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Nov. 27, 2021 — The blowouts of Bhubaneswar

The second day of the FIH Junior Men’s World Cup saw five fixtures.

And the closest game of the day was six goals:

France 7:1 Poland
Argentina 14:0 Egypt
Spain 17:0 USA
India 13:1 Canada
Netherlands 12:5 Korea

The Junior World Cups have been riven with uncertainty, even since the start of qualification. On the men’s side, Poland, Canada, and the United States had failed to qualify for the competition through their continental competitions.

The reason these three sides are in the Junior World Cup is that England, New Zealand, and Australia had to pull their junior national teams because of strict COVID-19 rules.

Now, I get the storyline that teams which may have failed to qualify for a world tournament will try to make the most of a second chance if a team or two drops out.

But the crucible of competition is, regrettably, the reality of the situation.

BULLETIN: Nov. 26, 2021 — Women’s Junior World Cup put on hold because of new Coronavirus variant

While the FIH Men’s Junior World Cup has been taking place in India, a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, has been spreading in South Africa, where the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup is supposed to start in early December.

As a result of the new variant, which is reported to have more than 50 mutations, FIH has postponed the start of the Women’s Junior World Cup, which was supposed to have been contested at the North-West University of Potchefstroom. No information on an alternate site was immediately announced.

While we don’t know exactly how many people in the immediate area surrounding Potchefstroom have come down with the virus, we do know that the variant has spread to Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, and Belgium.

The women’s competition has already had to adapt, with Australia, New Zealand, and China having pulled out of the tournament, and Korea, Ireland, and Argentina being added as wild cards.

Yep, Argentina, a team which had to put together an all-star team of club players when their senior team was kept out of the Pan Am tournament because of contact tracing.

The United States team, having been hastily rushed together after the end of the U.S. college season, now has some extra time to gel as a team. The current roster includes nine players who just competed in the NCAA Division I Final Four, including Maryland’s Hope Rose, Liberty’s Reagan Underwood, and Northwestern’s Maddie Zimmer and Lauren Wadas.

Nov. 26, 2021 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Nov. 21

Last year was a field hockey year like no other, with games being played from August clear through to May.

This year, the Score-O attitude continued, with at least 13 players breaching the 50-goal barrier, led by a pair of players from New Jersey. Ryleigh Heck, the senior from Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) scored 125 goals this season, including a hat trick in the Tournament of Champions final against Summit Oak Knoll.

In addition, Natali Foster of Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.) became only the second player in National Federation history to score 50 goals and assist on 50 others in the same season.

In addition, we have seen a lot of team achievements, not the least of which is Delmar (Del.), which ran its winning streak to 96 matches, which is within shouting distance of the current record of 124 by Watertown (Mass.).

In the red type below is our usual weekly panoply of American scholastic field hockey statistics, culled from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media.

We would like to get as many coaches and other field hockey people to register for the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your conference, league, or your state governing body to enter field hockey information there, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible. 

SEASON GOALS
125 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
113 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
71 Alana McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
65 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
64 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
56 Finley Payne, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
56 Rylie Wollerton, Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa)
55 Ava Zerfass, Emmaus (Pa.)
53 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
53 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
52 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
52 Cait Lutz, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
50 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)
48 Brenna Bough, Whitney Point (N.Y.)
46 Lauren Masters, Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.)
46 Ella Barbacci, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
45 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)

SEASON ASSISTS
52 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
51 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
43 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
39 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
38 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
38 Emma Winther, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
35 Macey Vice, Lawrence (N.J.)
32 Alexis Kociban, Emmaus (Pa.)
32 Hope Haynes, Houston Kincaid (Tex.)
32 Sammie Goin, Ashburn Independence (Va.)

CAREER GOALS
323 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
244 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
173 Alaina McVeigh, Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
140 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
139 Rylie Wollerton, Chesapeake Western Branch (Va.) and Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa)
134 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
129 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
129 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)
126 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
123 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
117 Victoria Griffiths, Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.)
117 Cait Lutz, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
109 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
105 Julia Bressler, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
103 Brynn Crouse, Dillsburg Northern York (Pa.)
102 Lauren Masters, Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.)
92 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
86 Megan Normile, Plumstead New Egypt (N.J.)

CAREER ASSISTS
126 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
106 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
93 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
91 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
85 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
83 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
82 Gianna Puorro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
78 Hope Haynes, Houston Kincaid (Tex.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
96 Delmar (Del.)
42 Emmaus (Pa.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
96 Delmar (Del.)
42 Emmaus (Pa.)

So, here is where you come in. If you see something that needs correction, feel free to send an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the needed changes.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll have our Final Statwatch next month.

Nov. 25, 2021 — Giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.

We’ve spotlighted student-athletes in this space who have great reason to give thanks this holiday season. One is Molly Katzman, a field hockey player from Ladue Horton Watkins (Mo.), who was born with a rare genetic defect.

You can read and view a story on the senior from KSDK-TV in St. Louis by clicking here.

Nov. 23, 2021 — Top 10 for the week of Nov. 21

What a weekend! After 14 weeks of action starting in Kentucky, the field hockey season had some tremendous games in the weekend leading up to the final three scholastic games in Boston last Sunday.

What is below is our last “back of the envelope” Top 10s of the 2021 season. It is the template for our well-researched Top 50, which will be published in December. The Top 10 are not guaranteed to be in this order for that list.

The RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Teams of the Week are the college club teams from Northeastern University and James Madison. Northeastern won the National Field Hockey League Fall Championship, while James Madison won the NFHL Challenge Cup over the weekend at the National Training Center in Virginia Beach.

1. Delmar (Del.) 19-0
Season complete:
Won DIAA Division 2 championship with a comprehensive 8-0 win over Newark (Del.) Charter

2. Emmaus (Pa.) 28-0
Season complete:
Hornets won PIAA Class AAA Tournament with 1-0 win over Hummelstown Lower Dauphin

3. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 19-0
Season complete: 
Falcons won VHSL Class 5 title with a 1-0 win over Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)

4. Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 21-1
Season complete: Churchwomen won the PAISAA final against Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) on an Ashley Sessa golazo in the final minute

5. Northport (N.Y.) 21-0
Season complete: 
Tigers beat Clifton Park Shenendehowa (N.Y.) 1-0 in NYSPHSAA final

6. Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) 16-1
Season complete: 
Hill had an amazing season, one which saw the team drop the PAISAA final to Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.)

7. Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 21-2
Season complete: 
Blue Knights became the first PIAA team to win a fourth consecutive state championship with a 6-0 win over Oley (Pa.) Valley in the Class A title match

8. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 25-2
Season complete: Vikings won the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions with a 4-3 win over Summit Oak Knoll. Senior Ryleigh Heck capped off an amazing week with with a last-second goal in the title game. lifting her individual goals total to 125 for the season

9. Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.) 27-2
Season complete: Won PIAA Class AA final with a 3-2 win over Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.); senior Natali Foster is one of only two players to have more than 50 goals and 50 assists in the same season

10. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 22-4
Season complete: Royals are the best four-loss team in America; gave Eastern a titanic fight before a last-second goal settled the latest installment of The Garden State Firm

11. Northeastern University Club 13-0; James Madison Club 7-3-2
Season complete: Huskies never gave up more than one goal in any game this season; James Madison fought its way from third place in pool play to win the Challenge Cup

Who’s out: Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.) 3-2 loss to Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.); Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 1-0 loss to Emmaus (Pa.)

And bear in mind: Encinitas Torrey Pines (Calif.) 24-3, Los Gatos (Calif.) 16-1, Huntington Beach (Calif.) 14-2, Aurora Regis Jesuit (Colo.) 16-0-1, New Canaan (Conn,) 20-0, Guilford (Conn.) 19-1, North Branford (Conn.) 16-2-2, Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) 17-2, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) 21-6-1, Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 24-3, Severn Archbishop Spalding (Md.) 15-1, Severna Park (Md.) 17-2, Gambrills Arundel (Md.) 11-8, Glenelg (Md.) 16-1; Watertown (Mass.) 23-0, Andover (Mass.) 21-0-1, Westwood (Mass.) 18-1-2, Andover Phillips Academy (Mass.) 18-0-1, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 20-2-2, Ann Arbor Skyline (Mich.) 16-2-1, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 23-3, Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.) 22-2, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) 25-2, Whitney Point (N.Y.) 18-0, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (N.Y.) 16-2, Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio) 19-0-1, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 23-1-1, Lower Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.) 20-3-1, East Greenwich (R.I.) 16-1-1, Houston Kincaid School (Texas) 17-1, Yorktown Tabb (Va.) 22-0, Arlington Yorktown (Va.) 21-1, Chesapeake Great Bridge (Va.) 19-3, Norfolk (Va.) Academy 21-2, University School of Milwaukee (Wisc.) 14-0-1

Nov. 22, 2021 — Turning a trope on its head

The trophy ceremony at the end of a championship match is sometimes hard to watch. It’s not because of the climactic trophy lift, but because first, there is a ceremony for the runners-up.

I’ve seen many a teary, red-faced athlete step away from that ceremony extremely unhappy. Sometimes, players who are given silver medals take them off right away, as if finishing second was a shameful act.

Sure, the “second place is the first loser” ethic in our society has overtaken a lot of sporting endeavors. But nobody told that to the field hockey team at Newark (Del.) Charter.

Charter lost the Division 2 final to Delmar by a score of 8-0. Yet, when the captains received the second-place trophy from DIAA officials, the captains jumped and ran with the trophy with their teammates, and jumped up and down in celebration as if they had won the game.

Charter left the Dover field just happy to have had a 15-3 season which included 11 clean sheets. They weren’t sad because of the result, but happy to have had the experience as a team.

Kudos and a hearty “Well played!” to the Patriots and head coach Stacey Spiker. I think more runner-up teams should have this kind of positive attitude.

BULLETIN: Nov. 19, 2021 — The single-season goal-scoring record has fallen in a most dramatic way

Ryleigh Heck is one of only three field hockey players in National Federation history to surpass the 100 goal barrier for a season and 300 in a career.

The senior for Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) also had to balance her prolific scoring ability with team goals, especially as the Vikings, a team with the stuff to continue its string of 23 sectional titles and 22 state championships, met up with a pair of titanic opponents in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

Just two days ago, Heck blasted in a bombazo from 15 yards in the final second of the third quarter, part of a four-goal effort to beat North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) in the T of C semifinals.

This evening, at Kean University, Heck saw her Vikings fall 3-0 behind in the opening 20 minutes, then hoisted them back with a brace in the first half to come within 3-2. After teammate Olivia White found net in a shorthanded situation with five minutes to go, it was up to Heck to make her mark on the game, the season, and on an extraordinary career.

In the final 30 seconds of regulation, Eastern earned a penalty corner. The play, run from the Brooklyn side of the cage, was a hi-lo to the inserter, who passed to an open Heck at the stroke mark, at which point the air horn sounded to signify the end of the quarter. But corner criteria was not over; Heck dribbled with three Oak Knoll tacklers coming in from behind, then slipped the ball into the goal cage from about seven yards to not only give Eastern a 4-3 win and the Tournament of Champions trophy, it also gave Heck her 125th goal of the season, breaking Mackenzie Allessie’s single-season mark.

And, given the fact that Allessie’s final goal back in 2018 also ended a game and won a tournament, I think the current Penn State student-athlete might approve.

The goal also gave her one of the best goals-per-game average in National Federation history, with 4.62.

STRIKE RATE
5.43 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2020
5.00 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) 2020
4.91 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.) 2021
4.62 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2021
4.27 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 2018
3.92 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.) 2020
3.55 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2013
3.51 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2014
3.39 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2019
3.37 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 2017
3.36 Maryanna Watson, Gloucester (N.J.) 1961
3.28 Tracey Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 1983
3.21 Maryanna Watson, Gloucester (N.J.) 1962
3.12 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2019
3.00 Michelle Vizzuso, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 1994
3.00 Megan Rodgers, San Diego Serra (Calif.), 2016
3.00 Carol Middough, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.Y.) 2016
3.00 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.) 2019

Nov. 19, 2021 — Friday Statwatch for games through Nov. 17

Today is one of the greatest days in field hockey: the semifinals of the NCAA Division I and II tournaments are played today, capped off by what is likely to be the last final of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions. And on one of the greatest days in hockey, we’re recognizing some of the greats in Friday Statwatch.

Our statistical occurrence of the week is in the small town of Elverson, Pa. (pop. 1,225). The town has a pretty good field hockey team called Twin Valley, which is on the brink of a PIAA championship tomorrow. On this year’s team, we have not one, but two players who have joined a remarkable group of players that we like to call the 30-30 Club. Both Natali Foster and Emma Winther have recorded more than 30 goals and 30 assists this year.

Foster, a senior who is matriculating to Drexel University next fall, has an additional designation. With her assist on last Tuesday’s overtime goal against Center Valley Southern Lehigh (Pa.), she joins Haley Schleicher in the highly exclusive 50-50 club.

Opposing Twin Valley tomorrow is Gwynedd-Mercy Academy, located in the small village of Gwynedd Valley (pop. 1,122). The Monarchs have a senior forward named Alaina McVeigh, who has 69 goals on the season. Now, while this space seems to have been about the exploits of Ryleigh Heck and Talia Schenck this year, we cannot forget McVeigh, who is one of those well-skilled W.C. Eagles players who has had to match skills with Heck and last year’s goals leader Hope Rose in practice. The Class AA game tomorrow should be fun to watch.

In the red type below is our usual weekly panoply of American scholastic field hockey statistics, culled from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media.

We would like to get as many coaches and other field hockey people to register for the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your conference, league, or your state governing body to enter field hockey information there, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible. 

SEASON GOALS
122 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
113 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
69 Alana McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
65 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
62 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
56 Finley Payne, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
56 Rylie Wollerton, Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa)
53 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
53 Ava Zerfass, Emmaus (Pa.)
52 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
52 Cait Lutz, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
50 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)
49 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
48 Brenna Bough, Whitney Point (N.Y.)
46 Lauren Masters, Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.)
45 Ella Barbacci, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
45 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)

SEASON ASSISTS
52 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
50 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
40 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
39 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
38 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
37 Emma Winther, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
35 Macey Vice, Lawrence (N.J.)
32 Alexis Kociban, Emmaus (Pa.)
32 Hope Haynes, Houston Kincaid (Tex.)
32 Sammie Goin, Ashburn Independence (Va.)

CAREER GOALS
320 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
244 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
171 Alaina McVeigh, Gwynedd Valley Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
139 Rylie Wollerton, Chesapeake Western Branch (Va.) and Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa)
138 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
134 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
129 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary’s Academy (N.J.)
129 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)
125 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
119 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)
117 Victoria Griffiths, Woolwich Kingsway (N.J.)
117 Cait Lutz, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
109 Caitlin Nicholls, Haddonfield Haddon Heights (N.J.)
105 Julia Bressler, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
103 Brynn Crouse, Dillsburg Northern York (Pa.)
102 Lauren Masters, Clinton North Hunterdon (N.J.)
90 Josie Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
86 Megan Normile, Plumstead New Egypt (N.J.)

CAREER ASSISTS
125 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
106 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
91 Dylan Breier, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
90 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
85 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
83 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
82 Gianna Puorro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
78 Hope Haynes, Houston Kincaid (Tex.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
95 Delmar (Del.)
41 Emmaus (Pa.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
95 Delmar (Del.)
41 Emmaus (Pa.)

While we’ve spent time on this listing, I’m pretty sure there is a flaw or two. If you see something missing or out of place, feel free to send an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the needed changes.

Thanks for coming to this segment and we’ll talk again the day after Thanksgiving.

Nov. 18, 2021 — Inside the NCAA Final Four

HARVARD vs. NORTHWESTERN

The obvious: A matchup of two good field hockey teams, two good coaching staffs, and a lot of very smart players.

The not-so-obvious: Field hockey has been on the Harvard campus, in some form, for 120 years. Constance Applebee demonstrated the sport while doing her teaching studies at Radcliffe College. Her first demonstration of the sport was in the courtyard of the first iteration of Hemenway Gymnasium, which stood where the current Littauer Center for government and public administration sits. Harvard was also one of the first schools to announce a shutdown of classes last March because of the pandemic, and the Ivy League did not play a single field hockey game during the 2020-21 academic year.

Key players: Harvard: Hannah Pearce, sr., d; Mimi Tarrant, sr., f/m; Avery Donahue, so., f; Megan Joel, fr., m; Mazarine Broze, so., f; Northwestern: Maddie Zimmer, so., f; Lauren Wadas, so., f; Bente Baekers, jr. f; Clara Roth, gr., f; Maren Seidel, sr., f.m; Maddie Bacskai, gr., d

Harvard wins this game if: they score the first goal. The Crimson have an extremely stingy defense, one that allows a mere 0.44 goals per game.

Northwestern wins this game if: the game goes goalless into the final quarter. Players like Wadas and Zimmer are proven players who come through in the clutch.

The skinny: Much will be made of the fact that Harvard has 11 foreign players on its roster. But Northwestern also has a half-dozen offshore players, and doubtless one or more will have an impact on the outcome of the match.

The unanswered questions: How will the Americans on both sides of the center stripe fare? Will the attacks be generating corners or will the teams try to go for goal shots from open play? Which defense will hold, especially in the first 15 minutes?


MARYLAND vs. LIBERTY

The obvious: This is a chalk-and-cheese matchup between a Maryland program which has won eight national championships, against a Liberty side is in its first Final Four,

The not-so-obvious: Liberty has been building up to this very moment for years, especially after a one-goal loss to North Carolina in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Key players: Maryland: Bibi Donradt, sr., m; Hope Rose, fr., f; Emma Deberdine, jr., m; Rayne Wright, so, m; Margot Lawn, jr., f; Liberty: Daniella Rhodes, sr., f; Jill Bolton, sr., f; Bethany Dykema, jr., d; Azul Iritxity Irigoyen, so., g

Maryland wins this game if: the Terrapins are able to get their sophisticated midfield passing game going. If Donradt scores on the first corner of the game, it could be a long afternoon for Liberty.

Liberty wins this game if: they take control the first 10 minutes of the game. The Flames lead Division I in scoring, and have the ability to stamp their authority on the game.

The skinny: Liberty has the longest current win streak in NCAA Division I. The team is also unbeaten against Top 25 teams in its last eight outings.

The unanswered questions: It has been a long time since a Division I team with zero previous wins in national tournament play has made it this far. Can the Flames keep their belief going over the next two games? Has Maryland made it all the way back from last spring’s inability to make the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament? With all of the offensive talent on offer, which Terp will step up?

Nov. 17, 2021 — A first-in-the-nation postseason feature ends this week, it seems

In the most recent meeting of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the first reading of a bill to eliminate the postseason Tournament of Champions was done and entered into the records.

The Tournament of Champions is a separate postseason competition which takes the state titleholders from each current group, and pits them together in one competition for an ultimate winner, kind of like a trophy dash at your local short track.

The reasons for the cessation of the Tournament of Champions, for me, do not rate for reasons of rational thought.

One reason, which is actually on the record, is to prevent those teams in the Tournament of Champions from feeling bad for losing in the course of its playing.

Said NJSIAA chief operating officer Tony Maselli.,“Spreading the positives of a group state championship is where we should go.”

In other words, the only reason to not have these single eliminations contests is to feel good.

Another reason cited by the NJSIAA is the shortening of sports seasons. Under new proposals, scholastic sports teams in New Jersey are limited to just 24 regular-season games, and the calendar shoves the end of the winter season to early March rather than the tail end of March.

These two reasons, as well as a number of other checks on out-of-state competition and some draconian rules from 20 years ago making transfers sit out large chunks of the athletic calendar in every sport they play, are meant to curb excesses in one sport: basketball.

Now, I understand that New Jersey doesn’t want to allow what has happened in Nevada with Finlay Prep or in Ohio with Bishop Sycamore — to have sports-agent types, shoe companies, or hangers-on creating sports entities outside of the normal realm of scholastic sports.

The problem is, it’s already happening. Remember how the Development Academy, that U.S. Soccer program that had adherents in many states, siphoning off talent from the schools, and playing 11 months out of the year, collapsed a year ago? There are still privately-run academy leagues such as the Elite Club National League and the MLS Academy League.

And in the case of field hockey, you’re seeing aggressive moves on the part of some clubs to assemble top coaching talent and put their clubs into palatial facilities that can operate year-round.

A number of people I know believe that there will be a nationwide club league for field hockey within five to 10 years.

Question is, does the phalanx of rulesmakers realize that over-regulation of youth sports could be the precipitating action in all this?