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Archive for Field hockey

Dec. 10, 2019 — The State of Hockey, 2019

The current state of field hockey in America should sound familiar if you have been around the game a while: the U.S. is going into an Olympics without a ticket on both the men’s and women’s sides, there are occasional squabbles about whether boys should be allowed to play on the high-school levels, and an ACC field hockey team is the finest in all the land.

In short, the game is exactly where it was 20 years ago.

The struggles of the U.S. men, a group of ragtag players without a national league, without any varsity play in the NCAA and with only a handful of players in the developmental pipeline, are entirely predictable.

But the seeming collapse of the U.S. women’s team, just five years removed from a fourth-place finish at the FIH Women’s World Cup, is a staggering development, especially given the tens of millions of dollars spent on the sport since 2001.

A change in head coach was announced in late 2019, and I believe there are more changes ahead, given the grievances outlined in a Change.org petition which received more than 5,000 signatures in less than a month.

The failure of the U.S. women’s team came on the heels of a subpar performance in the FIH World League, winning two games and losing 16. The team also underperformed at the Pan American Games, failing to make the gold-medal match for the first time since 1991.

While the U.S. high-performance system has struggled, there have been some remarkable achievements elsewhere in domestic field hockey.

The University of North Carolina, featuring Team USA’s Erin Matson, went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in NCAA Division I. The Heels were not only the nation’s only undefeated team, no other Division I side had fewer than two defeats.

The NCAA Division II championship was won by West Chester University, while Middlebury won the Division III title. In collegiate club play, Northeastern won the National Field Hockey League, Cornell won the New York State Club Field Hockey League, and the University of California, San Diego won the Western Collegiate Field Hockey Conference.

At the scholastic level, the Score-O decade continued, with nine more players hitting the 50-goal mark for a season and five achieving status in the 30-goal and 30-assist club for a season. We also have had the unique situation of Lucas Crook, a senior at Somerset-Berkley (Mass.) not only becoming the first male player to get 100 assists in a career, but the first male to get 50 goals in a season. He also became one of less than a dozen field hockey players to get 100 goals and 100 assists for a career.

Perhaps the biggest story of the domestic field hockey season was that a national high school tournament was conceived and held with 36 championship-level teams playing 41 games over three days at The Proving Ground in Conshohocken, Pa. in late September.

Field hockey supporters got to see players and teams which were dominant in the present, but also got to see such teams as future VHSL Class 6A winner Langley (Va.), future Michigan Division I champion Dexter (Mich.), and future NEPSAC Flight A champion Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.).

Also circulating on the grounds were the field hockey teams from Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), two teams which seemingly followed each other throughout the Northeast U.S. throughout the fall.

These two rivals in The Garden State Firm had met each other Sept. 14th with Oak Knoll winning 4-1. Two weeks later, they teams were both at the National High School Invitational, playing non-common opponents. Two weeks after that, Oak Knoll came to McAleer Stadium to fill an open date on its schedule against Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) the same weekend that the Valkyries and Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) came to play Eastern.

Five weeks after, it was Oak Knoll meeting Eastern for the 2019 Tournament of Champions, as the Royals held the state’s non-public championship and Eastern had won the Group IV title (for the state’s largest schools) for the 20th consecutive season.

Though Eastern showed its intensity and skill throughout, Oak Knoll was just a bit better throughout. The Royals took two pages from the Eastern playbook. One was to score within five minutes of the beginning or end of a period. All four of Oak Knoll’s goals were scored within five minutes of halftime; two in the first half, two in the second.

The other page that Oak Knoll adopted was attacking a defense with speed and skill. The opening goal from Bridget Murphy saw her burst through a seam into a space about eight yards deep. The final goal for Oak Knoll was a bit of passing brilliance as Murphy struck a bouncing pass that Lily Ramsey crafted into the goal with an extremely deft touch. The four-goal burst was the story in a 4-1 win.

While Eastern was still able to maintain its 21-year championship streak, another significant title skein was ended. Los Gatos (Calif.) was going for its seventh consecutive CIF Central Coast Section title, but were beaten by San Jose Archbishop Mitty (Calif.), a loss which broke the team’s 128-game unbeaten string.

 

Dec. 6, 2019 — United States Coach of the Year, the nominees

The United States Coach of the Year Award is given to a head coach or co-head coaches who made a noticeable difference in the performance of a scholastic field hockey team in a particular season. The coaching performance is not limited to progress made in the year which the award is given.

Here are this year’s nominees:

Erin Creznic, Los Angeles Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) — Winning has become a habit for the team the last three years, winning the Los Angeles Field Hockey Association title while remaining unbeaten

Adrienne DiSipio, Burlington (N.J.) Township — Township was very much a marginalized side for most of the last 30 years, but this year DiSipio completely changed the culture and brought the Falcons their first NJSIAA South Jersey sectional championship

Casey Eck, Easton (Pa.) — Red Rovers won their first PIAA Tournament game in 30 years, but lost a close match to the defending state champions in the quarterfinal round

Ali Good, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) — Took the Royals’ show on the road this year and swept two games at the National High School Invitational and also won at Mamaroneck (N.Y.) and Greenwich (Conn.) Academy

Danyle Heilig, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) –Her Vikings not only won a 21st consecutive state championship, but had a schedule which included wins over multiple state champions

Jodi Hollamon, Delmar (Del.) — This young and extremely skilled side has its best days ahead of it, with several players in the lineup who started for the team while still in middle school

Stephanie Kearns, Newtown (Conn.) — With an offensive-minded lineup as well as ten seniors, the Nighthawks had an undefeated regular season

Lynn Mittler, St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day School (Mo.) — Overcame two years’ worth of heartache in the Midwest Tournament final and finally beat St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) with a late goal

Stephanie Nykaza, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) — Veteran coach had a number of major victories this year including gripping OT wins against Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.) and Lake Forest (Ill.), the latter of which clinched the state title

Gwen Smith, New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) — Took what had been a program which had averaged about three wins per season and transformed them into a skilled collective that shut out 22 consecutive opponents in 2019

Jen Sykes, Guilderland (N.Y.) — Coming over from Clifton Park Shenendehowa (N.Y.), she has given Guilderland immense confidence and the team has responded in kind. The team was the first to win its sectional and to win a state playoff match

Kim Underwood, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) — Her vision 11 years ago of starting a youth field hockey league, then drawing players from it, paid off handsomely as a team with her twin daughters Reagan and Bryn won the PIAA Class AAA state championship

The recipient will be announced December 27.

Dec. 5, 2019 — The sound of silence

About three weeks ago, members of the U.S. men’s and women’s senior national field hockey teams started a petition on the Change.org platform asking the board of USA Field Hockey to re-examine many of the ways it goes about its business.

A couple of things have already happened. One was the firing of women’s national team head coach Janneke Schopman. The second was that the States would be playing its home FIH Pro League matches at Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. rather than at Spooky Nook in Lancaster, Pa.

But as the calendar has moved from November to December, there has been a very uneasy silence. Players, staff, board members, have all been extremely hesitant to talk to at least three journalists who have been on this story.

And, quite frankly, if I was to show up in Lancaster tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t get anywhere, either. And with good reason.

These are fraught times as the 100th anniversary of the United States’ first international women’s match approaches. Right now, I am perceiving a number of parties who are representing different interests in the sport, and none of them seem to be able to get the upper hand.

First, the petitioners, which, we can assume, is a pretty good chunk of the current U.S. women’s player pool, with some support from some who have left the team in the previous year or two. After the initial Instagram post, the number of signatories stalled at slightly over 5,500, where it has remained like an occluded weather front.

Second, the board of directors. They, along with the current Board Chair, have been asked by the petitioners to make a number of changes within the sport, even with the U.S. Olympic Committee set to make a funding cut to the national governing body for failing to make the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Third, Spooky Nook. There is now all sorts of speculation as to whether USA Field Hockey is going to leave the facility altogether, even as the two sides plan the replacement of an outdoor turf which the petition has said was “condemned.”

Spooky Nook, oddly enough, is the determinant in this entire situation. The indoor sports complex jumped on a wave of pay-to-play youth sports in this country which, according to year-old estimates, is a $17 billion industry.

Look at that number again, folks. That’s more than twice the gross revenue of the NFL.

And while I don’t have figures in front of me, I’d be willing to posit that the current cash flow of Spooky Nook, through its rec leagues, memberships, and the on-site hotel and restaurant, is enough so that the departure of any and all field hockey activities would not have a long-term impact the facility’s bottom line.

Which is why the silence is deafening in Lancaster. Let’s see where this goes.

Dec. 3, 2019 — Region of the Year

There was one city in the country this year that somehow managed to dominate the two championships that were held in the state in which this metropolis was located.

The two championships were for the state’s public schools, and the state’s private schools, and the location is a complete 180 from how the state’s field hockey culture originally developed.

When public-school field hockey was introduced to the state of North Carolina in the early 1990s, there was already a pretty good legacy of private-school hockey. But when the sport was introduced into the public schools, the concentration was in the Research Triangle where Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Forest already had college programs.

But nearly 30 years later, the public-school finalists for 2019 were Myers Park High School and Charlotte Catholic, and the private-school finalists were Providence Day School and Charlotte Country Day School.

This makes the TopOfTheCircle.com Region of the Year for 2019 the city of Charlotte, N.C.


The “Capital of the New South” joins a range of other geographical locations selected in past years:

2019; Charlotte, N.C.
2018: PIAA District 3, Pa.
2017: Houston, Tex.
2016: Commonwealth of Virginia
2015: Summit, N.J.
2014: CIF Central Coast Section, Calif.
2013: VHSL North, Va.
2012: State of New Jersey
2011: Lancaster-Lebanon League, Pa.
2010: No award
2009: No award
2008: CIF San Diego Section, Calif.
2007: PIAA District 4, Pa.
2006: Winston-Salem, N.C.
2005: Louisville, Ky.
2004: Kent and Sussex County, Del.
2003: PIAA District 2, Pa.
2002: State of North Carolina
2001: Lancaster County, Pa.
2000: Cecil County, Md.
1999: PIAA District 3, Pa.
1998: State of Maryland
1997: CIF San Diego Section, Calif.
1996: Hunterdon and Warren County, N.J.

Dec. 1, 2019 — Schedule for the awards season

It’s December, which means our usual blog entries detailing the best of the field hockey season just past. Here’s what we’re planning:

Dec. 3: Region of the Year
Dec. 6: United States Coach of the Year, the nominees
Dec. 10: The State of Hockey
Dec. 13: Games of the Year
Dec. 17: The Final Top 50
Dec. 20: Final Statwatch for 2019
Dec. 24: Your national scoring champion
Dec. 27: United States Coach of the Year

Nov. 29, 2019 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Nov. 23

We’ve already remarked about how nine field hockey players nationwide (that we know of) have hit the 50-goal mark for the 2019 season. But there have also been some additions to an even more exclusive club: the 30-30 Club for players who have had as many as 30 goals and 30 assists in one varsity season.

Of course, this being The Score-O Decade, the population of the 30-30 Club has ramped up quite a bit in the last few years, but these players are a far sight rarer than those with 50 goals. Here are the latest 30-30 players from this season, including 40-40 scorer Cami Crook, a junior from Somerset-Berkley (Mass.):

G-A Name School
41-40 Cami Crook Somerset-Berkley MA
32-30 Annabelle Hasselbeck Weston Rivers School MA
31-32 Natali Foster Elverson Twin Valley PA
33-35 Annika Herbine Emmaus PA
41-30 Lilli Smith New Hope-Solebury PA

Posted below is our weekly collection of American scholastic field hockey statistics, culled from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, PhilaFieldHockey.com, The Washington Post, Long Island Newsday, The Boston Globe, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and The Denver Post.

We really like MaxPreps, because it is easy for the average coach, athletic director, or student manager 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.

GOALS
78 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
76 Katie McLaughlin, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.)
67 Lily Santi, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
66 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
63 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
58 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
56 Jordan Carr, Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.)
53 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
51 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
49 Lauren Wadas, Palmyra (Pa.)
48 Taryn Mayer, Huntingdon Valley Lower Moreland (Pa.)
47 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
46 Bridget Murphy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
45 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)

ASSISTS
40 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
38 Abby Periard, South Oldham (Ky.)
37 Carly Cole, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
35 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
33 Ciana Riccardo, Downingtown (Pa.) West
32 Allie Palumbo, Mullica Hill Clearview (N.J.)

32 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
30 Sarah Beers, Oley (Pa.) Valley
30 Lilly Smith, New Hope-Solebury (Pa.)
30 Annabelle Hasselbeck, Weston Rivers School (Mass.)
29 Amy Griffin, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.)
29 Zoe Campisi, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.)
29 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
28 Hannah Berry, Holden Wachusett (Mass.)
28 Annabella Mason, Alexandria West Potomac (Md.)
28 Rachel Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)

CAREER GOALS
206 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
157 Lily Santi, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
156* Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
137 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
134 Jordan Carr, Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.)
133 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
132 Bridget Murphy, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
122 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
117 Annie Grace Louthan, Chesterfield Matoaca (Va.)
116 Hannah Maxwell, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
116 Lauren Wadas, Palmyra (Pa.)
109 Lauren Parente, Wyoming (Pa.) Area
107 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
106 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
103 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
102 Rachel Bohn, Newport (Pa.)
102 Alex Wesneski, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.)
100 Katie McLaughlin, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.)
*–injured

CAREER ASSISTS
125 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
115 Lucas Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)

GOALS SCORED, TEAM
221 Emmaus (Pa.)
200 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
192 Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
188 Gloucester (Va.)
167 Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)
156 Oley (Pa.) Valley

CONSECUTIVE WINS
64 Delmar (Del.)
58 North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (Calif.)
42 Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.)
42 Somerset-Berkley (Calif.)

If you see a wrong number of if you feel we’re missing something, feel free to send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com. Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the adjustment.

Thanks for reading during the season, and we’ll have a Final Statwatch in December.

Nov. 28, 2019 — Giving thanks

One of the bright spots of the 2019 season was the play of Lynnfield (Mass.) as it made its deepest run into the postseason in nearly two decades.

They were led by goalkeeper Ava O’Brien, who is enjoying her athletic career as a field hockey goalie, knowing that she is showing early signs of multiple sclerosis. Here’s a wonderful story by Anne Marie Tobin.