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Sept. 13, 2018 — PREVIEW: No. 2 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) vs. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)

First in a series previewing some titanic matchups this weekend:

Where and when: McAleer Stadium, Voorhees, N.J., 12 noon Saturday

Records (as of the start of play Sept 13): Oak Knoll 4-0, Eastern 4-0.

Key early wins: Oak Knoll: defeated Rumson-Fair Haven 6-0; Eastern: defeated Madison Boro 9-0

Key players: Oak Knoll: Bridget Murphy (jr., f), Annabelle Brodeur (jr., m), Emily Antunes (jr., d), Keely Comizio (so., d). Eastern: Kara Heck (jr., f), Amanda Middleman (jr., f), Madison Guyer (sr., d), Sydney Woolston (sr., d), Kyleigh Heck (fr., f)

The skinny: Weather permitting, this will be the fourth year in a row that the two teams have crossed swords in the regular season. This is, I think, one of the few pairings of field hockey teams not in the same division or conference that can be truly called a “rivalry.” The teams have met nine times since 2007 with Eastern holding a 6-2-1 lead in the series.

The teams have met each other for the Tournament of Champions on five occasions, including last year’s thrilling overtime win for the Royals on the Kean University turf.

But the first meeting, the Tournament of Champions semifinal in 2007, was a particularly momentous loss for the Vikings. At the time, Eastern had not lost to an in-state team in 208 matches. But the skilled Oak Knoll forward Michelle Cesan changed all that with her overtime goal, and showed that the Eastern machine wasn’t completely invincible.

The two teams could not be more different: Oak Knoll is a small private school in the northern half of New Jersey, Eastern is a large public school in the southern half of the state. Eastern is known for its offense, particularly on penalty corners. Oak Knoll is known for its defense, particularly on penalty corners.

What they do have, however, are tremendous coaches. Ali Good and Danyle Heilig are as good as it gets when it comes to motivation, training, coaching up, and tactics.

Should be another classic on Saturday.

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Sept. 12, 2018 — A repeat of history?

It was 15 years ago when Hurricane Isabel tore through the mid-Atlantic region, scattering some houses and boats like toys, bringing torrential rains, and knocking out power to some people for weeks.

Now, a new storm, Florence, appears set to do much the same, spreading from its landfall somewhere between Wilmington, N.C. and Charleston, S.C. It’s expected that heavy rain is going to fall in the Carolinas, up through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey before it’s all done.

We’ve noted that at least one collegiate game, at Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C., has been affected by the storm. But with a raft of very contentious games on tap this weekend in an area which could see some rain and wind, it could make for some interesting doings.

But I think what the field hockey community does best is respond to natural disasters. The efforts of field hockey programs and sponsors to help replace equipment lost in fires and floodwaters, or to help people rebuild houses and neighborhoods from Long Branch, N.J. to Houston, Tex., have been detailed in this pages in the past.

Aiding others is a proud history of the American field hockey community, dating back to when Constance Applebee and the United States Field Hockey Association donated an ambulance to the U.S. military during the Second World War.

It’s a noble history, one which is sure to continue. I encourage you all to help where you can.

Sept. 11, 2018 — The Nasser scandal and the field hockey community

NOTE: If you are a minor, you may want to have a parent or guardian reading this with you due to the content of this post.


One of the earliest lawsuits (December 2016) targeting former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University team doctor Larry Nasser included a varsity field hockey player referred to as “Jane C. Doe.” Doe, according to the lawsuit, was on the Spartans’ team from 1998 to 2001.

But according to a lawsuit filed yesterday, a second field hockey player by the name of Erika Davis has alleged that Nasser abused her while under care for a field hockey injury in the early 1990s, far earlier than most of his alleged crimes involving the American gymnastics team.

Amongst the allegations was that Nasser not only molested her, but raped and impregnated her, and took video of the encounters.

But more damning, in the context of the Michigan State cover-up, was the allegation that field hockey coach Martha Ludwig brought this evidence to George Perles, who was not only the school’s athletic director, but the MSU football coach.

Shortly after that, Davis lost her field hockey scholarship, the suit alleges.

Now, let’s take a look at this situation in macro. The incident of Davis reporting Nasser occurred in the middle of 1992, far before Nasser became a team doctor for USA Gymnastics, and far, before Nasser even received his Ph.D. degree.

In other words, if Perles and Michigan State authorities had taken Davis’ allegations seriously, none of the other 333 victims of Nasser would have been molested. None of this would have ever happened.

I hope those who were in authority at Michigan State at the time can sleep well, knowing their parts in these crimes.

Sept. 10, 2018 — Behavior, gender, and officiating

Last Saturday’s U.S. Open tennis final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka has been overshadowed by commentary after the event about the way Serena Williams was treated by the chair umpire after she was caught receiving advice from her coach in the stands, a no-no in International Tennis Federation professional singles events.

Much of the discussion has been about whether a double-standard exists between men and women on the pro tennis circuit when it comes to how penalties are meted out.

In truth, there has been a difference, and it was so stated in a 1982 New York Times article referencing Jerry Diamond, executive vice-president of the Women’s Tennis Association:

Diamond said that the women had always had stricter penalties and enforcement than the men. ”The women players are younger than the men, too,” he said. ”They are more accustomed to accepting a reprimand.”

I’ve been fortunate, in my 30 years of field hockey and women’s lacrosse, to not see more players sent off the pitch. Most have been second yellow cards in lacrosse, which is more akin to picking up a fifth foul in a basketball game.

But I think there’s going to be a bit of a kerfuffle in the next few years when it comes to girls’ and women’s lacrosse in the United States, especially as more men coach the game. That’s because men in lacrosse are more used to challenging the referees and sometimes challenging their integrity, which is a big no-no in the women’s game.

I’ll take you back to the 2010 NCAA women’s lacrosse final between Northwestern and Maryland. Northwestern, recall, had taken a 6-1 lead into the 13th minute of play, and Maryland was looking to get a second goal. The Terps were dispossessed, and Northwestern jetted away with numbers up in the midfield.

Suddenly, there was a whistle from one of the game umpires, and a yellow card was issued to the Northwestern bench. What could have been a 7-1 lead on that fast break became an 8-8 tie at the interval, from which Maryland pulled out a 13-11 win.

Only later on did word get out that the card was directed to Northwestern assistant coach Scott Hiller, who had played men’s lacrosse for Massachusetts and had a six-year coaching run with Boston and Washington/Chesapeake of Major League Lacrosse.

Over the course of the last few years, I have noticed that male coaches in the sports of field hockey and girls’ and women’s lacrosse have tended to receive more sanctions from umpires than their female counterparts. Note: this isn’t a scientific read on data, but just sideline observation.

But there’s also another observation I’ve made when it comes to lacrosse: there have been a lot fewer yellows given to scholastic coaches of both genders, because cards issued to coaches count towards the team total of three, beyond which a scholastic team is obligated to play short for the rest of the game. In other words, the rule which was designed to rein in rough and dangerous play has also seemingly reined in vociferous coaches.

That goal was the goal of the codes of conduct in tennis which were not well enforced in the 70s and 80s, but with the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals in 1990, the rules were more heavily enforced. The McEnroes, Vilases, and Nastases of the men’s tennis world had long since retired, and the tennis world was worried about other types of behavior, including consorting with betting interests.

That is, until last Saturday night.

Sept. 9, 2018 — Inside the halls

This week’s entry on 19 Harvard Blazers is a narrative of visiting the United States Capitol with a group of classmates.

Sept. 8, 2018 — Prelude to a fall?

In my observed conversations within the adult field hockey world over the last three decades, one of the first and most urgent questions asked is, “Do we have a goalie?”

The goalkeeper in field hockey is a position with a unique set of skills, chief of which is being courageous (or crazy) enough to face a five-ounce mound of dense plastic being hurtled towards you at speeds over 60 miles an hour.

Upon observation, there appear to be fewer and fewer takers for being a goalie on a field hockey team. On more than one occasion, I have come across accounts of scholastic teams having to ask for a volunteer goalkeeper, or even rotate players into the goalie pads every day in practice.

There have also been more than one accounts of college teams who have had to go without a goalie and play entire games with 11 outfielders because of injuries to every available goalie on a particular team.

In this story from the Bangor Daily News, this passage, written about the current situation within the University of Maine field hockey team stands out:

[Maine head coach Josette] Babineau indicated there are some former field hockey goalies attending UMaine who are not on the team.

Given the competitive nature of NCAA sports over the last few years, more and more situations like this are bound to happen, even with nearly 2,000 scholastic field hockey teams shedding several hundred goalkeepers annually as they graduate high school.

And it’s not as though you can blame the colleges. No NCAA field hockey team has a JV team ready to be able to provide an emergency goalie, and only a very few have a pay-to-play collegiate club on campus. Too, you have to clear an emergency goalie though the NCAA’s regulatory scheme.

Reading the story and reflecting on what I’ve seen over three decades of observations, one does wonder if there is a goalkeeping crisis brewing here in America.

 

Sept. 7, 2018 — A non-Statwatch note

Once Friday Statwatch gets underway in a couple of weeks, we’ll regale you with not only a collection of national field hockey statistics, but we’ll sometimes have a look at a statistical anomaly, milestone, or other accomplishment.

Yesterday, scholastic field hockey got its 34th known member of the 500 coaching wins club as Jeri Myers steered Dallastown (Pa.) to a 6-0 win over Dover (Pa.) Area. In her 37th season, Myers now has 500 wins, 53 draws, and 150 defeats.

Though Dallastown has never won a state championship, the team has gotten close, making the state semifinal in 1998. But for Myers, the game means a lot more.

“Being at a high school has been very challenging and very rewarding,” Myers tells The York Daily Record. “Hopefully I make a successful program, because later in life these kids are doctors and lawyers. They’re doing everything and that’s what this is all about.”