Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Jan. 8, 2021 — Cold comfort in a cold opening

In the last couple of days, there has been some further guidance by the California Department of Health and the California Interscholastic Federation as to whether and when sports are able to restart for the winter.

And as of right now, it doesn’t look good for field hockey starting anytime soon.

You see, there are four COVID-19 tiers, which are assigned based on the number and frequency of positive tests in any particular county. Right now, the vast majority of schools in California are in high-risk areas. And the California Interscholastic Federation will only allow schools to participate in swimming, tennis, golf, alpine skiing, tennis, outdoor track, and cross-country.

Field hockey is in the second-highest tier of high risk, along with girls’ lacrosse, softball, and baseball. The problem is that there are only four California counties which are not in the high-risk tier: Humboldt, Mariposa, Alpine, and Sierra.

None of these four regions have the game of field hockey. Nor, for that matter, lacrosse.

Given the rise in the COVID-19 curve nationwide since Thanksgiving, it’s hard to see when the contagion level is going to be low enough to allow field hockey players in San Diego, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area to play.

I guess we’ll know in a couple of weeks.

Jan. 7, 2021 — Not the best sign

The NCAA field hockey season is set to restart sometime in the next month.

We already know that the Ivy League’s eight field hockey participants will not be participating, part of a blanket stop in play which has not only enveloped those teams which were supposed to start in the so-named “Fall 2” season, but winter sports like basketball and hockey.

The same can be said for the teams in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, which voted not to play its fall sports in the spring in mid-November.

Yesterday, Rowan University decided that its fall teams would not be playing in Fall 2. This includes a field hockey team that won the 2002 national title and made the 2018 Final Four.

Watching this slow implosion of the field hockey landscape is regrettable and discouraging. But given the fact that more records for COVID-19 infections and deaths were set yesterday, I cannot see a return to play under these circumstances.

Jan. 6, 2021 — Could the votes of 2.2 million people have an outsized effect on the WNBA?

Yesterday, a runoff election took place in the state of Georgia for two U.S. Senate seats.

As of this morning, one of the losing candidates was Kelly Loeffler, the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. Loeffler had been appointed to the senate seat by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Johnny Isakson, who for health reasons stepped aside.

In the mid-summer, Loeffler was polling in the mid-20s, while her eventual runoff opponent, Raphael Warnock, was polling at a mere nine percent. However, when WNBA players, including the entire Dream roster, expressed support for Warnock, his poll numbers and profile rose.

That profile rose to the point where he was able to get 2.2 million votes yesterday, which is roughly twice as many people who have ever bought a ticket to an Atlanta Dream game since the inaugural 2008 season.

Loeffler’s position within Washington was built on the amassing of wealth. Her husband is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange’s parent company, and, as such, made her the single richest U.S. Senator.

Oddly enough, she hadn’t had much of a hand in the day-to-day operations of the Atlanta Dream, but somehow found time to criticize her own team for wearing protest shirts and leaving the court pre-game and staying in the dressing room while the National Anthem played before a game in the WNBA’s summer bubble last year.

Loeffler isn’t the first person in the current political class to be connected with a women’s sports team. Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, is a majority owner of Sky Blue FC, the NWSL soccer franchise that plays out of New Brunswick, N.J.

But Loeffler did something that only Dan Borislow, the former owner of magicJack FC managed to do, and that is to turn employees of the sports team against the owner in a highly public way.

When it came to Borislow, he alienated players, coaches, and fans of the team’s former home in the greater Washington, D.C. area with his actions, including naming himself head coach even though he did not have the requisite coaching license.

The question I’m posing here is, “Can Kelly Loeffler effect some sort of punishment on her Atlanta Dream players that could affect the stability of the entire WNBA?” While there is no indication that Loeffler is likely to sell her share of the team to a possible ownership group including the likes of LeBron James, I do wonder if Loeffler could leverage her position as a team owner to create some sort of crisis that could ripple across the league.

I’m not kidding. This could get ugly.

Jan. 5, 2021 — Top 10 for games played through Dec. 17

With optimism and hope that American scholastic field hockey might return to play this month, we roll out yet another back-of-the-envelope look at the very best of scholastic field hockey this fall.

The COVID-19 contagion has had a huge impact on the sport on multiple levels. Not only have we not seen the better teams in the country getting tested deep into a postseason, we also saw a lot of teams winning their terminal matches (state finals in some places, sectional finals in others) by large margins. Take, for example, our No. 1 team, Delmar (Del.). The Wildcats, in beating Bear Caravel Academy (Del.) in the DIAA Division 2 final, outshot their opponents 18-1 and out-cornered them 23-0.

Our No. 11 Team of the Month is Orchard Park (N.Y.), which won the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division I title for the first time in 30 years, thereby taking the top seed in the state’s Section IV Tournament.

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, and the rest of the Virginia High School League, are scheduled to begin practice Feb. 15th

9. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 0-0
Serra’s first possible varsity date is scheduled to be Jan. 25th, but depends on several factors, including state, county, and sectional guidelines

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. Orchard Park (N.Y.) 14-2
Season complete: Lost 2-1 to Lancaster (N.Y.) in NYSPHSAA Section VI final

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

Jan. 4, 2021 — A hard confession for a journalist

My dear readers, I have made my living in the written word, mostly from my decade or so writing for a daily newspaper, as well as nearly a quarter-century on this website.

In my years of writing, reading, and editing stories, articles, and blog entries, I have done so with a keen eye for detail. I recoil whenever someone leaves the space out from between the words “a” and “lot” to create the error “alot.” I also get internal alarm bells whenever I see someone print the word “definately” instead of “definitely.”

But if there’s one thing that I’ve been finding out in terms of my own journey to self-improvement, it’s that there are certain words with which I have trouble.

One is the spelling of a certain city in Arizona, which I always seem to want to spell “Tuscon” rather than “Tucson.” A friend of mine, an actual Tucsonian, she offers the advice to mispronounce the city name as “Tuck-son” in order to be able to get the spelling correct.

But the other two are words that I seem to have problems conjuring up in the correct context. For years, the word “fulfillment,” as in “fulfillment company,” has been hidden behind some kind of mental block in my own mind. If I was writing about fulfilling a need, I was fine. But if I wanted to describe the company that you send boxtops or proofs of purchase to in order to receive a small prize or a gift card, I was sometimes lost for a few minutes while I tried to find the word.

Another word I have trouble with is the word “whimsical.” Whenever I have to describe something with fanciful flourishes or details associated with it, I cannot seem to be able to come up with the word “whimsical.” For some reason, my mind starts going into disassociation when it comes to the word. I first start thinking about those windmills shaped like geese that are stuck into a home garden, then I get to the word “whirligigs.” Only then do I start getting to the word “whimsy,” which then associates to “whimsical.”

For the last few years, I’ve had the words “whimsical” and “fulfillment” printed in large letters, tacked on a wall in my office. It’s not only a visual reminder of what these words are, but it’s also a reminder that, despite my training and experience, that I’m not always perfect.

It’s something we all should realize, and something from which we all can grow.

Jan. 3, 2021 — A new field hockey entry for the Fall 2 season

This year, our scholastic field hockey coverage will conclude with teams playing matches in the Virginia High School League, the California Interscholastic Federation, the Colorado High School Athletic Association, the Illinois High School Field Hockey Association, and with various teams in New York, North Carolina, and Massachusetts, which had opted out of play in the fall, being allowed to pick back up in the spring.

But I read yesterday that a group of schools in Pennsylvania (a commonwealth which has already crowned its three public-school champions, mind) are planning on playing a spring season in many sports, including field hockey. These school districts span from Reading, in the center of the state, all the way to Bristol, located on the border with New Jersey.

It’s called the United X League, and the ten schools in this temporary confederation are from three PIAA districts — 1, 3, and 12. As with many leagues in the college and high-school ranks, the UXL is built around football, given the fact that not all of the schools in the league have the sport. Only seven of the ten members of the league offer field hockey; and one is an all-boys’ parochial school in northeast Philadelphia.

I have a feeling that there are going to be a number of opt-out schools from the fall who are going to look to this example for their return-to-play guidelines. But of course, that depends on when or if the District 1 schools in this confederation are able to return to in-person schooling.

Jan. 2, 2021 — Data, field hockey, and a date with Athletes Unlimited?

Data analysis has infiltrated many sports in different ways. There are transponders in the shoulder pads and helmets of NFL players, radars and tracking cameras at baseball and tennis venues, and sensors taped to the torsos of basketball and soccer players worldwide.

The data gleaned from these sports is used for player and team development, and for a generation of statistically-aware people who run sports teams, are often used to assemble rosters, make trades, and sign players.

It’s been well-known that Americans are very much hooked on sports statistics, which is why the enterprise called Athletes Unlimited could very well become an important developmental apparatus in all sports, not just in softball and the new women’s volleyball and women’s lacrosse leagues coming later this year.

But I think AU should also take a flyer in the game of field hockey, given the rich amount of available statistics in every game.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. International field hockey is a sport which is extremely conservative in terms of its recordkeeping. The official FIH match sheet doesn’t record assists, shots taken, or goalkeeper saves.

I have observed, however, televised field hockey competitions which show copious amounts of data on the level of an Australian Rules football match. I think it was a Champions Challenge tournament which showed everything from disposals (i.e., the result of each possession) to distance covered during the match.

In truth, I think Athletes Unlimited could use data like this in order to determine, over the course of an AU field hockey season, which players are the best from each matchday, and therefore become the captains for the next week’s games.

Now, if AU would only have a field hockey league.

Jan. 1, 2021 — My hopes for 2021

The end of 2020 sees the end of one of the tumultuous years in the history of the world. Oddly enough, this tumult wasn’t as a result of war, natural disasters, or terrorism.

Instead, the COVID-19 global pandemic has been responsible for 83 million worldwide infections with 1.8 million deaths. It has had devastating effects on many worldwide economies: the United States, the world’s largest economy, leads in infections and deaths from Coronavirus.

But you’re also seeing three out of the four so-called BRIC countries in the top four in terms of the number of COVID infections. Russia, India, and Brazil, with more than three million positive tests each, are similarly overrun by the virus, and they were, along with China, four of the most important growing economies in the world before the onset of the pandemic.

Not only are public health and world economies being affected by the virus, but also competitive sports. Here are my hopes for 2021:

I hope that the spring collegiate field hockey season is able to take place without the kind of tumult that has befallen football and men’s basketball in the last year, and is able to wind its way to a champion.

I also hope that teams in the ACC which did not win the automatic qualifier are able to get a fair shot at the two at-large bids in the NCAA Division I Tournament.

I hope that the college women’s lacrosse season is able to take place, especially with the talented players expected to make an impact this fall.

I hope that, in Division I, that teams other than the University of North Carolina are able to emerge as national championship contenders. I think Notre Dame, Denver, and Michigan are going to be major Final Four contenders if they are able to get through their seasons.

I hope that the National Women’s Soccer League is able to put a good product on the pitch, given the fact that a number of NWSL and U.S. stars are currently under contract to foreign clubs.

I hope that the “nouveau riche” women’s soccer clubs worldwide — I’m looking at you, Manchester City, Paris-St. Germain, Club America, and FC Barcelona — are treated as more than just window dressing, and that the corporations that run and sponsor them put the money and resources behind their women’s teams equal to the men’s teams.

I hope that both the WNBA and NWSL are given proper credit for the way they were able to make good on their 2020 seasons.

I hope that two major female athletes who played very little or not at all in 2020 — soccer’s Megan Rapinoe and basketball’s Elena Delle Donne — are able to come back with their club sides and have an impact at the 2021 Olympics.

I hope that the Olympics are able to have a full re-opening with fans in the arenas this summer.

I also hope that the companies responsible for long-term transport — especially cruise ships and commercial aircraft — undergo systemic reform so that their vessels do not continue to be petri dishes for viruses and other diseases.

I also hope that as many of you as are able can will take advantage of vaccine distribution programs in the first three months of 2021 and help flatten the curve of COVID-19, given the fact that there are seven billion people in the world, and there are maybe only 400 million doses of vaccine in the pipeline right now.

And I hope you, dear reader, stay safe and well until then. Mask up, socially distance, and just be careful out there.

Dec. 31, 2020 — 184 right, 130 wrong

Today, I finished my Trivial Pursuit Master’s Edition Year-In-A-Box calendar, a calendar full of questions about everything from Texas to s’mores to poke bowls. It’s the last Master’s Edition as next year’s calendar is going to be from the Classic Edition which, according to some reviews, is easier than the Master’s or the original Genus edition.

We’ll see what happens with the questions on the 2021 calendar. But this year’s questions were about the same difficulty as in 2019, which reflects the fact that my percentage of correct answers was 58.6 percent, much lower than the last couple of years.

Yep, I still keep score.

Dec. 30, 2020 — Waiting for the next glass

Tomorrow, I undergo surgery in my abdomen to (hopefully) fix a problem which I wrote about here.

I’m used to the gnawing feeling of uncertainty when it comes to trying to occupy the hours before a medical procedure. The liquid diet that I’ve been prescribed is almost a relief from overthinking the future and engendering a sense of dread.

I have to keep telling myself that I have a good doctor. The surgeon has received more than 50 positive reviews on an internet site meant to judge these things, and almost all of them are five stars.

My interactions with the surgeon have been detailed and somewhat frank. But now that I’m being provided the opportunity to aggressively go at this problem, I have something positive to look forward to.

And that’s a good thing. We’ll know more tomorrow and in the next few weeks how the procedure came out.