TopOfTheCircle.com

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Nov. 15, 2018 — The perfect storm

Last night, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), the No. 3 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, won its semifinal game in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions. By the same token, so did Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), the No. 1 team in the Top 10.

With No. 2 Emmaus (Pa.) having fallen 5-3 to Hershey (Pa.) on Tuesday evening, this sets up a dream matchup Friday evening at a patch of artificial grass a scant nine miles west of Lower Manhattan. Tomorrow at Kean University, the Tournament of Champions concludes.

Though these two sides have met nine times with high stakes, this game does not fit the definition of a “rivalry,” since these teams are not guaranteed to meet each other in league play. And even though the No. 1 slot in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10 is at stake, this game does not fit the definition of a “National High School Championship,” since the term is trademarked by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

But given the remarkable circumstances surrounding the games these two sides have played over the last 11 years, it is appropriate that this game, the latest chapter in the saga of Who Runs Field Hockey in New Jersey (and, sometimes, nationally), is the climax. Here’s the rundown of the scores:

EASTERN vs. OAK KNOLL
(Eastern leads series 5-3-1)
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

We saw these two sides only about seven weeks ago on a warm evening at McAleer Stadium. And each member of the fanbase will look at tomorrow’s match through that lens. Viking fans will remember the first 56 minutes of the contest, in which Eastern rolled up a 5-1 lead. But Royals’ supporters will remember the last three minutes, in which Oak Knoll scored a pair of quick goals and forcing an Eastern timeout.

It should be an awesome denouement to the season.

Who you got?

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Nov. 14, 2018 — Theodore Roosevelt, a field hockey prognosticator?

In the last three days, two of the longest state championship winning streaks of all time were snapped at nine. Sunday, it was Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) falling in the NYSPHSAA Class B final, and last evening, it was Watertown (Mass.) falling to Dennis-Yarmouth (Mass.) in the MIAA Division 2 semifinals.

Since this site began, we have documented six programs which have broken the old mark for consecutive state titles, which was Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) with seven titles between 1988 and 1995.

Field hockey is a sport in which goals are rare, where ball control is not as cut-and-dried as in football, basketball, or lacrosse, and where one bounce or umpire’s decision can change the outcome. As such, winning even one state championship is a tremendous achievement.

That’s what makes, I believe, coaches such as Danyle Heilig, Sharon Sarsen, Eileen Donahue, Amy Wood, Paula Doughty, the late Sue Pusey, and Nancy Fowlkes so incredibly special. They were able to sustain championship efforts for more than a half-decade each.

Heilig, of course, finished her 20th consecutive championship season at Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) last Saturday. That’s a mark which few other teams in any sport have ever reached, though the longest streak remains current: the girls’ swim team at Carmel (Ind.), which won its 32nd straight title last February.

You may wonder what the secret is to these coaches’ success is. I think a lot of it is that these coaches have mastered how to handle a team in the midst of a tournament run. Some coaches shorten practice. Others will plan out activities that will allow a team to get the optimum amounts of water and carbohydrates in the hours before the contest.

But it’s amazing what the young people on these teams will do when it comes to personal focus and determination.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt once said “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”

And for communities as large as San Diego (1.4 million) or as small as Newport, Pa. (1,585) winning in the postseason is the risk worth taking as this week comes to a close.

Best of luck, everyone.

Nov. 13, 2018 — Top 10 for the week of Nov. 11

From the sectional championships in California, to league championships in New England, to the Tournament of Champions in New Jersey, this is the week that wraps up the domestic field hockey season. As such, this Top 10 is the prelude to this week’s action, which will determine the final composition of the best teams in the country.

As such, we sometimes see teams coming up into view with their play late in the season. Two of them are at the bottom of the Top 10 this week, Moorestown (N.J.) and Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.). Both of these sides have been on a tear in recent weeks, and are definite threat to walk away with hardware later this week.

Our RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Team of the Week is Millburn (N.J.). The team is from a town from about 20,000 in north-central New Jersey which is more famous for The Mall at Short Hills, but the field hockey team won its first sectional championship in 36 years. The team fell to Washington Warren Hills (N.J.) in the Group 3 semifinals in double overtime.

1. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 25-0
Eastern, the NJSIAA Group IV champions, will play North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions tomorrow

2. Emmaus (Pa.) 26-0
After a 2-1 defeat of Buckingham Central Bucks East (Pa.), the Hornets take on a very dangerous Hershey (Pa.) side in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals

3. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 23-1
The Royals won the NJSIAA Non-Public championship on Saturday, and will play a very hot Moorestown (N.J.) team tomorrow

4. Delmar (Del.) 16-0
Wildcats will play Lake Forest (Del.) in the semifinal round of the DIAA Division II championship tomorrow; the team has conceded exactly one goal all season

5. Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 25-1
Season complete: Valkyries defeated Louisville Kentucky Country Day (Ky.) 1-0 in the KHSAA final

6. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 24-1
Indians will take on Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.) today in the PIAA Class AA semifinals

7. Gahanna Columbus Academy (Ohio) 19-0
Season complete: The Vikings beat a Hudson (Ohio) team which had played an overtime game the day before against Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio)

8. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 11-2-2
Churchwomen take on top-seeded Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.) in the PAISAA final this afternoon at Bryn Mawr College

9. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 21-1-1
The Falcons have been playing extremely well of late, taking down Penn Manor in the District finals and shutting out their last five opponents

10.  Moorestown (N.J.) 22-1-1
Might the Quakers be the one team to derail Eastern? The Group III champs play tomorrow in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions semifinal

11. Millburn (N.J.) 13-7-2
Millers were able to compete this year even with neighborhood rivals such as North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)

Who’s out: Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 1-0 loss to Garden City (N.Y.); San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 2-1 OT loss to San Diego Serra (Calif.)

And bear in mind: San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.) 22-2, Los Gatos (Calif.) 21-0, North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) 19-0, Aurora Regis Jesuit (Colo.) 15-2-1, Westport Staples (Conn.) 20-1, Lakeville Hotchkiss School (Conn.) 11-1-2, Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 15-1, Louisville Kentucky Country Day (Ky.) 22-5-2, Biddeford (Maine) 17-0-1, Somerset-Berkeley (Mass.) 21-1, Watertown (Mass.) 20-0-1, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.) 21-6, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 22-5-1,  Charlotte (N.C.) Latin 14-3, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 21-2-1, Hershey (Pa.) 17-4-1, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) 18-2-1, Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.) 15-4-1, Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.) 21-1, Barrington (R.I.) 12-2-1, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 19-1, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 18-3, Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.) 23-0

Nov. 12, 2018 — Is it time to rethink back-to-back?

Several U.S. states, such as New York, Virginia, and Ohio schedule their state semifinal and championship field hockey games on back-to-back days.

Heck, at one time, the Virginia High School League tournament was the toughest of all field hockey state tournaments because the games were scheduled on three consecutive days.

Two weeks ago, as an example, Gahanna Columbus Academy (Ohio) won the OHSAA state championship over Hudson (Ohio), after the latter had to play an extra 20 minutes of overtime the day before before winning a penalty shootout against Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio.).

But that example wasn’t even close to what I saw in the VHSL finals on Saturday, where I saw the effects of back-to-back games up close. And I’m not so sure this kind of match scheduling is a benefit to the student-athletes who participate in them.

Glen Allen Deep Run (Va.) took 77 minutes, rather than the usual 60, to defeat Stafford Mountain View (Va.) in the Class 5A semifinal match last Friday. The team had less than 24 hours to rest for the championship game against Gloucester (Va.), wherupon the Wildcats had to play 80 minutes. In total, that’s 157 minutes — nearly 2 1/2 full games — in a shade over 26 hours.

By the same token, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) was taken to overtime in the Class 6A semifinals against Fairfax (Va.) on Friday, and double-overtime in the final against Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) Saturday.

Now, it’s not as though the extra time wound up being a competitive disadvantage; Cox won the 6A title; Deep Run lost its final in 5A.

And it’s not as though the highly-skilled and well-trained field hockey players of today are in any way weak or infirm.

But given the competitiveness of the game in this era, any small advantage in rest is multiplied in the postseason. I think it’s why the NCAA went away from back-to-back games in Division I a couple of decades ago, and now have a Friday/Sunday schedule for regional and national finals.

Maybe it’s time to do the same at the scholastic level.

BULLETIN: Nov. 11, 2018 — One of the longest unbeaten streaks has come to an end

In the New York Class B state final played today at Williamsville (N.Y.) North, Garden City (N.Y.) upended Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) by a 1-0 score in a game featuring two of the state’s finest all-time coaches, Diane Chapman and Sharon Sarsen.

The loss by Lakeland, the No. 2 team in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, not only ends its hunt for a 10th consecutive state championship, but it also halts the Hornets’ unbeaten streak at 137 matches. It now stands as the fourth-longest unbeaten string of all time, trailing only Watertown (Mass.) and two streaks by Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), a team which won its 20th straight state title yesterday.

Nov. 11, 2018 — The Final Third, quarterfinal edition

Please join us on Facebook Live this afternoon for The Final Third, our live wraparound coverage of the NCAA Division I field hockey quarterfinals, beginning around 1 p.m. Eastern time. We’ll have context, perspective, and a few things you may not know about these four very different matchups.

Nov. 10, 2018 — Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 1, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 0, 2 OT

POSTGAME Thank you for joining us today on this remarkable journey: four one-goal games and unforgettable heroes and stories for generations to come. Good day and good hockey

PREGAME In the final analysis, the difference was Sarah Levine. She made the necessary plays on the offensive and defensive ends the field and will join many of the greats of Cox field hockey such as Leah Crouse, Taylor Rhea, Kaitlyn Hiltz, and Kim Miller

86:24 FWC GOAL Like a bolt of lightning, a diagonal pass From Zoe Campisi hits Kylie Levine at the left post and she scores! What a game! Cox wins 1-0 and obtains its 20th state title!

84:44 Timeout for an injury

82:30 FWC PC Wally corner fizzes out

81:10 FWC PC Re-rack for a foot

80:10 FWC PC Re-rack for a push

76:45 FC PC Bonniwell is defensed

76:10 FC PC Option left yields A rebound; we will rerack

75:00 The second OT starts with Cox down a player

END 1ST OT A chippy overtime ends with the sides still goalless

74:40 Yellow card, Cox; the umpires are giving out cards like speeding tickets at the Indy 500

72:09 FC PC Evelyn Murray cannot beat the flyer; what a development that would have been!

69:30 FWC PC Shot is cleared

69:24 Yellow card, FC, meaning Cox is now playing 6-on-4 in the field

69:15 FWC PC Receiver is chopped down at the top of the circle

68:38 Yellow card, FC

67:20 FC PC Heroic save off the line by Kylie Levine

66:59 FC PC Two shots generated; Taylor Schoolar says no

63:39 Cox is buzzing in the circle; a cross almost finds an open Sarah Spear

60:00 Cox bombs forward off the center hit and forces a critical save!

FULL TIME How crucial might that late yellow card be? Cox will start overtime with a player advantage

FULL TIME The horn sounds with the score 0-0

59:52 Yellow card, FC

54:15 FWC PC The Wally corner goes to Bonniwell, and her shot slides inches wide

52:00 After wrong-footing the goalie,Cox is able to get a shot to the cage that just misses

50:51 Yellow card, FC

49:45 FC PC Hi-lo does not connect

45:58 Yellow card, Cox

44:15 A player down, Cox is able to uncork a chance that goes inches wide!

43:38 Green card, Cox

40:00 Twenty minutes to go for the state final; what will produce the winning effort here?

32:18 Green card, FC for the barge

30:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME The hockey was quick and artful, but did not produce a telling goal. What will the team talks yield in the second half?

HALFTIME The horn sounds with the sides goalless

25:00 Very free-flowing game thus far, but no goals to show for it

23:30 FWC PC Samantha Zwyna’s backhander is saved

21:40 FWC PC Patriots sniff out the three-way passing play

15:55 FWC PC Brooklyn insert, low shot into the pads; rebound steered wide!

14:26 Did the ball hit the tire on the outside of the cage instead of the post? If so, I’m not so sure the carom would have found Burnett where she was standing

14:26 FC PC A rebound off the post of a Bonniwell shot is put in by Allie Burnett, but it is waved off

7:26 Green card, FC for a hard stick obstruction

2:30 FC PC Reagan Bonniwell’s backhander is saved

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME First Colonial are in the yellow uniforms with light blue numbers and black sleeves; Cox is in the white tos with green numbers and kilts

PREGAME The teams are warming up under clear skies and some breezes, temperature around 42 degrees

PREGAME Cox is the standard by which all other teams in the Commonwealth are measured, with athleticism, precision, defense, and speed. The school has 19 state championships, amongst the most of all time. The thing is, the Falcons were throttled to within an inch of their lives yesterday by a determined Fairfax team. Can Cox come back after all that to compete against their neighborhood rival, located just two miles away?

PREGAME First Colonial are the relative newcomers to championship hockey in Virginia Beach. The team has three titles to its credit and have made the state final eight years in a row. A lot of it is because of the determination and will from head coach Laura “Beanie” Schleicher, who has continued getting her teams to play a championship level of hockey even after the graduation of her daughter Haley, who had an unprecedented career, recording 200 goals and 201 assists

PREGAME Cox is 19-1 on the season, FC is 19-2. The teams have split two games against each other this season; as has been the case for much of the 2010s, they are the immovable object vs. the irresistible force, and form, I think the best field hockey rivalry in the United States

PREGAME Welcome back to South County, where the 6A championship game is about to begin between the First Colonial Patriots and the Cox Falcons