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Archive for Field hockey

June 18, 2021 — Final field hockey Statwatch for 2020-21

It’s been a wild and unprecedented domestic field hockey season. It lasted all the way from the first hockey balls struck in Ohio last August, and ended with a home-and-home series which finished, fittingly, less than 200 yards from where Constance Applebee was a field hockey coach and instructor for six decades.

As such, we’ve had to monitor a lot of games outside of the normal calendar, and we’ve also had to keep track of limited statistics, given the short seasons that many teams played. But we have taken note of players who have excelled, people like Hope Rose and Ryleigh Heck and Cami Crook, all of whom dominated their opponents during the 2020-21 academic year.

Below is a collection of American scholastic field hockey statistics from, amongst other sources, MaxPreps, Berks Game Day, the KHSAA, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Advance Media. We rely quite a bit on MaxPreps, which we believe is an easy platform for people to record their team’s data — so much so that it is now becoming a standard tool for playoff seeding in at least three states. I encourage coaches and managers 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
90 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
74 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
49 Olivia Fraticelli, Toms River (N.J.) North
47 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
44 Elle Murray, Worcester Doherty (Mass.)
37 Molly Catchpole, Watchung Mount St. Mary Academy (N.J.)
37 Courtney Farren, Woodbury Heights Gateway (N.J.)
34 Alaina McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwenedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
34 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
33 Kierra Ettere, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)
33 Rylie Wollerson, Gibsonia Pine-Richland (Pa.)
33 Casey Lynn Dewald, Fleetwood (Pa.)
32 Julianne Kopec, Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic
32 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
32 Brynn Crouse, Dillsburg Northern York (Pa.)
32 Marita Johnson, Hudson (Ohio)
31 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
30 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
30 Maci Bradford, Delmar (Del.)

ASSISTS
35 Dylan Breier, Louisville DuPont Manual (Ky.)
34 Pasleigh Atwood, Warren Quaboag Regional (Mass.)
28 Natali Foster, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
28 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
27 Izzy Bianco, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
25 Riley Hudson, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
25 Gianna Puorro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
23 Molly Stephens, Cohasset (Mass.)
23 Grace Hughes, Oletangy Liberty (Ohio)
22 Kayla Kiwak, Exeter Wyoming Area (Pa.)
21 Alexis Kociban, Emmaus (Pa.)
21 Maddie Epke, Guilford (Conn.)
21 Kathrine McLean, Glen Gardner Voorhees (N.J.)
20 Carli Servis, Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.)
20 Zella Bailey, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.)
20 Jaden Rae, Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)

CAREER GOALS
233 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
198 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
141 Ava Borkowski, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.)
141 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
135 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)
131 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.)
124 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
115 Courtney Farren, Woodbury Heights Gateway (N.J.)
108** Elizabeth Yeager, Greenwich Sacred Heart (Conn.)
105 Abby Hartwell, Franklinville Delsea (N.J.)
105 Chloe Ward, Warwick (Va.)
102 Kate Herlihy, Cape May Court House Middle Township (N.J.)
102 Alaina McVeigh, Upper Gwynedd Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Pa.)
102 Stevie Drum, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.)
101 Elle Murray, Worcester Doherty (Mass.)
**–five-year total

CAREER ASSISTS
153 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
110 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
91 Taryn Tkachuk, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
77 Delmar (Del.)
55 Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
44 Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.)

CONSECUTIVE UNBEATEN
77 Delmar (Del.)
55 Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
44 Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.)
44 Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.)

Friends, here is where you come in. If you see a figure or total that needs an addition or correction, 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 dropping in for this season like no other. We’ll continue our work this fall as field hockey enters the post-COVID era.

June 15, 2021 — Field hockey: Games of the Year, 2020-21

This list of games for the field hockey season just past was one which had a smaller number of games overall, reflecting the shortened schedules of individual teams. But you’ll notice that a number of games on this list turned on individual brilliance from top players coming through for their teams in key situations.

10. Kingston Wyoming Seminary 1, Exeter Wyoming Area 0, 2 OT
Nov. 2, 2020
PIAA District 2 Class A final
District 2 has been a great incubator of PIAA state champions over the years, but what was known during this COVID-19 season was that only one 2-A team could make the state bracket. It took a double-overtime goal from sophomore Kim Barbacci to decide this game, sending the Blue Knights to a tournament which they would win three weeks later

9. Cape May Court House Middle Township (N.J.) 1, Haddon Township (N.J.) 0, OT
Nov. 21, 2020
NJSIAA Southwest Class A final
Middle Township, whose home hockey ground overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, has been in the headwaters for state championship honors for some time. But in 2021, the team was able to finally win a terminal contest (albeit for a sectional title) thanks to a goal from Hannah Urbaczewski in overtime

8. Palmyra (Pa.) 2, Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 1, OT
Nov. 21, 2020
PIAA Class AA final
Palmyra, one of the finest programs out of central Pennsylvania, had it all to do against Carroll, the first District 12 school ever to make into the PIAA field hockey final. The Cougars were able to put all of their guile and experience to good use to win in extra time

7. Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 1, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.) 0
Apr. 12, 2021
VHSL Region 5A quarterfinal
In any other year, Cox and First Colonial would likely have been placed at opposite ends of the bracket, which would have given both teams an opportunity to advance to an eight-team state tournament. But with the VHSL making its field hockey tournament a single-elimination event and with restrictions on travel in place, this latest edition of the Mill Dam Creek Classic was put in the first round of the regional tournament. Nevertheless, the game lived up to its billing. It took a Quin Braithwaite goal in the third quarter to put Cox through to the semifinal round

6. Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) 4, East Chapel Hill (N.C.) 3, OT
Dec. 17, 2019
NCHSAA fall final
In a truncated state championship tournament featuring teams from the East Region, a dramatic game was ended by an equally dramatic goal. In the third minute of overtime, attacking midfielder Elle Freedman curled into the circle, spun, then cracked a backhander into the goal

5. Fredericksburg Stafford (Va.) 3, Leesburg Riverside 2, 2 OT
Apr. 20, 2021
VHSL Class 5 semifinal
Stafford, a school which has tasted state championship glory before, was down two to Riverside before two fourth-quarter goals leveled the match. A thrill-a-minute overtime period ensued, one which ended less than three minutes from time

4. East Greenwich (R.I.) 1, Providence La Salle Academy (R.I.) 0, OT
Nov. 21, 2021
RIIL Division 1 final
La Salle was able to bottle up East Greenwich, the defending state champions, for 60 minutes of regulation. But when reduced-side overtime began, it gave a lot of openings for attack-minded players. Players such as Alexandra Mega, the sophomore who showed an amazing array of skills throughout regulation. She saved her best effort for last, running 65 yards through the La Salle defense and depositing the ball over the goal line

3. St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) 1, St. Louis John Burroughs (Mo.) 0, OT
Nov. 2, 2020
Midwest Tournament final
Villa Duchesne found its heroine in its best player, Taryn Tkachuk. Her backhander under the crossbar in overtime provided the Saints with the championship despite having to play with a wrapped hamstring

2. Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) 2, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 1, OT
Nov. 12, 2020
PIAA District 3 Class AAA final
In terms of history, these two schools, located about nine miles apart, are as different as chalk and cheese. Lower Dauphin, a team with a Hall-of-Fame coach as well as several state titles, was a state finalist as recently as 2019, losing in a penalty shootout. Central Dauphin, for its part, had never won a District 3 title. But the team had a once-in-a-generation scorer named Hope Rose. She had both goals in the District final which put the Rams into the state tournament bracket. Her game-winner in overtime was a thundering 60-yard run which culminated in an angled shot that went in

1. Concord Bishop Brady (N.H.) 2, Canaan Mascoma Valley (N.H.) 1, OT
Oct. 29, 2020
NHISAA Division III semifinal/final
The drama in this contest comes directly from the title of this game. Mascoma Valley was about to win the semifinal match against Brady, but the Giants would tie the game on an untimed corner at the end of regulation. During the five-minute period between regulation and overtime, word spread to the teams of a circumstance that could only occur during a pandemic. That same afternoon, a player from the winning Berlin (N.H.) team from the other semifinal match in Division III tested positive for COVID-19. This meant that the Berlin team would have to quarantine for several days, meaning that Berlin would not be able to participate in the state final. That made the Mascoma Valley-Bishop Brady game the state final, a game which Hallie Laramie ended five minutes into extra time

June 14, 2021 — A seismic shift

Remember this?

Well, in the last few days, this subhead appeared on the social media account of the leading field hockey goal scorer in the National Federation, someone who just happens to be the Big Ten Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year:

After two award-winning seasons at Ohio State, Mackenzie Allessie has chosen to change college teams and has transferred to Penn State.

Penn State’s athletic department confirmed this development with a story today naming Allessie and former Camp Hill (Pa.) and Virginia player Gery Schnarrs as those coming through the transfer portal. They join a star-studded team including leading scorer Sophia Gladieux, who, like Allessie, has scored more than 200 goals in a scholastic field hockey career.

When you look at recent history, there are plenty of transfer stories in field hockey and lacrosse. Austyn Cuneo transferred from North Carolina to Rutgers after just two years. Caitlyn Wurzburger decomitted from Syracuse women’s lacrosse team and committed to North Carolina while still in high school. And, of course, there’s current Tewaaraton Award winner Charlotte North, who transferred from Duke to Boston College and won an NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse title this year.

As I mentioned in the blog entry two weeks ago, student-athletes have made the term “transfer portal” part of the ordinary discourse of college sports in the last few years, especially when you have had a global pandemic which has given players an extra “Covid” year of eligibility.

And so it continues.

June 12, 2021 — How a Championship Saturday could be a preview of the fall

Today, a number of states including Connecticut, Michigan, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey crown girls’ lacrosse champions. The teams playing these championship games have come through the usual brackets as designed by the state governing bodies of their respective sports.

But in New Jersey, the girls’ lacrosse bracket has had a pair of different formats since going away from a single state champion in the early 2000s. This season, as has been the case in many seasons past, each of the group classifications has two sectional brackets; one for the northern half of the state, one for the south.

In field hockey, however, there have been four sectional brackets in each classification: North I, North II, Central, and South.

But a couple of days ago, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to restructure field hockey’s state tournament, which may see each of the state’s classifications go to just two sectional brackets in each: one for the north, one for the south.

Now, we don’t know precisely what the field hockey committee has in mind, but I would envision five classifications, including a single Non-Public tournament (lacrosse has a Non-Public A and a Non-Public B).

Then again, perhaps the realignment may be more geographical in nature; we’ve seen situations where a school listed as a Central Jersey team in soccer, football, and basketball might wind up be in North II for field hockey.

I’ll be interested to see the results of the field hockey realignment. Meanwhile, enjoy the lacrosse finals today.

June 11, 2021 — Field hockey: 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:

Chantal Ayers, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) — Assembled a very skilled and fit team which was able to win the autumn state championship in overtime against East Chapel Hill (N.C.)

Christina Elisio, Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) — Steered the Patriots to the PIAA Class AA state final game, and was an overtime goal away from becoming the first District 12 team to win a state field hockey title

Jodi Hollamon, Delmar (Del.) — The Wildcats dominated the opposition in 2020, allowing only two goals all season on the way to winning a sixth straight championship

Carrie Holman, Vienna James Madison (Va.) — The Warhawks were able to go through the entire 2021 spring season without yielding a goal, even while Holman was expecting; she coached the state championship through remote messaging

Alex Marshall, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) — She took over head coach Danyle Heilig’s position and the team seemingly did not miss a beat, winning all of their games over the course of a shortened season as well as a sectional title

Debra McMullen, East Greenwich (R.I.) — Managed to catch lightning in the proverbial bottle, managing her team during a short season and getting the team to believe it could win a RIIL state championship

Lissa Opolsky, New Tripoli Northwestern Lehigh (Pa.) — In her eighth season at the helm, the former Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) star goalie was able to beat a number of local rivals for the first time an steered the team through a memorable run through the PIAA Class A Tournament

Tara Rose, Cincinnati Indian Hill (Ohio) — Team won its way into the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) state tournament for the first time in 20 years

Courtney Spleen, San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.) — Had a stellar, albeit shortened, season with a senior-laden squad which could have been even more loaded but for a transfer and a player who had conflicts with the start of lacrosse

Gina Welling, Nortport (N.Y.) — Coached her team to its first sectional championship in program history, a 1-0 win over Garden City (N.Y.)

The recipient will be announced June 29.

June 8, 2021 — The State of Hockey, 2020-21

There’s a word that has defined life in the American field hockey community in the last year.

That word is “uncertainty.”

Whether you were on a U.S. college team, a rec team, a high-school team, or the U.S. national team, the Coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every level of competition.

Perhaps the biggest two effects were the movement of the NCAA Division I tournament to the spring and the cancellation of the USA Field Hockey National Festival. The Festival, one of the largest field hockey tournaments in the world, was originally supposed to have been held in North Carolina, then the competition was split between North Carolina and Virginia before being cancelled days before its scheduled start.

There were other kinds of COVID-related effects, large and small, on the American field hockey community. Schedules were shortened, mostly through the cancellation of interconference games. But some competitions were shortened by altering the state tournament or eliminating it altogether.

One such state was New Jersey, which turned its usual five-bracket state tournament into more than 20 sectional championships. The lack of a Tournament of Champions prevented Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) from winning a 22nd straight state championship, but the Vikings were able to win the Central-East “A” sectional bracket.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association eliminated at-large bids, allowing only District champions to make the state tournament for the first time since the 1970s. This led to some interesting games in the District final, none of which were more gripping than the District 3-AAA title match between Hummeltown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) and Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.). The winning play saw the nation’s leading goal-scorer, Hope Rose, make a 60-yard run, beating three midfielders for pace before rapping a shot from a 45-degree angle on the right wing.

The Virginia High School League only invited regional champions (except for Class 3) to the state tournament, which ramped up the pressure on regional final participants. It used to be that teams making the final of a regional tournament were guaranteed entry into the state tournament, putting the pressure point on the regional semifinal games.

But for the Class 5 Region A East bracket, the real pressure point was in the quarterfinal round, where, because of travel considerations, defending state champion Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) was matched up against its Mill Dam Creek rivals, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.). Cox’s 1-0 win over FC represented the eighth time in the last nine seasons when one team ended the other’s season.

In the schools, there were a number of record performances in 2021. Aside from Hope Rose’s 90-goal season, Ryleigh Heck of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) knocked in 76. In the spring season, Cami Crook, the fine attacking center midfielder for Somerset-Berkeley Regional (Mass.), became the third-leading assister of all time with 149.

The FIH Pro League, of which the U.S. women’s national team is a part, was devastated because of the different travel regulations of the teams participating in it. The U.S. has played only nine games in the Pro League thus far, and find themselves at the bottom of the table with China (which has played only two).

The United States’ results, especially recently, have been less than encouraging. But that is understandable, given the uncertainty of the last year. The U.S. women, after putting their grievances to an on-line petition in late 2019, left Spooky Nook as their training ground.

Indeed, in the last year and a half, the American women have had four home grounds: Spooky Nook, Karen Shelton Stadium, The Proving Grounds, and a forthcoming move to Queens University in Charlotte. Too, the women’s side has had three head coaches in that time span: Janneke Schopmann, Caroline Nelson-Nichols, and current head coach Anthony Farry. All of this turnover has coincided with an enormous turnover on the U.S. elite roster. In a quartet of Pro League games in May 2021, this lack of experience showed, as the team was outscored 19-2 by Belgium and Team GB.

A lot of the potential experience that was not on the pitch, as it turned out, were on the rosters of U.S. college teams, which were finishing their seasons a scant week before Pro League play resumed.

Though COVID-19 completely erased competition in NCAA Division II and III, the Division I teams put on a splendid show over the course of their respective conference tournaments and national tournament.

Coming out ahead was a stacked North Carolina team, which had Team USA’s Erin Matson on it. Matson, a splendid forward, scored the overtime game-winner in the Division I final against a good Michigan team, the last of her 29 goals on the season.

But what I find interesting about the 2021 spring season was that there seemed to be a shift in power in field hockey. More teams from the Big Ten Conference (three) made the Division I tournament than from the Atlantic Coast Conference (two).

The college field hockey season may have ended in early May, but a development within the sport may have a larger impact going forward. That is the reversal of Stanford University’s announcement to cut the field hockey program and about a dozen others.

Stanford was one of a number of schools which reversed course on cutting sports in their athletic department, including prestigious universities like William & Mary and Brown.

To me, the original decision to cut the sports was a cynical move done with the global pandemic as a pretense, especially given the billions of dollars that these universities hold in reserve. Their move to gut their athletics programs created a healthy dose of uncertainty not only amongst players and coaches, but it created uncertainty on other campuses. Stanford’s original decision to cut field hockey would have decimated competition on the West Coast; the America East Conference has already decided to only go with the teams in its eastern division– Monmouth, Maine, Lowell, Albany, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

Whether or not Stanford, Cal-Berkeley, and Cal-Davis will be able to latch onto another conference remains uncertain.

June 7, 2021 — Unwilling to admit a mistake

In this COVID year like no other, there was one region of the country which embarked on some radical rules changes for scholastic sports.

It’s not unusual for Massachusetts to make news when it comes to school sports rules changes, sometimes with unintended consequences. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association mandated helmets in girls’ scholastic lacrosse in the mid-1990s, a move which resulted in less-skilled defensive play and the unwillingness of some college coaches to recruit within the Commonwealth.

The MIAA also had a rule for field hockey which was meant to prompt the goalkeeper to play any ball heading into the circle instead of letting a ball from outside the circle to go into the goal. But that had the unintended consequence of taking the striking circle out of the equation when it came to strategy and tactics.

Radical rules changes were instituted by the MIAA in many sports over the 2020-21 academic year, which put Massachusetts student-athletes in the position of playing a radically different sport from neighboring states, sometimes putting them at a competitive disadvantage. In field hockey, the sport went from its usual 11-on-11 format to a 7-on-7 format.

And one major rules change resulted in half of the state playing the fall under a different set of penalty corner rules from the spring-playing schools. In the fall, the awarding of a penalty corner resulted in a 23-meter free-in. In the spring, however, a penalty corner was the result. And it wasn’t just any corner, not even the penalty corner situation which you might find in reduced-side overtime in every other state.

Instead, the all-knowing MIAA decided to alter the penalty corner rules to only allow defenses two outfield players and a goalie to defend the goal instead of the usual three.

This spring, a sizable amount of debate has come up around the four-quarter system used to play girls’ lacrosse. The debate surrounds the final minutes of the first and third quarters. When it comes to timing, the final two minutes of the first and third quarters are not subject to the same stop-time rules of the second and fourth quarters. This means that, if a free position shot is awarded — even in the critical scoring area of the final third — the clock is allowed to run until the end of the period.

Enough coaches saw a problem that a resolution was voted on last week by the Tournament Management Committee of the MIAA. The resolution, which would have reinstituted 25-minute halves, was voted down 10-3.

It’s befuddling how the MIAA is so incredibly willing to interfere in the duly-arbitrated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

And unwilling to know when to quit.

June 4, 2021 — Field hockey: Region of the Year, 2020-21

The global pandemic affected a number of scholastic field hockey competitions across America. It forced the truncation of state tournaments in New Jersey and New York, forcing their teams to play only for sectional titles. Massachusetts players had two different sets of rules in the fall and the spring season. North Carolina’s public schools had two different state titleists — one for the fall, one for the spring.

And the most difficult aspect of the season was that there were almost no interconference games, much less interstate matchups.

One of the first states to try to make a go of it last fall was the state of Ohio. The Ohio High School Athletic Association issued a comprehensive series of protocols on July 22nd, less than three weeks after the resignation of Jerry Snodgrass as executive director.

Though a handful of schools opted out of fall play, the majority of teams kept on going, playing their usual schedules and arriving at Upper Arlington (Ohio) in early November for the state championship, won by Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio.)

The amazing thing is that, except for the loss of a handful of schools in larger cities, Ohio was able to get through its season without a major outbreak of COVID-19 reported.

That’s why we’ve chosen Ohio as our Region of the Year for the 2020-21 academic year.


The Buckeye State joins a range of other geographical locations selected in past years:

2020-21: State of Ohio
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.

June 3, 2021 — Gaining a program, but losing a leader

Yesterday, it was announced that Stanford University field hockey coach Tara Jelley Danielson was resigning, a scant two weeks after the school announced the reversal of its decision to eliminate field hockey and 10 other intercollegiate sports.

It’s a stunning turn of events, especially given all of the work that had been done to get the university president and board to reverse course. But the thing is, you have to realize that when Stanford had made its original decision to cut sports, it wasn’t only the players who were affected by the decision. Coaches and support staff for the 11 sports affected found themselves looking for an exit strategy.

In a prepared Stanford University release, she said that she and her family were moving back to New England. Danielson was a legend in western Massachusetts field hockey, playing with distinction for Greenfield (Mass.), the University of Massachusetts, and, for 89 matches, the U.S. national team.

In the summer of 2010, I trumpeted her hire at The Farm. She did good things for the Cardinal program over the years, taking a team which had been winless in nine previous NCAA Tournament appearances and got them three wins in the tournament.

Indeed, she got the Cardinal to within 70 minutes of the Final Four in 2014. But the opponent was the University of Connecticut, a team which would beat Stanford 3-1 that afternoon and would win the national title a week later.

On balance, the field hockey community in California was left better than when Tara Danielson found it, thanks to coaching, administration, role-modeling, and even umpiring. She will be missed in the Golden State.

June 2, 2021 — The passing of a true legend

Yesterday, it was announced that Cathy McGuirk, who took Branford (Conn.) to an amazing 40 consecutive state tournaments during her 41-year career, died yesterday from complications of ALS.

McGuirk won ten Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference titles in Class M. Those championships were won in a span between 1985 and 2005. The team’s purple patch was at the start of the millenium, when the team won four titles in the five years between 2001 and 2005. Her teams got to the state semifinal round 29 times.

She won 558 games, which puts her in the top 25 for all-time field hockey coaching victories. She and her husband John coached together on the Hornet sideline, and the home ground for the team is named for them.

McGuirk had a distinguished playing career for Southern Connecticut State University. In an era when USA Field Hockey had dominion over championship play, she never yielded a single goal in four years in the goal cage for the Fighting Owls.

That defensive mentality served her well as a coach. She started slowly, with a record of 4-7-2 in her first season, but she would build the Branford program into a state powerhouse and a threat to win every time out.

Aside from using numbers, it is difficult to define McGuirk’s record of success, especially in a sport with so many veteran coaches with more than 500 wins and/or more than 40 years of service. But a paragraph from her page on the Branford Educational Hall of Fame website comes close:

Cathy McGuirk’s obvious love of her students and dedication to them is reciprocated. While always striving to bring out the best in her students and her players, she accepts them for who they are, not as athletes. Her efforts, when a student or player is struggling and feels she can’t do anything right, is to show her-and convince her-that she can. Clearly she has been a resounding success.