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BULLETIN: Sept. 14, 2019 — Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 4, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 1

In the 11th Garden State Firm between two of the best scholastic field hockey programs, the defending non-public state champion Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) seized momentum in the first 10 minutes of the game and did not let go, winning 4-1 over 20-time Group IV state champions Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) in a game played at Oak Knoll’s athletics complex.

Megan Joel had a pair of goals for the Royals, but what was more important was the performance of the Oak Knoll defense. Though Eastern was able to halve its early deficit in the 15th minute off a Tara Somers tap-in on a penalty corner, that was the only goal Oak Knoll would concede all day.

That is a testament to goalkeeper Colleen Quinn (18 saves) and the defense in front of her, which kept Eastern from getting shots at goal for long stretches of the second half, which led to Joel’s second goal and Bridget Murphy’s late penalty stroke.

Oak Knoll will be taking the momentum from this match into next week’s National High School Invitational, where they will be playing defending PIAA Class AAA champion Hershey (Pa.) next Saturday, then against Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) on Sunday.

For Eastern, today’s game was the start of a difficult stretch of matches which include Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) and Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) next weekend.

Sept. 13, 2019 — The Garden State Firm

Meetings in field hockey between Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) are not, technically, a “rivalry.” Rivalries usually occur through accident of geography, and rivalry games on a team’s schedule are normally guaranteed to happen every single year through a conference schedule.

For example, in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants are rivals, having to play 33 percent of their NFC East divisional schedule against each other. The Giants, however, are not rivals of the New York Jets, even though they play in the same stadium and regularly meet each other in exhibition games.

There are many famous rivalries in world sport — Barcelona-Real Madrid in soccer, Ohio State-Michigan in collegiate football, Giants-Dodgers in baseball (no matter which coast you’re on), and Montreal-Boston in pro hockey. Now, some rivalries belie geography: a dozen years of competition between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers brought up a true rivalry between Hall-of-Famers Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

So, whenever Eastern and Oak Knoll’s field hockey teams get together on the pitch, like they will do at Oak Knoll’s Chatham sports complex tomorrow at 10 a.m., it will have every hallmark of a rivalry.

The game will be an exhibition of good hockey, with skill and pace. There are likely to be multiple lead changes, even more switches in momentum. And you might see something in the contest not covered by the National Federation rules book.

Indeed, the competition between the two sides is more than just a simple sporting rivalry. There are contrasts between the size of the schools; Eastern’s 9-12 enrollment is a bit more than 2,000, while Oak Knoll’s 9-12 enrollment is a shade north of 250.

Eastern is a public school, playing in NJSIAA’s Group IV. Oak Knoll is a private school, playing in the NJSIAA’s non-public division. One team has its home in the northern half of the state of New Jersey, the other in the southern half where the scholastic game was born in 1909.

The two teams, and the two coaches, are a study in contrasts. Eastern is a quick, skilled, attacking side that will jump on top of you if you show any weakness, especially when it comes to penalty corner execution. Several times, they have broken the 200-goal mark for a season as a team. Head coach Danyle Heilig won an NCAA championship in the 1990s with James Madison University.

Oak Knoll is also a quick and skilled side, but with an emphasis on defense. They have been particularly excellent at penalty corner defense under head coach Ali Good. Good is one of the few high school coaches with multiple victories over Eastern during the Danyle Heilig Era:

EASTERN vs. OAK KNOLL
(Eastern leads series 6-3-1)
2007: Oak Knoll 3, Eastern 2 (OT)
2010: Oak Knoll 4, Eastern 2
2013: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 0
2014: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 2
2015: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 1
2016: Eastern 6, Oak Knoll 2
2017: Eastern 2, Oak Knoll 2 (tie)
2017: Oak Knoll 2, Eastern 1 (OT)
2018: Eastern 5, Oak Knoll 3
2018: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 1

So, if this game is not called a “rivalry game,” then, what is it?

We may find our answer in one of world sport’s biggest rivalries, the “superclassico” between Celtic and Rangers, two soccer teams that call Glascow, Scotland home.

A newspaper commented back in 1888 that these two teams, representing different neighborhoods, religions, and ways of life from each other, were “like old, firm friends.” The term “Old Firm” has stuck.

I think that Eastern and Oak Knoll, for all of their conflict over the course of 10 games over the last 12 seasons, have found a kinship with each other — coaches, players, parents.

I’m calling this game “The Garden State Firm.”

The next edition is tomorrow, and it should be a dandy. Again.

Sept. 12, 2019 — Baby steps

The opening of the 2019 season sees new field hockey programs taking root in their communities.

In the case of Verona (N.J.), it’s replanting the roots after an absence of 40 years.

For South Easton Southeastern Regional Vo-Tech (Mass.), it’s about starting a field hockey program for the very first time. This Boston Globe article (paywalled) offers perspective on how the team is starting to bring the team members together as a unit.

But the new team that people should be looking out for is Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Area. The combination of the school populations of GAR Memorial, James Coughlin, and Elmer Meyers has led to a strong player pool for head coach Colleen Wood, who has state championship experience.

A couple of days ago, the Wolfpack got their first win. And I think it will be the first of many.

Sept. 11, 2019 — Time and perspective

I haven’t done much in the way of personal reflection in this space the last few Sept. 11ths. You’ll notice the last entries for today have ranged from bulletins to decrying Larry Nasser, rather than focusing on 9-11.

For me, it’s just another day.

Which is what you can’t say for the families of some 4,000 souls lost 18 years ago today, as well as the hundreds of first responders and construction workers who have since died as a result of either PTSD, or having worked at the World Trade Center excavation site.

Sometime around 10:30, at a lectern at the site of the 9-11 Memorial in New York City, they’ll read the name “Edward R. Hennessy, Jr.”

He was a college classmate.

When he died, he left a wife and two children. I had a chance to meet them a few years ago at our 25th Reunion. Rachel, his daughter, spoke eloquently to our memorial gathering in the chapel.

Today’s anniversary is a bit more poignant than most because it has been 18 years. That means there aren’t any high-school students who have lived (much less remembered) a time before the 9-11 attacks.

Today, I think about the sweeping ramifications on foreign and domestic policy, as well as the entry procedures for most government buildings and aircraft. But you should rethink some of our nation’s actions in the aftermath of the disaster, starting a nearly 20-year involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq which seemingly is a war without end.

There’s a movie coming out soon called “Official Secrets” which calls into question the entire rationale for the 2003 Iraq invasion, which is universally labeled as being under false pretenses.

The toppling of the Hussein administration led to the creation of the merciless Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terror group as well as an enormous refugee wave that even a prosperous and united Europe is seemingly having trouble handling.

In other words, contrary to a certain banner tied to an overhang on a military ship during a photo opportunity in 2003, the mission is certainly not accomplished.

Which is why we should remember this day.

Sept. 10, 2019 — Top 10 for the week of Sept. 8

Time was, we’d try to work on our Top 10s after the middle of September because there were some teams which didn’t get started until well after Labor Day. That time is past; wonder if it’s because of the NFHS common calendar?

In any case, we’ll be doing this weekly until late November, mostly on a back-of-the-envelope basis, with the occasional guess. We’ve been doing this for a decade and a half and it’s been a pretty good feature of this site thus far.

Our RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Team of the Week is the Kent State football team, which is the reason why the Temple-Maine field hockey game never reached its conclusion last Saturday.

1. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2-0
Vikings enter an absolute minefield of a schedule this week, starting with a Saturday showdown against Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)

2. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 2-0
The Royals have two clean sheets in two games this season, and have a pair of good matches before the Saturday home game with Eastern

3. Oley (Pa.) Valley 3-0
Lynx have a showdown Saturday with Pennsburg Upper Perkiomen (Pa.)

4. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 1-0
Opened season with 7-0 win over Norfolk (Va.) Academy, but the season was interrupted by Hurricane Dorian last week

5. Emmaus (Pa.) 4-0
Hornets won their first four games handily with a margin of 45-0

6. Gloucester (Va.) 4-0
The Dukes have been playing some supremely good hockey to start off the season and meet up with Menchville (Va.) today

7. Delmar (Del.) 1-0
The Wildcats won their delayed seasson opener 6-0 against Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.) and will have a tough Kent Island (Md.) side later this week

8. Somerset-Berkley (Mass.) 2-0
Next game for the Raiders is Friday against Mattaposett Old Rochester Regional (Mass.)

9. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 3-0-1
Falcons were held to a goalless draw by Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.), but have bounced back to dominate two opponents in the Keystone Cup

10. Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.) 5-0
As one paper put it, “No Paityn Wirth? No problem.” Team has a number of freshmen coming in who helped the team win its fifth straight Perry County Tournament

11. Kent State football 1-1
The Flashes’ reward for beating Kennesaw State in overtime (presumably, several hours after a noontime fireworks display) is a Week 3 clash with Auburn

And bear in mind: San Diego Canyon Crest Academy (Calif.) 3-0, Westport Staples (Conn.) 0-0, Louisville DuPont Manual (Ky.) 6-1-2, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 3-0, Hershey (Pa.) 1-1, Palmyra (Pa.) 2-1, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 1-1

Sept. 9, 2019 — Destiny in India

A random draw was held today at FIH headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to determine the pairings for the seven two-legged ties which will be played to fill out the Olympic Games tournament next year in Tokyo.

The United States, having finished ninth and last in the FIH Pro League, found itself in a draw pool in which the team would have to play China, Ireland, India, or Spain. Oddly enough, only one of those teams, China, was part of the Pro League; the rest played in Hockey Series competition in order to qualify for this segment of the competition.

As a result of this morning’s blind draw, the States will be playing in early November at India — interestingly enough, during NCAA conference tournament season.

The States have to like their chances against the Eves of India, despite having to play on the road. The States have gotten good results over the last 20 years, chiefly a win in a three-game series in 2002 to win the final slot at the FIH World Cup. But India has pulled the gap significantly, as evidenced by a close Test series at Spooky Nook just before Rio.

India, like the United States, qualified for the Rio Olympics. But while the States were knocked out in the quarterfinals, the Eves didn’t qualify. Both teams were drawn into the same group in the 2018 World Cup, but with the States needing three points in order to make the knockout states, India held the States to a 1-1 draw.

India got to this point by winning the Hockey Series Final in Hiroshima, beating the hosts (who had already qualified for the Olympics through being host and being Asian Games champion) 3-1 in the final. Gurjit Kaur had 11 of India’s 27 goals in the Hockey Series, and the team will also be led by defender Deep Grace Ekka and captain Rani Rampal.

One wildcard in the India side could be 21-year-old sensation Preeti Dubey, who was the captain of the India-A side that took part in the Australian Hockey League two years ago, and was part of the 60-woman selection squad for a 2019 camp, but is not in the current roster pool.

Sept. 8, 2019 — The Final Third

Good morning! Please jump on over to our Facebook Live presence this afternoon about 12:50 p.m. for whiparound coverage of national collegiate field hockey that we like to call The Final Third.

We’ll be looking in on Virginia vs. Ohio State, Rutgers vs. St. Joseph’s, Harvard vs. Connecticut, and Stonehill vs. East Stroudsburg. In addition, we’ll have bonus coverage of the Top 5 matchup between Maryland and Duke.

Come join us, give us a like and share, and we’ll bring you the action. And it won’t be cancelled because of a fireworks display.