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Jan. 12, 2019 — The case for Meredith Sholder

One in a series of posts laying out arguments for the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time.

Like Haley Schleicher, Meredith Sholder is a second-generation field hockey player. Sholder’s mother, Jane Grim, captained Harvard in the late 1980s with Sharon Landau as a teammate.

Sholder’s career at Emmaus (Pa.) started brightly, with a pair of 40-goal seasons, but the seasons didn’t end the way the Hornets wanted. Indeed, the 2014 season ended with the most lopsided postseason defeat in the team’s history, a 4-0 loss to Palmyra (Pa.).

The second half of Sholder’s career was all about taking leadership, owning results, and never losing to Palmyra again. Sholder had a monstrous junior season, scoring 64 goals and adding 41 assists.

But nothing felt as good beating Palmyra in the state final. She turned in a virtuoso performance on both ends of the pitch. First, it was on defense when she broke up three consecutive shots on a Palmyra corner a few minutes into the second half. Then, on offense, she flashed to an open space to receive Leah Zellner’s pass at the stroke mark.

Emmaus would have a perfect season in 2016, as she would eventually finish with Pennsylvania state records of 216 goals and 134 assists.

What distinguished Sholder’s play during her time at Emmaus was her quickness and her willingness to use it. Indeed, observers could predict the onset of a goal by noting the way that Sholder would attack open space.

Her ability to read space has served her well at the next level. In 2018, she led North Carolina in assists during the postseason as North Carolina won the Division I national title with a 2-0 win over Maryland in the final.

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Jan. 11, 2019 — The case for Haley Schleicher

One in a series of posts laying out arguments for the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time.

Between 2012 and 2015, Haley Schleicher, like Lexi Smith the daughter of a coach, embarked on a singular scholastic field hockey career for Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.).

What distinguished her from most of the other players one could consider for being the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time was not just her scoring, but being able to draw the pictures for her teammates to score.

Indeed, the assist she had to break Kate Barber and Chantae Miller’s record for career assists back in 2014 was a thing of beauty and brilliance. On a free-out from the 16, she struck a 50-yard pass up the left wing that found open space and teammate Riley Taylor, who scored to give First Colonial the lead in the first 30 seconds of the game.

What made First Colonial so difficult to beat was the fact that most defenses had no idea what to do in order to mark her. This difficulty showed itself in the state tournament, where she helped lead First Colonial to two state championships, in 2011 and 2015.

Schleicher took her talents to Duke, where she has become the Blue Devils’ go-to player on penalty strokes; she was perfect during the 2018 season, which had a hard-luck ending on a double-overtime goal from an impossible angle.

Jan. 10, 2019 — The case for Lexi Smith

One in a series of posts laying out arguments for the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time.

It was in October 2012 when a phone call came from the light-rail station located in the industrial park just across Route 130 from Florence (N.J.) Memorial.

“I’m here.”

The call came from Sharon Landau, who had made time to come to a field hockey game between Florence and Riverside, during which Lexi Smith was making history, scoring her 175th all-time goal, breaking Landau’s old record.

Smith, the daughter of five-time NCAA field hockey and lacrosse champion Gina Carey-Smith, was primed for greatness in the sport primarily through some of her exploits in the indoor game, dominating older age-group play as a middle-schooler. It showed her freshman season at Florence, when she set what was believed to have been a freshman scoring record, 44 goals (it’s a mark that has since been eclipsed by at least five other players).

Throughout her career, Smith showed herself to be a skilled, smart player with an outstanding shot, especially on penalty corners. Rare was the time she felt the need to score into the netting (except on penalty strokes); it was almost as thought she would rather rap the ball into the backboard to making that signature “ping.”

Of all of the players who have scored at least 150 goals, Smith’s the only one who did her work shackled by a mercy rule; the Burlington County Scholastic League did not allow teams to win games by more than seven goals. But that didn’t stop her from exceeding Landau’s mark.

After scoring 191 goals for Florence, Lexi Smith went on to The College of New Jersey, where she won a national championship in 2014, then and finished in the school’s Top 10 all-time in both goals and assists.

 

Jan. 9, 2019 — The case for Sharon Landau

One in a series of posts laying out arguments for the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time.

Sharon Landau came onto the field hockey scene as a contemporary of Tracey Fuchs, as their careers paralleled on the opposite sides of the Section 1 and Section 11 divide in New York.

On Long Island, Fuchs finished up at Centereach (N.Y.) in the fall of 1983 with 171 goals. It was the target that Landau had for her junior and senior year at Mamaroneck Rye Neck (N.Y.), located in Westchester County, just across Long Island Sound.

Landau was known for her quickness and fitness, traits that helped her to a 53-goal season in 1985, which gave her the national record of 174 goals, a mark she held for a quarter-century.

But from thence, she took the road less traveled.

She matriculated to Harvard, where she played for a team which made its first postseason appearance of the post-AIAW era in her senior season. She would make the national team in field hockey — but it was for the Maccabiah Games, the quadriennial multi-sport athletic competition for Jewish athletes.

Jan. 8, 2019 — The case for Tracey Fuchs

One in a series of posts laying out arguments for the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time.

In June 2002, a group of American field hockey players huddled at the midfield stripe at a hockey-specific stadium in Birmingham, England. There were 35 minutes to go, and the United States was down 1-0 to India in the final game of a three-Test series. As the first two matches were drawn, the winner of the game would take the 12th and final berth in the FIH World Cup later that year.

The elder stateswoman of the team spoke up.

“We’re OK,” said Tracey Fuchs. “Let’s not stray too far off of what we need to do.”

Summoning up her guile and tenacity, she scored twice in a 12-minute span and spurred the States on to a 3-1 win.

Tracey Fuchs is the player who surpassed Maryanna Watson on the all-time scoring leader list with 171 goals. Much of this was thanks to her enormous 82-goal season in the fall of 1983.

Fuchs played primarily on grass pitches during her stellar scholastic career at Centereach (N.Y.), using a wooden stick much like the SportCraft model that could be found in any sporting-goods store in the Northeast U.S.

She would be called into the senior women’s national team in time for the 1988 Olympics, played in four World Cups and two Olympics. What distinguished her from her peers was her inner drive.

“She had a different mental makeup from anyone I have ever coached,” Centereach head coach Nancy Cole once told Long Island Newsday.

And it was a makeup that got the Americans into the 2002 World Cup after a 10,000-mile journey across four continents.

Jan. 7, 2019 — The case for Maryanna Watson

First in a series of posts laying out arguments for the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time.

Before we begin this series, we do so with this caveat. For the first 50 years of American scholastic field hockey, accurate game-by-game accounts of games are extremely scarce. We don’t know, for example, how many goals Anne Townsend scored for Ardmore Lower Merion (Pa.) as a teenager before matriculating to Penn and a decade and a half as captain of Team USA.

We do know, however, of the exploits of Maryanna Watson, who was South Jersey’s first mega-scorer.

Watson starred for Gloucester (N.J.) between 1959 and 1962, scoring 144 goals. Presumably, that was the highest total in the “mulberry stick” era, where the sticks were clunky and square-toed, games were exclusively played on grass (Monsanto wouldn’t introduce artificial turf until 1966), and play was constrained by offside and a tightly-called obstruction rule.

The 144 goals were also scored in a 14-game season, meaning that she had but 56 total games in order to be able to amass her total.

As many people as have amassed that total since, I can’t help but wondering what Watson could have done with a composite stick, on rubber turf, with the specialized isometric training that is available to most players today.

Jan. 6, 2019 — A European conquest

This afternoon, the United States indoor national teams — a senior side and a U-21 side — swept the top two steps of the medals stand at the Croatia Cup, a seven-team tournament held about 10 miles northwest of the capital of Zagreb.

The States, highest-ranked of the participating nations in this tournament (twelfth), were expected to win. And they did, handily. The senior and junior sides went a combined 11-1, scoring 119 goals and conceding 31.

The results were not only indicative of how intensely the indoor national team program trains under coaches Jun and Richard Kentwell, but could very well identify the next generation of outdoor player for the senior women’s national team with the Olympics only about a year and a half away.

Chief among these has to be Stanford’s Corinne Zanolli, who led the tournament with 14 goals and won the award for the tournament’s outstanding player. But there were a number of young phenoms on display. Hope Rose, who as a sophomore had 55 goals for Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.), had an outstanding tournament. So did Madison Orobono, who trained for two entire autumns away from her scholastic team to help lead the U.S. side’s cause.

The junior national team received standout performances from Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) freshman Ryleigh Heck, Bethlehem Liberty (Pa.) senior Rayne Wright, and Mia Leonhardt of Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.). Another player to watch out for is Olivia Bent-Cole, an eighth-grader who scored many a goal for the U-21s.