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Archive for Field hockey

BULLETIN: June 14, 2019 — A dream deferred

The U.S. men’s field hockey team had a chance to earn its way into the Olympic qualification ties later this year, had it won its crossover matchup today against South Africa in the FIH Series tournament in India.

But after the States took an early 1-0 lead, the South Africans mounted a comeback and won the game with 34 seconds left in regulation by a 2-1 score.

The United States’ remaining hope of making the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is winning the Pan American Games later this summer in a field which includes Argentina, your current Olympic champions.

Such are the fine measures of field hockey, where one bounce, one mistrap can make the difference in an entire four-year Olympic cycle.

June 13, 2019 — A perspective on runaway scores

Yesterday, I published an opinion on the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s 13-0 win over Thailand.

It wasn’t the only opinion, naturally.

But my thoughts on blowouts (and how to deal with them) are shaped by what I have seen on this site over the last 21 years.

And some of the defeated teams were American.

On Constance Applebee’s first European tour of the Home Nations of Great Britain back in 1920, the United States women’s field hockey team lost to England by a score of 16-0. Don’t believe me? Read the title card from this vintage newsreel. It wouldn’t be until 1962 until an American field hockey team got at least a draw from the English national team.

On the men’s side, India defeated the United States by a score of 23-1 in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. It stood for decades as the most lopsided international score in men’s field hockey until Argentina’s men beat the Dominican Republic in the 2003 Pan American Games by a score of 30-0. That was only surpassed in 2007 when New Zealand beat Papua New Guinea by a score of 39-0.

And there was one high-school game in Pennsylvania in which Hazelton (Pa.) Area beat Wyoming (Pa.) Area by a score of 29-0.

Lacrosse has also had its share of monumental blowouts. Back in the 1960s, when an England women’s national select team was taking a tour of North America, the team played a Long Island all-star team and beat their hosts 40-0. There have been some blowout defeats domestically on the part of teams like the girls’ team at Ellicott City Mount Hebron (Md.), a side which routinely beat teams by 25 or more goals during the late 80s, early 90s, and the 2000s.

In college lacrosse, the record had been a 1993 game between Roanoke’s men and Virginia Wesleyan, which the former won by a score of 40-0. That is, until the Colorado Mesa men beat Johnson and Wales-Denver by a score of 52-0 in a game this past April. It is a game which had been shortened by 7 1/2 minutes due to a severe injury.

So, I ask you: where were the pundits then, decrying the victors in these games?

June 10, 2019 — 60 minutes away from 120 minutes

Earlier today, the U.S. men’s field hockey team achieved a 2-2 draw with Japan. That tie puts the American men — an unfancied group of amateurs at the start of the FIH Series final in Bhubaneswar — in the semifinal round of its tournament.

That means if the Americans are able to beat the winner of the Russia-South Africa play-in game this coming Friday, they will not only make the final of this FIH Series tournament, they will qualify automatically into one of the seven two-legged ties that will determine who goes to the Olympics.

Deegan Huisman, a Dutch-born forward, had a brace for the United States, and German-born goalie Jonathan Klages had himself a fine effort against the Japanese side.

For an American program which has qualified for only one world-level tournament tournament on its own (i.e., when it has not been the host nation) since 1954, this step up in class is almost unprecedented. One can point to the ease of the Americans’ draw in this tournament, but the States have been training together in an almost “us against the world” attitude for years.

It’s an attitude you need to have after having not received the same kinds of training and residency opportunities the women’s national team has gotten since the opening of Spooky Nook. Or the fact that there is no varsity men’s field hockey in a U.S. college or secondary school.

This is a story that bears watching; this is the best opportunity for the U.S. men to make a major tournament since finishing second in the Pan American Cup ten years ago.


June 8, 2019 — An unexpected story from Bhubaneswar, India

While the U.S. women’s field hockey team has been playing in the high-visibility and globe-trotting FIH Pro League, there is another field hockey national team looking to pursue an Olympic dream this week.

The U.S. men’s national team, a group made of renegades, immigrants, and a handful of home-grown players, is currently undefeated in two matches in the men’s FIH Series tournament in Bhubaneswar, India.

The FIH Series is the de facto replacement for the FIH World League, but is conducted without the teams in the Pro League. Teams on both the men’s and women’s side play down to three eight-nations tournaments for each gender. After pool play and a cross-over round featuring the second- and third-place teams in each pool, an all-important semifinal round is played. The two semifinalists in each FIH Series tournament advance to the pool of 14 for the Olympic qualifiers.

Already qualified for the Olympic qualifiers are Canada and Malaysia, and they will be in the mix along with two other teams from the other two FIH Series Tournaments, the top four teams in the FIH Pro League, and the next four national teams by world ranking.

The United States, with wins over South Africa and Mexico in their first two pool matches, has a game with Japan on Monday to close out the group. If the Americans win, they only need to win against the second or third place team in the other pool in order to make it to the Bhubaneswar final, therefore taking one of the two Olympic qualifier berths.

As for tomorrow’s match, Japan’s men’s field hockey team is in very much the same situation as the United States. Before making the 2020 Olympics as host, the last time the team made the Olympic Games was 1968. However, Japan did do something unprecendented this cycle: winning the Asian Games (and the continent’s automatic berth) for the first time in its history.

And that makes Mondays game, oddly enough, very winnable for the Americans. That’s because Japan is already qualified twice-over for the Olympics, and don’t need to risk injury to its key players a year out from Tokyo 2020.

We’ll see what happens on Monday.


June 1, 2019 — On the verge of a unique treble

Today at 2 p.m. at Kean University, the Group IV girls’ lacrosse championship for the state of New Jersey will be contested.

For one of the schools, Ridgewood (N.J.), it’s a chance to repeat as group champions for the third straight year.

But for the other, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), it’s the chance for a different kind of treble.

In the fall, Eastern not only won the state’s field hockey championship (in both Group IV and the Tournament of Champions), but also the girls’ soccer championship with a 1-0 win over Bridgewater-Raritan (N.J.). A win today would secure a sweep in field-invasion sports at the school during the same academic year.

It’s a feat that hasn’t happened (that we know of) since Moorestown (N.J.) won the 2004 field hockey and girls’ soccer championships, and added the girls’ lacrosse title in the spring.

Of course, it was probably easier to transfer skills between sports a decade and a half ago, given the fact that coaches of the field hockey and lacrosse teams used to be one in the same. But as coaches have gravitated to just one sport, and some scholastic athletes have done likewise, it is something you’re not going to see as often, going forward.

Then again, if Moorestown is able to win its Group III game today, the Quakers might have had another claim on the field-invasion treble but for a 1-0 loss in the girls’ soccer final to Allendale Northern Highlands (N.J.).


BULLETIN: May 30, 2019 — One avenue, erased

This afternoon, the Belgium women’s field hockey team beat defending Olympic champion Great Britain 4-1 in an FIH Pro League fixture in Antwerp.

With the win, Belgium moves into fourth place in the women’s Pro League table with 17 points. The win has eliminated the United States from contention from a top-four berth into the Grand Final. The States will still have a chance to qualify from World League placing as well as winning its third straight Pan American Games title.

The Americans begin to play out a difficult series of fixtures this weekend at Spooky Nook against New Zealand.

May 20, 2019 — A sliver of hope, but reality sets in

Last Saturday, the U.S. women’s field hockey team won its first game in regulation at the 2019 FIH Pro League, besting China 3-1. The States won despite being out-possessed, out shot, and out-cornered. But while the Red Dragons were 1-for-14 on their penalty corner chances, the United States were 2-for-2 on goals by Anna Dessoye and Linnea Gonzales.

The States are improving a bit, but still sit at the bottom of the league table and are perhaps only a day or two from being eliminated from the FIH Grand Final and one of the four berths into the two-legged Olympic qualification ties that are on offer later this year.

That’s because the United States, on seven points from 13 matches played, can only reach 16 points if the last three matches are regulation wins. At the moment, Argentina (32), Holland (21), and Australia (21) are untouchable. Should Germany get a three-point regulation win Wednesday against Argentina, that puts Die Danas at 17 points in the standings and the States would not be able to catch them.

There would, of course, be two avenues available to the United States to get to Tokyo 2020, but it is going to take hard work, composure in front of the goal cage, and defense.