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March 7, 2019 — A retirement in New England, hardly noticed except for her players

A few blocks north of Brown University sits Providence Moses Brown (R.I.), the eighth-oldest college preparatory school in the United States.

Moses Brown has also had a heck of a run in the last few years when it comes to field hockey. This past year, the Quakers finished 15-2, including a win over public-school power Walpole (Mass.), and finished a win short of a seventh state championship under head coach Leslie Caito-Jones.

Caito-Jones, nominated the last two seasons for this sites United States Coach of the Year award, has announced her retirement.

“I can never say never because it’s not how I am, but I don’t plan to go anywhere else,” Caito-Jones tells The Providence Journal. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else in Rhode Island to coach high school field hockey.”

Caito-Jones will be spending at least the next three years watching her daughter Kennedy playing field hockey for Moses Brown, not coaching her.

“It’s time for me to allow my daughter to have her time at Moses Brown and for it to be about her and not about her being the daughter of the coach,” Caito-Jones tells the Journal. ”I’m just so happy and grateful I spent a year with her.”

March 6, 2019 — Sidney Verba, 1932-2019

There are three books which have, more than any others, informed my worldview on public administration and civics.

One of these is The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. It was co-written by Sidney Verba, who died earlier this week. He and co-author Gabriel Almond oversaw about a thousand interviews with citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Mexico, in an attempt to ascertain what affects the political compact between the citizen and the government.

In this tome, and in later scholarship, he hit upon the concept of participation and “the citizen’s voice” as the driving force behind government and public administration.

In the last 20 years, with the proliferation of the Internet and social media as information sources, Verba’s thesis has been put to the test, especially with large money sources being poured into influencing elections on Facebook and YouTube. But with social media and crowdfunding creating a bumper crop of new faces in the U.S. House of Representatives (in comparison to the very white and very male Senate), the central question framing Vebra’s work remains as prescient as it was 55 years ago: “Whose voice is being heard by the government?”

Makes you wonder.

March 5, 2019 — A waystation, or a retirement?

Ever since the “new look” U.S. women’s national field hockey team was announced a month before the start of training for FIH Pro League play, there has been one surname missing from the team pool.

That name is “Vittese,” shared by three sisters who have played for the United States.

Carissa (25 caps) had been on spot duty for the U.S. women’s national team, while Tara (14 caps) had been expected for many years to become an impact player on the world stage.

But the memorable figure over the last eight years is Michelle Vittese, whose international career began in 2011 with an enormous performance at the Pan American Games, where she and teammate Katelyn Falgowski denied Argentina space to attack the goal, holding an attack featuring eight-time FIH World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar off the scoresheet. Meanwhile, Vittese’s goal in the final two minutes of play capped off a 4-2 upset of the then-World Cup champions.

Vittese often came up with big goals in big games, such as what she did at the 2015 Pan American Games, scoring twice in beating Argentina for the second time running and winning outright Olympic qualification in Toronto.

She also was part of the U.S. side that won the country’s first major trophy in the USFHA’s 94-year history upon winning the 2014 Champions’ Challenge.

Michelle Vittese today was named as an assistant coach at Temple University, and she is joining sister Carissa within the organization of the team.

It’s a sign that Michelle Vittese, despite her skills, ability to raising her level of play, and the knack for coming through in the clutch, is likely done with international hockey.

Which is a shame; she is one of the best overall players the nation has yet produced, and is a certain Hall of Famer when she becomes eligible.

March 4, 2019 — Predictable overreaction ahead?

Today, in a social media post, Alex Danson, the 33-year-old captain of the Team GB women’s field hockey side that won the gold medal at Rio, detailed her ordeal from post-concussion syndrome.

“Six months ago whilst on holiday, I hit the back of my head,” she posted. “I knew straight away something wasn’t right, but as a typical athlete, I waved it away and tried to pretend I was OK. Six weeks later I was rushed into hospital with a suspected bleed, being violently sick and having seizures.”

There are two perspectives that need to be given here. One is that there have been a rash of head injuries that have befallen veteran members of the national team pool that will feed into the Home Nations’ unified side for Tokyo 2020. Aside from the gifted forward Danson, teammates Nicola White and Shona McCallin also suffered head injuries that kept them out of last year’s World Cup as well as Champions’ Trophy play.

Second, Danson’s holiday accident was the second known concussion that she has suffered in less than a year, having taken a shoulder from an Argentine player to the head during the preliminary rounds of the last Champions’ Trophy. It’s not known exactly how many more blows to the head she has taken in the last few years, either for club of country.

But, as more and more protective equipment is being used by players in penalty corner situations, and with certain raised balls not being whistled down for danger, there is a spectre looming over the sport: a helmet mandate.

There is hardly a day that goes by that a story about the global field hockey market for helmets is trumpeted for the near future, even though there is not a nation on earth that mandates them.

Yet.

 

March 3, 2019 — The former fortress

Over the last couple of seasons, Stony Brook University was a very chic pick as a “team to watch” because of the Ohlmiller sisters and the prowess of Courtney Murphy, one of the sport’s all-time leading scorers.

Throughout, Lavalle Stadium on the Stony Brook campus was a tough place to play. Located on the north shore of Long Island, the field was exposed to cutting winds from the bay. Depending on water temperature, these winds could also cause their own weather patterns.

Today, the balloon of home invincibility popped as Stanford zoomed to a 5-1 lead on 20 minutes, then came back from a 9-7 deficit in the final 20 minutes to win 15-12.

Here’s the enormity of Stanford’s win: the last team to beat Stony Brook at Lavalle Stadium was Yale back on March 8, 2016, nearly three years to the day.

For a Stony Brook team which was an overtime goal away from making the Final Four a year ago, this is a hard lesson and indication that this team has some growing to do.

March 2, 2019 — Leads, and points, lost

The U.S. women’s national field hockey team has, in the first halves of each of its three FIH Pro League matches, have played better on the road than at home.

Following on from the opener at Argentina when the States took a 2-0 lead by halftime, the U.S. this morning held a 1-0 lead on the road against Australia.

Alas, the Americans yielded two fourth-quarter goals and let the Hockeyroos take all three points with a 2-1 score line. The Americans have no wins in three FIHPL games, but have a critical road point at Argentina, which could be valuable with the States’ home Pro League schedule in the spring and summer.

The contest did show that the Americans have more than just one young attacking weapon, as Danielle Grega, late of Old Dominion, had her second goal in only her fifth international appearance.

But long-term, this game may yet be known as the coming-out party for Syracuse graduate Jess Jecko. She is a goalkeeper who, when in form, is a difficult opponent to solve because of her anticipation and toughness.

Jecko was named Player of the Match by the FIH, and I think if she is able to find the same kind of form that got her to consecutive NCAA title matches, she can help the States steal a road point or two during Pro League play.

March 1, 2019 — When “tough love” isn’t enough

Hall-of-Fame women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer has not had the easiest of transitions when the Rutgers University program moved to the Big Ten in 2014. Since then, the Scarlet Knights have failed to finish higher than fifth in league play, and have won exactly five NCAA Tournament games in the last 10 years.

In fact, about the only notable accomplishment the team has since losing the 2007 NCAA title match is winning the 2014 WNIT championship, a single-elimination “best of the rest” tournament for teams not making the NCAA Tournament. It remains, oddly enough, the only collegiate championship she’s ever won as a head coach.

Stringer has been dealing with a team which is 20-8 on the season, and is currently third in the Big Ten. However, there has been an underlying indiscipline within the team, as Caitlin Jenkins was dismissed from the team three days ago following a domestic violence arrest, and guard CC Cryor was dismissed for a second violation of an undisclosed team rule.

If you’ve ever seen the documentary “This Is A Game, Ladies,” you can understand why she recently declared that she would be taking a leave of absence due to exhaustion, leaving assistant coach Tim Eatman in charge of the team through the Big Ten Tournament.

Stringer is a woman who does not suffer fools gladly, even the women she recruits onto her team. She adheres to the old values of hard work, discipline and defense, often applying the “us against the world” attitude that has served her well over a career going back to 1972.

But there comes a point when the elastic snaps. Stringer has had a health scare in the past, having fought breast cancer, and has raised a special-needs daughter. And then, comes the revelations of exhaustion the last week or so.

As much as Stringer’s “tough love” has worked in the past when it comes to players not following the rules, I’m sure there was an internal conflict whilst dismissing Jenkins and Cryor. Stringer does have a deep and abiding love for the women who play for her, and dismissals like these aren’t taken lightly.

Still, you wonder whether Stringer’s chase of the elusive white whale of a national title is taking a toll on her. It’s not getting any easier being a college basketball coach, especially given the excesses within the men’s game the last 50 years.