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Archive for Field hockey

April 11, 2021 — One of the longest win streaks in scholastic field hockey comes to an end

The field hockey team at North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) had gone undefeated in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 season, a total of 58 games.

The first two matches of the season, the Wolverines continued their form, beating LaVerne Bonita (Calif.) and West Hills Chaminade (Calif.). But with a 2-0 loss to Huntington Beach (Calif.) on Thursday night, the team’s winning and unbeaten streaks ended at 60.

Let’s put this into perspective; the Harvard-Westlake win streak is the 20th longest that we have ever seen for a scholastic team, tied with the 60 games that Concord (N.H.) had between 1986 and 1989.

The win streak translates into a tie for 29th for all-time unbeaten streaks. Three schools — Harvard-Westlake, Concord, and Garden City (N.Y.) — all were unbeaten in 60 games.

Here’s a little more perspective: that Garden City team, playing from 1998-2000, also had a 32-game shutout streak, an amazing achievement.

Now, there are some of you out there that may consider central California an inferior competitive area compared to other regions and/or leagues. But Harvard-Westlake has not been averse to finding better competition over the years, traveling to St. Louis to play in the Gateway Classic on a number of occasions.

But the way I see it, a streak is a streak. And a hearty “Well-played!” from this corner.

April 10, 2021 — Who will join UNC in that ACC AQ game?

This afternoon, the eyes of the women’s sports world is likely to be on ACC women’s lacrosse, as two Top 10 matchups — UNC-Notre Dame and Syracuse-Virginia — are taking place.

But in field hockey, there are two enormous games in the ACC this afternoon which are likely to determine the identity of the team which will be playing the Carolina field hockey stickwomen in the one-game playoff to determine the automatic qualifier for the conference for the NCAA Division I Tournament.

Carolina, the ACC Tournament champions from last fall, will play the ACC team which has the best conference record in spring play.

Through games of yesterday, there is a logjam of teams looking to quality for that AQ match. As you can see, no team has been mathematically eliminated from the qualifier match, although one of the teams may be de facto eliminated already (more on that later):

TeamRecordGB
x-North Carolina3-0
Wake Forest3-11/2
Louisville2-21 1/2
Syracuse1-11 1/2
Boston College1-22
Duke1-22
Virginia1-32 1/2
x-Clinched berth in ACC AQ game

The two games, both at 1 p.m. today, feature Syracuse at Boston College and Louisville at Duke.

The Syracuse-BC match, I think, is going to be particularly intense. Both of these teams have had numerous matches postponed or cancelled because of COVID-19 protocols, and both have to feel as though a loss in this game will eliminate them entirely from contention for the AQ game.

You might say the same for Louisville-Duke, given the fact that these two sides are a half-game apart in the spring standings. Louisville was the team which is the only team that has been able to beat North Carolina during the 2020-2021 campaign, and even with their performance in the fall, that may not mean much to the NCAA Tournament Committee when they start assembling a bracket in a few weeks.

Now, even though Wake Forest is 6-9 overall, the Demon Deacons have been playing splendid and inspired hockey this spring, and now hold the No. 2 ranking in the ACC for spring play. However, Wake only has one more chance to improve on the record unless its April 2 game against Syracuse is rescheduled.

The rescheduling of that game could also give life to Virginia. You see, the best the Wahoos can do in spring conference play is 3-3. If Wake loses its last scheduled game and loses a rescheduled game with Syracuse, the Deacs will be 3-3 as well.

You get the idea: there is the possibility of a tie in the standings which could involve multiple teams. Let’s see how this all sorts out in the nation’s most prominent field hockey conference.

April 7, 2021 — Yet another facet of game play affected by COVID-19

The field hockey community has been stricken hard by the Coronavirus pandemic.

We’ve seen thus far:

  • States like New Jersey and New York truncating state tournaments to play down to sectional champions
  • States like Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Maryland having parts of their states playing either in the fall or in the spring
  • The ACC playing a fall and a spring season, with a winner-take-all game on April 23rd for the conference’s automatic qualifier bid
  • The NCAA cutting down the Division I bracket to a mere 12 teams, with only two at-large bids
  • The NCAA cancelling Division II and III tournaments altogether
  • The continued postponement of the U.S. women’s national team’s participation in the FIH Pro League, with no end yet in sight
  • California having to wait two months to start its season because of slow advice from the California Department of Health
  • Massachusetts playing under two different sets of rules in the fall and the spring, chiefly dealing with penalty corners
  • Massachusetts further playing under a completely different set of rules from everyone else, mandating 7-on-7 for the entire game

But wait, there’s more.

The Virginia High School League postseason is already under way with teams in 14 brackets playing down to four championships all scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 24th at home sites.

Now, the Class 4A, 5A, and 6A brackets all will have something that the 3A brackets will not have: a “tipping point” game which sees both regional semifinal winners advancing to the state semifinals, whether or not they win the regional crown. These regional semifinals are often some of the tensest and most competitive games of the entire season because the stakes are so high.

But in each of the 4A, 5A, and 6A brackets, only the winner advances; there is no eight-team state tournament in the VHSL this spring.

The bracket to watch amongst the 14 sub-tournaments is definitely the Class 5A Region A bracket. The bracket is seeded solely by district, meaning that long-time rivals Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) and Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) are going to meet April 12th at the National Training Center — in the octofinal round. These, remember, are the two teams which met for the Class 6A final in 2018 in what this site awarded as the No. 2 Game of the Year.

Looming on the other side of the bracket is a Gloucester team which has not played nearly the caliber of opponents that Cox and FC have, but is of no lesser quality. The Dukes have, as far as we can tell, shut out every opponent this season, so the April 14th semifinal match against the winner of Chesapeake Hickory (Va.) and Chesapeake Deep Creek (Va.) will be an interesting indicator, seeing as Gloucester will have had two weeks off between its last regular-season game and the 5A Region A semifinal.

Stay tuned. There are going to be some fireworks in Virginia over the next few weeks.

April 6, 2021 — Top 10 field hockey teams for games played through April 4

I hope you all didn’t blink last month, or you would have missed a lot of the Fall 2 regular season games, especially in California and Virginia. Though you had some good hockey last fall, there are some teams out there this spring who are finding an absurdly rich seam of form, and are handling up some good opponents.

Our RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Team of the Month is Coker University, which won the South Atlantic Conference Carolinas championship last weekend with a 2-1 win over Queens University of Charlotte. Coker is a small Division II college that plays out of Hartsville, S.C., and plies its trade in the South Atlantic Conference Carolinas, the alliance of two conferences that currently represent the sum total of all Division II field hockey this spring, seeing as the Northeast-10 and the PSAC didn’t play this academic year.

1. Delmar (Del.) 15-0
Season complete: Wildcats beat Bear Caravel Academy (Del.) 4-1 to win their fifth consecutive state championship. The stateliners yielded exactly two goals during the season whilst crafting a number of artful goals on the attack end

2. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 14-0
Season complete: Vikings got by Medford Lakes Shawnee (N.Y.) 9-0 to win NJSIAA Southwest D sectional championship

3. Emmaus (Pa.) 11-0
Season complete: Solid team effort gave the Hornets a 4-0 state championship win against Harrisburg Central Dauphin in the PIAA AAA final

4. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 14-0-1
Season complete: Beat Summit Kent Place (N.J.) 3-0 in NJSIAA Central-East E sectional final

5. Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 17-0
Season complete: Beat Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.) 3-0 to win PIAA Class A final

6. Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) 0-0
Season complete:
 Sacred Heart has finished its playdays and did not have a timed, scored, and umpired game during the open week of competition in November

7. St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 14-0
Season complete: 
Won Midwest Field Hockey Association championship with a 1-0 overtime win over St. Louis John Burroughs (Mo.) on a backhand golazo by Taryn Tkachuk

8. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 8-0
Falcons have been dominant; outscored their last three opponents by a combined 36-0; first VHSL playoff match is next Monday against rival Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) in a game which almost certainly should be the Class 5A grand final like it was in 2019

9. San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.) 11-0
Season complete:
The Falcons’ month-long season (no CIF postseason) included signature wins over Serra and Scripps ranch, and the team survived a player who moved away as well as another who is playing lacrosse in the spring

10. Cohasset (Mass.) 13-0
Season complete: Dominated all comers in the South Shore League; it’s an open question how they would have done in the MIAA state tournament bracket

11. Coker University 6-2
Season complete: Cobras didn’t have it easy this season; the last seven games of their season were one-goal games

And bear in mind:  San Diego Serra (Calif.) 9-1, Glastonbury (Conn.) 14-0, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.) 2-0, Longmeadow (Mass.) 6-0, Walpole (Mass.) 8-0-1, Franklin (Mass.) 11-0-2, Andover (Mass.) 6-0, Dexter (Mich.) 16-0-1, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 12-0-1, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 13-1, Charlotte Providence Day School (N.C.) 12-0, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) 7-1, Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio) 18-3, Palmyra (Pa.) 15-2, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) 16-2, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 6-0, East Greenwich (R.I.) 9-0, Vienna James Madison (Va.) 10-0, Gloucester (Va.) 6-0

April 1, 2021 — Another new TV contract could connect field hockey and lacrosse

National and international television broadcasts for prominent games in both field hockey and lacrosse have been scattered across numerous streaming sites, web presences, and cable sports entities over the years.

But TopOfTheCircle.com has learned that a new player could be coming onto the scene after the expiration of some of the major contracts. That player is Nickelodeon, which saw boffo ratings for an NFL Wild Card game shown on the network in January.

Sources say that the acting talent on the network, including Gabrielle Greene, could be paired with prominent field hockey and lacrosse talent in the entertainment scene.

A list of enhancements and coverage elements has been drafted, including the following:

  • Penalty corners in field hockey and free positions in women’s lacrosse will have an insert of SpongeBob in the goal at the inception of the play.
  • Umpire penalty cards will have a “slime” element to them. A player getting a green card will also receive a virtual shot of green slime. Yellow and red cards will also have the requisite color of slime attached to the penalty.
  • Goal cages will have Hawkeye goal-decision technology built in so that the goalposts flash when the entire ball crosses over the goal line. The Hawkeye system can detect a flying object traveling at more than 150 miles an hour, as it has been tested in the world of tennis and soccer.
  • When a goal is scored, the goalposts not only will flash, but virtual cannons at the corners of the pitch will pump out confetti which will not have to be swept off the playing surface.

None of the game enhancements, except for the goal-decision technology, will be visible to live viewers, a feature which has caught the attention of some world governing body decision-makers.

“Having a broadcast partner with such a wealth of experience in reaching youths would be an absolute winner,” said FIH broadcast chair Avril Folle. “I mean, in hockey especially, we’ve been relying on the referral system, but can a camera see through a goalie pad to see if the ball crossed the line?”

“I thought we’d go for a while without technology interfering with the game,” said World Lacrosse electronic media coordinator Nalaka Araw. “But the NCAA game a few years ago between Florida and Penn State, involving the ball hitting the crossbar and dropping nearly straight down, was a harbinger of things to come. This year, if you notice, there have been some phantom goals scored when the ball hits the upper part of the netting and drops down. Though we have three umpires out there, it’s hard to be absolutely sure of the goal.”

Owing to complications with contract negotiations, the earliest we may hear something definitive is April 1, 2022.

March 30, 2021 — It’s been a minute

This afternoon, it was announced that the NCAA Division I field hockey championship final is going to be broadcast on national cable TV for the first time since the mid-1990s. The tournament is scheduled for the spring, with semifinals on the streaming service ESPN+, and the championship game, direct from Karen Shelton Stadium, will be on ESPNU.

For the last few years, the Division I title game has been streamed on the NCAA website and produced by Turner Sports for several years. Before then, the game was not broadcast nationally and you had to actually go to the game in order to see it.

The agreement between the NCAA and ESPN goes until 2023, and it seems to be a collision of three trends. One is the trend of media networks to move content to streaming services with names such as Discovery Plus, Peacock, Hulu, and HBO Max. The other trend is the safety trend during the global pandemic, where streaming sports are being used to not only provide content to the home viewer, but to promote the sport to a wider audience.

But to me, the third trend is the “it’s about time” trend when it comes to women’s sports and major networks. The last few years has seen professional women’s ice hockey on NBCSN, the rise of several major women’s leagues including those run by Athletes Unlimited, and the addition of a women’s golf event at the Augusta National Golf Club.

These were simple things to do, to create these opportunities for women’s athletics to be seen across the American nation. To me, however, the heavy lifting, which took decades, was needless. These events could have occurred years ago had corporate and network executives simply listened.

Hopefully, the next four field hockey title games won’t be the last ones you can find on the self-styled “world-wide leader in sports.”

March 28, 2021 — Making up for a lost season

Yesterday morning, your Founder tuned in to a field hockey game in the Fall 2 season in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

This being an NFHS Network feed, there were some problems with the camera gimbal. One of the lenses was occluded so that you couldn’t make out the scoreboard very well. Two of the other lenses showing the midfield were overlapped so that a player crossing the center stripe would disappear for a half-second before reappearing.

But you didn’t have to have a perfect camera to see how skilled, quick, and dominant Somerset-Berkley (Mass.) was in its season-opener yesterday, winning 14-0 over nearby Wareham (Mass.). The goals came early and often, with the Providence-bound senior Cami Crook leading the way. A couple of her backhand goals were sublime, top-class finishes; she scored eight on the day.

It was not, however, a one-player effort. Numerous Raider attackers took advantage of the space the MIAA-mandated 7-on-7 rules package afforded them, and scored on almost every kind of chance available. Indeed, thanks to the allowance of penalty corners for the spring season (none of the MIAA games played in the fall had them) Somerset-Berkley continued to pile on the pressure.

These defending state champions have being limited to the scope of competition this season, playing only a league season and not playing down to a state champion.

As such, you can’t blame the Raiders for maximizing what it can do on the pitch.

March 26, 2021 — Social media as a creative process

Some of you may remember what I did with this site when Leroy Nieman, the sports artist, died nine years ago. For 10 days, I changed the colorway of the logo in the header of this site to honor his splashy, colorful artistic style.

Well, as many of you know from being long-time users of this site, one of my favorite artists is Andy Warhol, who would make studies of multiple images in different colors. If you’ve seen any of my “unfiltered” commentaries on our Instagram account, you’ll notice that the backdrop we use is full of different treatments of this site’s logo.

Most of these images have one thing in common: they have been created on, of all places, my phone. The Apple App Store has a number of free or low-cost photo or image applications with names like Olli, MegaPhoto, HipsterCam, and Hyperspektiv, and they can turn pictures and videos of objects, landscapes, and people into remarkable pieces of art.

When we started posting on TikTok, we knew we didn’t have the kind of content that would normally attract viewers. I’m not one for doing small stunts or lip-syncing to songs I barely know. But we do have our logo and a bunch of different still and video filters.

I’ve been having fun mixing up still and video effects for TikTok — adding a color here, an overlay there, posterizing, rasterizing, and then, at the end, adding a musical track.

I’ve also been occasionally taking video from my screen and adding it in there to point you in the direction of an issue or an event that we’ve not covered in the blog.

All this has gotten me, oddly enough, an outsized number of likes and views per day. I mean, it’s just a logo, right?

March 25, 2021 — In amongst the moving pieces, one interesting bit

Between now and early May, the worlds of domestic field hockey and lacrosse intersect as never before.

You have seven states (and maybe the District of Columbia) playing scholastic field hockey, alongside all three NCAA Divisions, although only Division I will have a national championship tournament.

Women’s lacrosse has all three divisions going apace, with national finals set for Salem, Va. in Divisions II and III, while Division I will be in Towson, Md. At the same time, girls’ high-school lacrosse has already started in many locales, although some places, chiefly in the Northeast U.S., are delaying their start until April, with Massachusetts scheduling the end of its season in July.

Now, when it comes to field hockey and women’s lacrosse, there used to be a lot of overlap between the two sports — players, coaches, and even uniforms. Until about 1990, you could line up team photos of the field hockey and girls’/women’s lacrosse team at the same school, college, or university and see the same players, same coaches, the same kilts or pinafores. The only differences would be shinguards for field hockey and the sticks used by the teams.

Of course, this is to be expected, as both games are of the stick-and-ball variety which involve a five-ounce ball — albeit one is rubber and one is plastic. Tactics and training are relatively similar, with each coach and player having to mind some archaic rules which were drawn up some 100 years ago.

Today, however, it is rare to see crossover in the two athletic pursuits. Coaches and players are demanding — and getting — specialized uniforms for each sport. No longer do you see the field hockey coach of the lacrosse team serving as assistant to the field hockey team. And the crossover between teams is much less than it used to be. For all of the success that, for example, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) had in both sports in 2019, there was little to no crossover between the two sides, despite the fact that the upper-school population is just north of 325 students.

But one figure has had her foot in both coaching boxes for the last three and a half decades. Sharon Pfluger, the Hall of Fame coach of The College of New Jersey, has experienced 71 Opening Days, and has had more than 1,100 wins in both field hockey and women’s lacrosse.

Only this spring, she’s only coaching one of them. The College of New Jersey is not playing field hockey this fall, and only five members of the New Jersey Athletic Conference are playing during an abbreviated spring season, which is not culminating in a national championship in Division III.

On the other hand, the Division III powers-that-be are planning on holding a women’s lacrosse national championship event this spring in Salem, Va., alongside their Division II sisters. As such, you can’t blame TCNJ for going full-bore to play women’s lacrosse this spring, as a national championship awaits.

March 21, 2021 — Southern Strategy, v2.0

A quarter of a century ago, in early 1996, the United States women’s field hockey team was in full-time training mode in the greater Atlanta area in preparation for the Atlanta Olympics.

A number of field hockey people, who had relocated to the Atlanta area, were intent on bringing the gospel of field hockey to school districts in and around the city. Despite their best efforts, Georgia still does not have varsity field hockey to this day. And not only has no Georgia college has yet picked up the sport, the two universities hosting field hockey at the Atlanta Olympics have fallen on hard times.

Fast forward to this month, and some developments in the field hockey world which seem to indicate that the future direction of American field hockey is once again heading towards the Sunbelt.

In minutes from the March board meeting of USA Field Hockey, it was revealed that the women’s national team is planning to move its training from Pennsylvania to Charlotte, N.C. The site would be Queens University, a Division II school which has an on-campus water-based pitch named Bessant Field.

The pitch is named for Catherine Bessant, a director of USA Field Hockey. The site is, according to USA Field Hockey board minutes, to be contracted for use by the national team between mid-2021 and mid-2023. We don’t know whether or not this pitch will also be the home ground for the United States for Pro League matches, or whether the team will still play its upcoming fixtures at Shelton Field at the University of North Carolina, located 140 miles northeast of Charlotte.

While all this is going on, a ready partnership could be showing itself in suburban Charlotte. Two towns over sits the town of Kannapolis, N.C., which is better known as the hometown of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. The city also was the home of a towel and pillow factory, which shut down in the decade of the 2000s.

But city fathers and the state of North Carolina have embarked on a $1 billion construction project on the old mill site called the North Carolina Research Campus. The campus has attracted a number of research bodies, including those involved with life sciences. One of the tenants, Appalachian State University, has located a human performance lab in one of the buildings.

Following on is a private business called the United States Performance Center, which is located in Charlotte. The USPC, bolstered by the grandson of a United States Olympic Committee member, used to be located in Illinois before moving to the Sunbelt. It is planning a new lab on the Kannapolis site, which should be open by mid-2023, according to a news release.

But beyond that, the United States Performance Center has, according to its website, plans for a campus of between 40 and 70 acres in size. The proposed facility would include not only a lab, but athletic fields suitable for tournaments. Depending on how the site is laid out, this kind of acreage would be, I think, a prime location for a future National Hockey Festival.

And given the fact that the National Festival was scheduled to take place in the Carolinas in 2020, a future move to Kannapolis would not be out of character.

Question is, will this help the development of the sport in the deep South? That’s a question that only future initiatives can answer.