TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for Field hockey

May 4, 2021 — Monthly field hockey Top 10 for the week of May 2

We’re in the home stretch for domestic field hockey, as North Carolina will have a playoff later this month for the schools which did not participate in last fall’s competition. The May 22nd final should be the final field hockey game played in the 2020-2021 scholastic year.

This is going to be the last of our monthly Top 10s for the academic year; we’ll have our well-researched Top 50 next month as part of our end-of-season field hockey stories.

Our RightToRightIsRight.com No. 11 Team of the Month is James Madison High School of Vienna, Va.. The school, almost invisibly tucked away off the main drag through town, did something that few field hockey teams have done in more than 112 years of scholastic field hockey: go through a minimum eight-game season without giving up a goal. Madison was able to beat a very good Virginia Beach Floyd Kellam (Va.) side in the Class 5 championship final in the Virginia High School League. It was the Warhawks’ 15th clean sheet in 15 starts.

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.J.) 9-0 to win the NJSIAA Southwest D sectional championship

3. Emmaus (Pa.) 16-0
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.) 13-0
Season complete: Falcons won their 22nd state championship with a 1-0 overtime win over Fredericksburg Stafford (Va.) in the VHSL Class 5 championship

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. Vienna James Madison (Va.) 15-0
Season complete: Warhawks did not have head coach Carrie Holman on the sidelines, as she was two days away from giving birth, but technology helped keep her in touch with the team during the playoffs

And bear in mind:  San Diego Serra (Calif.) 9-1, Aurora Regis Jesuit (Colo.) 9-1, Glastonbury (Conn.) 14-0, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.) 9-0, Longmeadow (Mass.) 6-0, Walpole (Mass.) 8-0-1, Franklin (Mass.) 11-0-2, Worcester Doherty (Mass.) 14-0, Andover (Mass.) 6-0, Dexter (Mich.) 16-0-1, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 12-0-1, Northport (N.Y.) 16-1, 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, Poquoson (Va.) 12-2; Chesapeake Great Bridge (Va.) 10-1

May 3, 2021 — An elegy for Stanford field hockey (with a nod to Walt Whitman)

O Leland! my Leland! their fearful trip is done,
The team has weather’d every game, the prize they sought not won,
The end is here, the bells I hear, supporters not acclaiming,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
  But what was a beating heart
  With cardinal blood of red
  With the team representing Leland
  Is left instead for dead.

O Leland! my Leland! the team still hears the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag was flung—for you the bugle trilled,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the pitch a-crowding,
For you they called, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
  Here Leland! dear founder!
  The team for which they bled
  Has now become a dream that on the deck,
  And fallen cold and dead.

My Leland does not answer, the Board is stone and still,
The Board does not feel her; they have no pulse nor will,
The team is moored safe and sound, its voyage had its cost,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in, but object lost;
  While others on the farm will ring the bells,
  The players slowly tread,
  Walk the green, while the team lies,
  Fallen cold and dead.

May 2, 2021 — The Final Third, Epic Edition

Joins us today on our Facebook Live presence shortly before noon for our whiparound coverage of the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I field hockey tournament, plus we’ll document four automatic bids for the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse tournament, featuring the two conferences (ACC and Big Ten) from which the 2021 champion will likely emerge.

We’ll also have bonus coverage of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, where we’ll see Division II’s two best sides, Lindenwood and Indianapolis, cross sticks for the second time in 10 days. Of all of the games today, I think this one might turn out to be the best one.

Let’s see.

May 1, 2021 — Declaring too early a victory?

I invite you to watch the video accompanying this story of last Thursday’s CHSAA field hockey final between Aurora Regis Jesuit (Colo.) and Greenwood Village Cherry Creek (Colo.).

If you’re a health-care professional, the scenes in this video would have scared you to death a few weeks ago. You don’t see a lot of worn masks in this footage, and you have enormous groups of students choosing not to social distance.

Thing is, we’re in a different place as a country than we were six months ago. More than 100 million people have been vaccinated nationwide, and it’s estimated that number could double by July 4th.

For its part, the state of Colorado had ended a lot of its previous restrictions on April 6th, going off the “dial” system of alerts and allowing individual counties to make final decisions. Denver County, in which the state championship field hockey game was played, is in the Blue Level, which is the second-loosest level of restrictions.

This strategy is not without risk. Coming into this week, levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and positive tests in Colorado have generally been trending upward, albeit not at the levels where they were around Thanksgiving.

Now, it may be better to decentralize how COVID-19 and future worldwide pandemics are handled. But left to one’s own devices, people want to gather in groups every once in a while, such as at sporting events. Today, for example, some 65,000 people will be gathering in Louisville, Ky. for the Kentucky Derby.

Problem is, what happens if gatherings like these turn into super-spreader events like that motorcycle rally in South Dakota, a choir practice in Washington, spring break this past February in Florida, and a certain White House Rose Garden ceremony last September that sickened 35 people?

Hopefully, enough of the spectators will have gotten their vaccines.

April 30, 2021 — A humanitarian catastrophe could very well become one of Olympic proportions

In the last two weeks, four million people in India have tested positive for COVID-19. The rate of infections has started to reach some 400,000 per day in one of the densest-populated nations on earth.

I have always feared this might happen. Having a communicable and deadly disease in a place where millions of people are almost literally living on top of each other in cities like Delhi and Mumbai is like throwing a lit match in a massive forest with dry underbrush in the middle of a drought.

India is also one of the world’s best up-and-coming economies, but that prosperity has been lost on the greater population of the country. Some 600 million people — twice the population of the U.S. — live without running water. The sanitation challenges, in the face of COVID-19, are enormous.

And so are the challenges of trying to “flatten the curve,” either by quarantining or by a general lockdown. As of yesterday, there was no indication that the government would be instituting a sweeping lockdown. Instead, it has been left to local governments: yesterday, Manipur a state in the extreme east of India, called for a seven-day lockdown.

With a mere 84 days until the start of the Olympics, India is in very much a COVID crisis. Some 91 athletes are scheduled to be part of the Games; a plurality (32) are on the two field hockey teams that have qualified through the FIH-mandated processes.

Now, a couple of days ago, the International Olympic Committee published a virtual guide for athletes as to how to maintain social distancing and tips on not getting COVID-19. The so-called “playbook” restricts Olympians to taking official transportation, eating only where COVID-19 countermeasures in place, and staying away from most of the general public.

In other words, you’re not going to have a situation where you might have a Charles Barkley visiting the general public like he did during Barcelona 1992.

There’s also going to be quite a lot of testing. Athletes must have two test before coming to Tokyo, then everyone gets tested once a day for three days upon arrival. Athletes are scheduled to be tested daily, while coaches and support staff will be tested regularly.

The thing is, nothing in the guide mentions what happens if athletes are unable to travel to the Games because of either a government-imposed lockdown or if there is a widespread COVID-19 outbreak amongst members of a team.

It’s the latter that could be a matter of wounded pride if India is unable to participate in the Olympics because of the outbreak.

And you can say the same thing about the United States, which has seen more than a half-million deaths. While more than half the U.S. population has already received some sort of vaccine therapy, it is hard to declare an immediate victory over the virus; nearly a thousand people are dying every day in America from it.

Too, if the Indian women can’t go, it would be a supreme irony because the United States was the team that the Eves vanquished back in 2019 to get the golden ticket to Japan. The U.S., the 15th-ranked team in the world, would not be next in line as first alternate; I believe that the alternates are selected by world ranking. As of today, Korea is ranked 11th, the highest-ranked women’s side not already qualified for the Olympics.

BULLETIN: April 29, 2021 — A transformed field hockey national team for May

The U.S. senior women’s field hockey national team, having failed to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and currently at the bottom of the 2021 FIH Pro League, is seemingly building for the far future.

New head coach Anthony Farry is bringing in a different group of players for a European tour next month, including four FIH Pro League games against Belgium and Team GB. Only a third of the 25-player group participated in the two-game series in late 2019 against India for one of the final Olympic berths.

Amongst the players to watch from the new group is high-school phenom Beth Yeager, who has not played a varsity match for Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.) since 2019. Instead, she has been playing with her club team WC Eagles, the U.S. women’s national team pool in Conshohocken, Pa., and with the Sacred Heart team during informal playdays last fall. Also in the side is Haley Randall, who you might otherwise know as Haley Schleicher, the only scholastic field hockey player with 50 goals and 50 assists in a season and 200 goals and 200 assists in a career.

The touring team also has a couple of dynamic players who excelled both at the scholastic and collegiate levels. Maddie Bacskai was a fine player at Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) who played well at Princeton, and is scheduled to play field hockey at Northwestern this coming fall as she starts business school there as a graduate student. Also, look for Kelee Lepage, late of Maryland, to make an impact on the offensive end of the pitch. She helped steer Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.) to a state championship in 2015 and made two NCAA title appearances in College Park.

I’ll also be interested in a couple of lesser-known, but well-skilled players on the U.S. team. Kelsey Briddell has made a name for herself in indoor hockey, winning her U-16 pool with the ADK club side, as well as competing with the U.S. senior indoor national team. But the Albany graduate has parlayed that experience into the senior women’s outdoor team. Also, look for Alexandra Hammel, the Boston University graduate who had her first cap in 2020 against Argentina. She has paid her dues with the U.S. developmental program and has been called into the side.

Now, I find it interesting that this U.S. team is bereft of players who are just coming off from their college seasons. I can understand why Parry has chosen not to take players like Erin Matson, Sophia Gladieux, Meredith Sholder, and Mackenzie Allessie. All four are in mid-season form when it comes to conditioning, but with COVID-19 protocols the way they are for international play, recalling them for games starting May 15th is a non-starter.

Still, with this young team, I get the feeling that the States are involved in a very, very long rebuild. We’re not likely to see the best of this group in time for the 2022 World Cup, but perhaps in time for a serious run at the 2024 Paris Olympics and whatever devious qualifying obstacle course that FIH devises for those Games.

April 27, 2021 — POSTPONED: The final field hockey state title of a crazy academic year

This evening, at the Stutler Bowl, the last field hockey state title of the 2020-21 academic year was set to take place between Aurora Regis Jesuit (Colo.) and Greenwood Village Cherry Creek (Colo.).

But despite the fact that the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) moved its season from the fall to the early spring, there was scheduled rain and snow in the area, with a projected gametime temperature of 37 degrees. The weather, including rain and thunderstorms, forced postponement of the title match to Thursday evening.

The two team in the final are coming off wins last night at Stutler Bowl, and both have been prominent programs of late within the state of Colorado.

Regis Jesuit is in its third straight state title match after taking a 3-1 win over Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.). The Raiders won in 2018 before losing the 2019 final.

The team Regis beat back in 2018 were the Cherry Creek Bruins, who beat Monument Palmer Ridge (Colo.) 2-1 in the other semifinal. Cherry Creek won its way to its eighth state championship game, but the team has not won a state final since 2008.

Thursday’s game leaves a smattering of teams in New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina varsity programs playing out to league and, in the case of New York, sectional championships.

April 24, 2021 — The Final Third, the field hockey conference tournament edition

Please join us shortly before noon Eastern time for live reactions from the six NCAA Division I field hockey conference tournaments that will help fill out the field for the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Join us here, give us a like and share, and follow along as we describe the action in our feature called The Final Third.

April 22, 2021 — Who’s going to be in? Who’s going to be out?

Today, the conference tournament season for NCAA field hockey truly gets into gear with one championship and six pairs of semifinal matches to be played.

As we discussed earlier this week, the Division I bracket will be released this Saturday evening. There will be 12 teams in the tournament — nine conference champions and three at-large bids.

We know that Miami University is in the tournament through its regular-season record. We also know that no Ivy League team will be playing.

I think that six out of the seven tournaments being played will be of the highest stakes, in that only the champion will take the AQ bid to make the NCAA Tournament.

The only exceptions are the usual suspects: the Big Ten (which is playing its semifinals this evening) and the ACC (which is hosting a special one-game playoff tomorrow afternoon).

Here’s the thing. The usual punditry will say that the ACC, being the best league in the country, will send three teams to the tournament, and the Big Ten will send two.

I’m not so sure. Here’s why.

This year’s Division I field hockey data is not just from the spring season, but from the games the ACC played last fall, leading to UNC winning the conference tournament. As such, when the NCAA Tournament Committee looks at the last five or six games leading to the end of the season, the ACC teams which played well last fall will be judged more by the spring record.

As such, I think Louisville may be on the bubble. I say “may,” because that turns on whether Wake Forest wins the ACC playoff tomorrow against North Carolina. UNC, I think, is in the NCAA Tournament no matter what it does, while Wake, coming in with a record of 6-10, must win the game to make the tournament. If it does not, Louisville will take an at-large bid. Louisville is one of the highest-ranked ACC teams in Ratings Percentage Index (fifth) and strengh of schedule (eighth), but they were 4-2 in their last six games of the spring.

On the other hand, the Big Ten have seven of the top eight slots in FieldHockeyCorner.com’s Average Computer Ranking, which is 50 percent based on goal differential and 50 percent based on wins and losses. In addition, there are some very strong teams in the last four of the Big Ten tournament — top-seeded Michigan, the No. 2 team in the nation this week; an Iowa team which was the No. 2 in the country two weeks ago; a Northwestern team which was No. 4 two weeks ago; and an Ohio State team with U.S. international Mackenzie Allessie on it. Yhese four teams are extremely strong, and if Ohio State is able to win the AQ, that’s going to upset the Big Ten’s apple cart.

The identities of the three at-large teams will likely be determined in a 20-hour period beginning this evening. And a field hockey debate for the ages could ensue.

Let’s see what happens.

April 21, 2021 — Virginia Madness

Yesterday, the Virginia High School League held field hockey state semifinal matches in four enrollment classes leading to Saturday’s state finals.

Even without the “tipping point” games in the regional semifinal round (except for Class 3A), there were plenty of close matches and great storylines throughout.

I think one big storyline has been the maturity and excellence of the field hockey programs from Loudoun County, Va. Since the first schools started playing in 2016, teams from the rapidly growing county have been contending for regional and state titles.

Yesterday, for example, Ashburn Independence (Va.) , Leesburg Riverside (Va.), and Leesburg Heritage (Va.) were all playing for a berth in the state title match, and all three were a goal short.

In Class 3, Independence has been a great story all season. The school is playing in Class 3A because it is a school which only opened in 2019, and does not have a full complement of students enrolled there. Despite this, the team did not allow a goal until the regional final against Fredericksburg James Monroe (Va.). Unfortunately for the Tigers, Independence allowed the only goal of the state semifinals against Yorktown Tabb (Va.).

In Class 4, Heritage ran into a Fredericksburg Chancellor (Va.) side which has won five previous state titles under head coach Jim Larkin. And Chancellor showed its big-game experience by coming out early and taking a 2-0 lead by the 34th minute. But about seven minutes later, Heritage responded with a goal on its first shot on frame the entire contest. But Chancellor was able to hold onto a 2-1 lead at the full-time whistle.

In Class 5, Riverside took a 2-0 lead over a Stafford (Va.) side which also had great championship experience. Indeed, head coach Robin Woodie won a state championship in 2005, beating three opponents in the state tournament which had won 14 of the previous 16 VHSL titles. Stafford responded with two quick goals in the fourth quarter, then won the game in overtime.

It’s going to take something special for the four state championship finals this Saturday to surpass the drama and excellence of yesterday.

But I think it’s going to be a great end to the Fall 2 season in Virginia for the sport.