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Archive for Field hockey

Feb. 21, 2018 — An 18-year streak falls by the wayside

Judging by some of the field hockey competitions that are happening later this year, Canada would appear to be in fine fettle heading towards the Commonwealth games, but the United States women have a bit of work to do before its appearance at the FIH World Cup.

That’s because Canada beat the U.S. in the first of a four-match Test series in Chula Vista, Calif. by a score of 4-3. It was the Maple Leafs’ first win over the States in some 18 years.

To be fair, this is very much an experimental U.S. lineup that is being rostered for the Canada series. Sitting out are veteran goalie Jackie Briggs, central midfielders Michelle Vittese and Katelyn Ginobli, and attacker Jill Witmer, and they will presumably be part of the action in future Tests this year leading up to the World Cup.

Then again, this is a chance for other players in the U.S. talent pool to gain experience. Mary Barham, who led the U.S. effort at the indoor World Cup, is in the mix along with the Duke wunderkind Margaux Paolino. Also in the U.S. pool is Syracuse senior Laura Hurff, who is also splitting time with the school’s women’s lacrosse team as it chases an elusive national championship.

But I think the person who make the biggest difference down the line is the inclusion of Tara Vittese. One of the top goal scorers in the history of scholastic field hockey, Vittese is a physical presence and a magician with a field hockey stick, and she is being asked to show what she can do on the international level.

Given what I have seen from some of the post-Bam boom in youth field hockey, I’m interested to see what she can do.

 

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Feb. 19, 2018 — Feeding an enormous pool

This past weekend was the U-14 Division of the National Indoor Tournament, where 192 teams were entered in 32 pools at Spooky Nook.

And with an average of 10 players per indoor team, this is nearly 2,000 athletes in the U-14 Division.

That’s an eye-opening figure; I don’t remember a U-14 tournament so large on the indoor side.

Is this the product of what had been a heretofore untapped market? Or is it a groundswell of popularity for middle-school field hockey?

Makes me wonder.

 

Feb. 15, 2018 — Two out of three ain’t bad. Or is it?

This morning, I hit the TV button on the remote control, pointing it at the leftmost of the three monitors I keep attached to various devices in order to get my news and information.

There was no click in response, but there was one from the middlemost monitor, which sometimes activates when I aim the remote incorrectly.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Bad logic board.”

Since buying the monitor back about three years ago, I have changed boards once every 18 months or so. This will be the third change. Repair of digital TVs is remarkably simple; I did my brother’s TV a few years ago, and I have kept mine in working order with just a careful inventory of screws, a flick of my fingers on the connecting ribbon, and about 45 minutes of my time.

But until I get a new board (or actually take some time to figure out exactly what component keeps failing so that I might get something less faulty), I have to rely on my other monitors.

My rightmost monitor, which I attach to my laptop, can get many more video streams than it used to because news sources have figured out that getting their product out into the mainstream is better than hiding it behind a subscription wall.

The middle monitor has a Roku attached to it, which is an electronic device slightly larger than a deck of cards. It streams hundreds of video sources, everything from sports to horror movies. The Roku is where I will watch the majority of my field hockey and lacrosse during the NCAA season, so I’m not terribly worried about losing the left monitor for a few days.

So, why do I have three monitors? The same reason Lyndon Johnson had the same setup in his Oval Office: to see what was going on in the world.

Plus, these small flat-screen TVs are incredibly cheap compared to the luxury models that some people are getting for their houses. Some of them are pretty nice, but I don’t need that much screen size. I can only focus on a finite area at any one time, and I’d rather have a smaller screen so I can see everything.

Which makes it fun whenever there is an event like an Olympics, a World Cup, or your average weekend in NCAA lacrosse or field hockey. Having three games on simultaneously — in the same sport — is an experience not to be believed.

Feb. 12, 2018 — Hard lessons

The U.S. women’s indoor field hockey team had such hopes after a fantastic job in Pan American qualifications for the World Cup.

But with the team not putting up the video game-like numbers they did in Guyana last fall, the States had a win, a draw, and four defeats, losing the ninth-place game to Namibia. (I know; you all are looking at a map for the small country located in southern Africa, a nation with a population approximately the size of Houston.)

For the United States team, it was a hopeful debut on the world stage that got turned into reality with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Belarus. The States managed just a draw with Poland before rolling 8-3 over Kazakhstan on Matchday 2. But the Americans were pretty much sentenced to the consolation round with a 3-1 defeat by Switzerland.

The American team, so deft and deadly on corners in the PAHF Tournament, had just three converted by captain Ali Campbell, and only one PC went in for the States in pool play. Mary Barham led the United States with seven goals, and Corinne Zanolli had four.

Now, some of you might wonder how this scenario could have happened, especially when it comes to the final classification. It is disappointing losing to a nation the size of Houston.

But compare that scenario to men’s soccer, where the United States didn’t make this summer’s World Cup, but Iceland, a nation the size of Corpus Christi, Tex., did. At least the American stickwomen succeeded in qualifying.

BULLETIN: Feb. 6, 2018 — The Pro League schedule is more FIH than FIFA

In the world governance of field hockey, traditions die hard.

And in the assembly of the 2019 FIH Pro League, the world governing body of the sport didn’t create its own match weeks where all teams would play a mid-week fixture with half at home, and then the other half will have a home game sometime during the weekend.

Instead, it created a hodgepodge schedule which has given many teams different challenges and opportunities, especially towards the end of the competition in June 2019.

The FIH schedulers pitted the men’s and women’s teams from Belgium and Holland against each other in Belgium on June 8, followed by two reverse fixtures the next day in the Netherlands.

Indeed, the league seems to be basically built on having as many doubleheaders as possible, as there is heavy overlap amongst the 18 national teams. Among the more prominent doubleheaders will be Holland at Argentina on Feb. 24, Australia at New Zealand on April 25th (ANZAC Day in most of Oceania), and Argentina at Great Britain on May 18th.

The fixtures list shows a weird crescendo in June of 2019, when 49 of the matches are scheduled to be played in 3 1/2 weeks.

The United States’ schedule shows a particular set of problems. The first four opponents are among their toughest: Argentina, Holland, Australia, and New Zealand. Three of those four are on the road.

The States then have consecutive home matches on March 29 (Belgium) and March 31 (Olympic champion Team GB). It’s a schedule which reminds one of the current FIFA international calendar.

But after that, the USA has a four-game European swing, facing Belgium, Holland, Team GB, and Germany in the space of 20 days. This scheduling is reminiscent of the kind of long-term hockey touring that nations did during the early-to-mid 20th Century. I will be interested to see whether the States fly out for the individual games, choosing to train exclusively at Spooky Nook, or whether the Americans will set up a World Cup-esque training camp to face local European competition in between Pro League games.

The United States then has four consecutive home games in May against Australia, Argentina, China, and New Zealand. This homestand is the golden chance for the States if they are adrift in the Pro League table, as momentum (and points) can accumulate quickly.

The Applebees finish off their inaugural Pro League season in June 2019 traveling to China, then hosting Germany on June 22.

No announcement has yet been made about the nine home games — where they’ll be, ticketing, etc. But I’ll be willing to wager that the inaugural game is going to be in California, and the May homestand will be at Spooky Nook.

And I’ll go one further: if the States really need three points out of Germany on the last matchday, look for the game to be in the humidity dome of the Hampton Roads area of Eastern Virginia. I’d guess the Regional Training Center in Virginia Beach would be the obvious choice, but I think the L.R. Hill Sports Complex at Old Dominion University will be the host of the final game.

Feb. 3, 2018 — Eleanor Snell, 1933-2018

We’ve gotten word today of the death of Eleanor Snell, who died last week of cancer. She was an important link in the history of the field hockey rivalry between Ursinus and West Chester, as she served as coach for 17 seasons as the program transitioned from the AIAW into the NCAA.

In addition, Snell was an important player in the history of the U.S. women’s national team program. She broke into the team in 1959, three years removed from a disastrous International Federation of Women’s Hockey Association tournament when the U.S. dropped a pool play match to its oldest rival, England, by a 9-0 scoreline.

But with Snell and a newer generation in the lineup, the Americans made improvements. They broke England’s 42-year win streak against the States in 1962, then, as host, held England to a goalless draw at the IFWHA held at Goucher College in Towson, Md.

She left the national team and joined the Ursinus faculty in 1967, then became head coach in 1972. She led the Bears to three runner-up finishes in the national AIAW tournaments and won the 1983 ECAC title.

For her service at many levels of women’s sports, Boyd was elected to numerous halls of fame, including USA Field Hockey, Cheltenham (Pa.), Ursinus College, the National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association, and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

Jan. 31, 2018 — In a tough spot

As we prepare to transition from field hockey to lacrosse tomorrow, we need to say a word or two about the U.S. women’s national field hockey team. They just finished a winless run in a four-game series at Chula Vista, Calif. with a 2-1 loss to Holland.

Now, losing to the Netherlands is no shame; the Dutch have a much better field hockey infrastructure, a well-supported national league, and the know-how to come through in competitive situations.

It’s just that, four years after a Final Four finish at the World Cup, the States are sputtering a bit heading into the spring.

Then again, that’s what most of us were thinking when the U.S. women lost to Scotland 1-0 in the opening round of the 2012 Champions Challenge.

It’s going to take that same kind of effort in order to get back to that level of play. It’s possible.