaus in a game played at Hamburg.

With all of this drama, will they leave some of it for Saturday at the finals?

BULLETIN: Nov. 15, 2022 — A postponement in the nation’s most prominent field hockey state

Today’s near freezing precipitation in large portions of the eastern Appalachians up through western New York has forced the hand of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

The six semifinal matches in the three postseason brackets have been moved from this evening to Wednesday. All six of these games are being held within a 15-mile radius of Kutztown, and each of them are after school hours instead of what had been the traditional 3 p.m. start for PIAA playoff games. Four of the matches start at 5 p.m., including both games in the 1A bracket.

Before any of these six games ramp up, the other Keystone State competition, the PAISAA, will hold its final tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. at The Proving Grounds in Conshohocken, Pa. between Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) and Pottstown Hill School (Pa.).

Should be an interesting day.

Nov. 15, 2022 — Top 10 for the week of Nov. 13

There are just 16 championships left to be contested in 2022: four each in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, three in Connecticut, two in Delaware, and the three New England prep school brackets. This week’s competition has a lot to go in order to match the drama of Saturday (just look back three days on this blog), but a lot of the best teams will be completing their seasons — and for some, their careers.

Our honorary RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Team of the Week is the winner of the Division 2 bracket of the CIF San Diego Section. In the 41 years of field hockey at the school, San Diego University City (Calif.) has never won a major trophy. But the Centurions were able to come through with a 2-0 shootout win after a goalless draw..

1. Delmar (Del.) 17-0
The Wildcats will meet the Wilmington (Del.) Friends School in the semifinal round of the DIAA Division II tournament after a 12-1 win over Greenwood Woodbridge (Del.).

2. Emmaus (Pa.) 25-0
The Hornets take on Wilson West Lawn (Pa.) in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals after last Saturday’s 7-0 shotout of Honesdale (Pa.)

3. San Diego Canyon Hills (Calif.) 26-0
Season complete: The Rattlers won the CIF Open Division Tournament but it was not easy; the team got a penalty corner goal with 10 seconds left

4. Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.) 21-1
Season complete: Irish beat Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 2-1 to win the NJSIAA Non-Public state championship

5. Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) 19-1
Hill takes on Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) in the PAISAA final tomorrow at Conshohockey (or as we call it, “Conshohockey”)

6. Northport (N.Y.) 23-0
Season complete: Tigers got by a game Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) outfit thanks to an Olivia McKenna overtime penalty stroke

7. Palmyra (Pa.) 19-2-2
Cougars bested 2021 PIAA Class AA champion Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.), and plays Upper Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.) today for a berth in the state final

8. Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.) 20-2-1
Season complete: The Dragons won their first state championship in style, outscoring their opposition 36-1 including a 4-1 win in the final against Hillsborough (N.J.)

9. Watertown (Mass.) 20-0
The Raiders take on Dover-Sherborne (Mass.) in the semifinals of MIAA Division 3 Tournament in a game played at Canton (Mass.)

10. Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del..) 16-2
The Vikings take on Wilmington Padua Academy (Del.) in the semifinals of the DIAA Division 1 Tournament

11. San Diego University City (Calif.) 19-9
Season complete: Jenna Amos and Keiko Yamamuro had the shootout goals for UC in the dramatic win

Who’s out: Norfolk (Va.) Academy, 5-0 loss to Richmond (Va.) Collegiate

And bear in mind: Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 18-1, Darien (Conn.) 21-0, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) 25-4, Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 22-5-1, Skowhegan (Maine) Area 18-0, Annapolis Broadneck (Md.) 20-0, Ann Arbor Pioneer (Mich,) 12-1-1, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 20-3-1, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 17-6, Vestal (N.Y.) 15-5, Mechanicsburg (Pa.) 18-4-1, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 20-3-1, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) 23-2-1, Houston St. John’s (Tex.) 18-2, Richmond (Va.) Collegiate 17-5, Yorktown Tabb (Va.) 24-0

Nov. 14, 2022 — One moment amongst many

If you were following our liveblog on Saturday, you might have noticed a moment during one of the Pennsylvania quarterfinal matches that deserves a deep dive — because of a very deep dive on the part of one of the players.

About seven minutes into the PIAA Class AA quarterfinal between Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) and Mechanicsburg (Pa.), the Wildcats had a break up the left side of the field, then had a self-start from 31 yards. The Mechanicsburg midfielder threw an aerial into the circle where not one, but two teammates were waiting about two yards from the goal line.

The scene was set for a “lacrosse” goal like what Paityn Wirth scored three years ago in the Falcon Classic between Greenwood (Pa.) and Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.). On the play, a lifted pass was caressed into the goal since plays are allowed to be made above the shoulder, subject to danger.

Only it was a lacrosse player who interposed herself in Mechanicsburg’s attack. Rushing off her line and diving to stick the ball over the sideline was Crestwood senior goalie Isabella Caporuscio. But it was more than just a dive; she appeared to take off and gain altitude like a seagull in flight. (If you want to take a look at a clip, go to our Instagram or TikTok presences and be amazed.)

Since we started covering field hockey in 1988, I have never seen a better athletic play made by a high-school field hockey goalie. Never. The closest thing was watching former U.S. national teamer Barb Weinberg make a save on a lofted shot in indoor hockey.

Caporuscio runs counter to the stereotype of the field hockey goalie from 30 years ago. On most schools, goalies used to have to be begged to put on the pads, and were often a third-string softball catcher for the school or one of the slowest players on the team.

These days, a field hockey goalie is often the best athlete on the team. Want proof? Caporuscio is a highly-regarded attacking midfielder who has committed to play women’s lacrosse at perennial powerhouse Stony Brook.

The regrettable thing is that we’ve likely seen the last of her in goalie pads, seeing as SBU doesn’t have field hockey. It would have been a fun thought-experiment to see what she might have done in a college environment.

Nov. 13, 2022 — What’s also good for the gander

This afternoon, there are eight scheduled field hockey games in the Division I and Division III quarterfinal round. And as is usual, all eight of them are being played within a four-hour window.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Last spring, thanks to the activism of people like Liz Robertshaw and Taylor Cummings, the NCAA changed its women’s lacrosse schedule to be more or less equal to the men’s game, in that the four NCAA quarterfinal matches would have their own broadcast windows.

It helps that Division I women’s lacrosse has a solid broadcast partner in ESPN, and they were able to clear out space on ESPNU on a Thursday so that the four quarterfinal matches could be played from noon to 10 p.m. so that each of the games were not treading on the other.

ESPN and the NCAA did this because the men’s lacrosse tournament has, for years, guaranteed solo broadcast windows for its men’s lacrosse quarterfinals by playing two doubleheaders on the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day. These would be in sizable sites such as Ohio Stadium and Rentschler Field (where the quarters were held in 2022), as opposed to the women, who played at campus sites.

I think it’s about time that the NCAA Tournament Committee and the broadcast partners start advocating for a broadcast schedule that will allow fans of the game to watch so many of these amazing games that have occurred over the course of the weekend.