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Archive for Field hockey

July 22, 2021 — Olympic preview: women’s field hockey

AL’S FEARLESS PODIUM

Netherlands
Germany
Argentina

The Netherlands, coming off a cycle in which they have dominated FIH Pro League play and won the 2018 World Cup, is, I think, a team which is confident and with plenty of swagger. They are a heavy favorite for gold, and they know it. Even without some all-time scorers in the lineup, the Oranje are a loaded squad. Fullback Caia van Maasakker is a deadly sniper on penalty corners, and forward Lidewij Welten is in her fourth Olympics.

But Holland’s last game in pool play, on August 1, is against Germany. I think Die Danas are a team which could send a real message to the Dutch in this situation. Germany will be led by former Maryland star Nike Lorenz, who captained the side in the most recent Eurohockey Nations League championship. Franzisca Hauke, whose brother Tobias won Olympic gold in Beijing and London, is a player to watch.

A star-crossed team, at least when it comes to the Olympics, is Argentina. The Albicelestes, despite winning World Cups, the FIH World League, and multiple Champions Trophies down the years, have never won an Olympic gold medal. The Leonas are going to be looking to all-time leading scorer Noel Barrionuevo, veteran goalkeeper Belen Succi, and forwards Delfina Marino, Victoria Granato, and Maria Jose Granato in order to gain success. As is the case in many years, Argentina usually looks to a single talismanic attacker in order to haul the load, but can the Leonas run a three-pronged attack?

The wild card in this tournament is Australia. The Hockeyroos have been a team in both transition and turmoil the last five years. Australia failed to medal at Rio 2016 and at the FIH Women’s World Cup of 2018, and a number of players such as Georgie Morgan and Rachael Lynch were left off the roster, even as a number of administrative personnel and coaches have been replaced in a widening bullying scandal. Lynch won her appeal to be reinstated to the national team, and she will lead a very young defense. Attacker Emily Chalker will have to have the tournament of her life in order to bring Oz to the medal stand.

I also think host Japan could represent a threat to the podium. The Cherry Blossoms are a quick and skilled side which also has won the most recent Asian Cup. Interestingly, their recent run of form started under head coach Anthony Farry, who jumped ship before the Olympics to coach the United States. The Sakura, however, could not manage a single corner in a recent friendly against Holland, which means that they need to make a quick jump up in class to compete here.

July 21, 2021 — Olympic preview: men’s field hockey

AL’S FEARLESS PODIUM

Netherlands
Australia
Argentina

The 2021 Olympics may have jumbled world rankings on the lead-in to Tokyo, but a Netherlands team which finished out of the medals in Rio are focused and motivated to win. And think of this: the Oranje will have to open the Olympics against the very team that beat them in the finals of the 2018 FIH men’s World Cup, Belgium. I think that the Dutch will have the goods this time. Veteran forward Jason Hertzberger will have to be at his best, and I think Billy Bakker will tie together the offense and defense nicely.

Vying for top honors will be Australia. The Kookaburras will be led by all-rounder Eddie Ockenden, who has played all positions in his career. Much will be asked of attacker Jake Whetton and goalkeeper Andrew Charter.

Defending Olympic champion Argentina has two members of the 300-cap club, captain Pedro Ibarra and full back Juan Martin Lopez. The Lions, however, are going to have a lot of young players in key positions. Midfielder Thomas Habif, whose older sisters Florencia and Agustina have represented Argentina in world-level competition, has just seven caps coming into the Games.

You can’t have a discussion about the medals table without Belgium, your defending World Cup champions as well as the top team in the current FIH Pro League. Midfielder John-John Dohmen has more than 400 caps for the Red Devils, and forward Tom Boon has more than 300. Boon is going to be the barometer for the team.

The dark-horse team in this tournament, I think, is Germany. However, veteran defenders Tobias Hauke and Martin Haner are going to have to do yeoman’s work in front of goalkeeper Alex Stadler, who has just 10 caps to his name coming into Tokyo. If the Germans can find the goals, watch out.

July 15, 2021 — Has the Ivy League become an igloo in the middle of a heat wave?

The Ivy League will be making a sporting comeback, albeit a cautious one, after an entire academic year away from the athletic field, courts, and pools of America.

Being an Ivy League coach is tough enough, with restrictions on recruiting budgets, lengths of season, and the postseason which are not found in any other college conferences across America. But the pandemic has thrown obstacles, dilemmas, and Kafka-esque situations at the Ancient Eight that are unprecented.

One major result has been that a number of Ivy League student-athletes have withdrawn from school — sometimes for a year, but on other occasions, making a transfer to another school. This is because the Ivy League has not allowed current student-athletes a fifth year of eligibility, which has led to students seeking other options.

Today came news of two recent transfers from Penn’s field hockey team to that of Duke — goalkeeper Grace Brightbill and outfielder Marykate Neff. They join a number of other former Ivy League athletes to move to other sides, which include Maryland’s Juliana Tornetta and Northwestern’s Maddie Bacskai.

These are game-changing players, and could very well shift the balance of power in field hockey the same way that Charlotte North did when she transferred from Duke to Boston College, where she won a national championship and a Tewaaraton Trophy.

But think of this from a coach’s perspective. You’re trying to fill out your roster, a fourth of which (theoretically) graduates every year, but your own conference rules do not allow any leeway for an event which is out of your control.

Perhaps the regulations regarding graduate-student play in the Ivy League were a mistake.

July 11, 2021 — Into the wild wild West

Yesterday, a message appeared on my Twitter feed. Have a look:

Yep, that’s Erin Matson, the two-time Honda Award winner in field hockey and still a current University of North Carolina student-athlete, making an endorsement for an athletic supply company. But because of the new dynamics surrounding the uses of a player’s name, likeness, and image (NLI), the nation’s most prominent field hockey player is able to make a sponsorship deal.

It’s only about 11 days since NLI regulations have taken effect, and there’s a bit of a “wild West” atmosphere as all manner of college athletes have been forming deals with various companies. People from coast to coast have been named in stories about the opening of this new frontier in sports sponsorships.

I’m a little concerned, however, about how some of these companies are attached to sports betting. As I mentioned three years ago, college athletes being linked with sports books and casinos is a recipe for disaster. College athletes are supposed to be amateurs. But we all know that some revenue sport participants are often given benefits over and above those of regular students at these colleges.

Many student-athletes live in their own dormitories, right next to training facilities. Some expenses are covered by boosters or wealthy donors. Many of these expenses skirt the boundaries of what is permissible and what is not. Some, as in the case of convicted felon Nevin Shapiro, crash right through any boundaries whatsoever.

When football players participate in bowl games, they are given “goodie bags” which include electronics, backpacks, watches, and even cowboy hats, as long as they are under a certain value; in 2019, that value was $550.

With NLI deals, will this kind of corruption threaten the very integrity of college sports?

It’s going to be interesting to see.

July 1, 2021 — A crux of activity, plus lacrosse awards season

Today, July 1, is a very, very busy day here on the site. And it will be very, very busy this month.

This evening, the latest scholastic girls’ lacrosse season ever has its climax with the Division 1 and Division 2 tournament championship games in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Today and tomorrow, the knockout rounds in the U-19 National Club Championship take place in field hockey, followed by the inaugural Nex-US championship for youth players not taking part in high-performance duty.

Also, today is the first day that NCAA athletes will be able to take advantage of name, likeness, and image (NLI) regulations to allow them to make money while still in college. This could have any number of ramifications, from autograph signings to running sports camps in the summertime.

This month also sees the first of 30 games in the new Athletes Unlimited women’s lacrosse league, an exercise that puts the power in the hands of the players over the five-week season. Teams will be chosen by the best four players in the league, determined by statistical metrics. This creates a style of lacrosse which will be heavy on improvisation rather than an ingrained system of play.

Oh, and did we mention the Olympics begin the final week of the month?


In addition to all of this, we’re readying for awards season for lacrosse in 2021. Here’s what we have planned:

July 6: Region of the Year
July 9: The State of Lacrosse
July 13: United States Coach of the Year, the nominees
July 16: Games of the Year
July 20: Final Statwatch for 2021
July 23: The Final Top 50
July 27: United States Coach of the Year
July 30: Your national scoring champion

June 30, 2021 — Two down, one to go

Today in Virginia Beach, Va., the third age group of the National Club Championship is being contested by 16 field hockey teams from coast to coast.

In the last week, the W.C. Eagles club side have pretty much swept to victory in the U-14 and U-16 division. The U-19 club side, as listed in the official program, should be a heavy favorite to make it a third gold medal. In fact, I think this roster may be the single strongest side in club hockey in recent memory.

Several of the players on the W.C. Eagles side have just been called into national-team duty, both indoors and out. This includes players such as Hope Rose, Ashley Sessa, Beth Yeager, Ryleigh Heck, and Kelly Smith.

However, this all-star team has to be looking across at other teams in other pools as play continues. That’s because, if W.C. Eagles wins its pool, it will have to play the second-place team in Pool A. At the end of the second round of play within Pool A, the team currently in second are the ShoreByrds, a team featuring a number of well-trained players from the Delmar (Del.) field hockey team, which was the top team in the 2020-21 academic year.

The ShoreByrds are in second only through goal differential, and will be playing Gateway in the third round of pool play tomorrow morning. If Gateway wins or ties this game, the ShoreByrds will play W.C. Eagles in the first-round crossover matches tomorrow afternoon. If the ShoreByrds win, they’ll win Pool A and avoid W.C. Eagles until the final.

Mind you, there are 14 other sides in this competition, each of which have worked long hours to get to this tournament. I think three to look for are Rush, Freedom HKY, and Spirit of USA.

Rush is made up of players from southern California, and had a very hectic and harried winter field hockey season which was pushed back on a number of occasions because of COVID cases in the general population. The team is, therefore, the one which I think may have the greatest sense of anticipation for getting out to play.

Freedom is quickly becoming an excellent club side on the American scene, finishing fourth in the U-14 tournament and third in the U-16 tournament. Spirit of USA has rising junior Olivia Bent-Cole, who is one of the more exciting players in the U-19 division.

June 29, 2021 — Field hockey United States Coach of the Year: Carrie Holman, Vienna James Madison (Va.)

In a scholastic field hockey year like no other, the state championship for Vienna James Madison (Va.) took place under circumstances that could only happen in a pandemic setting.

Think of this: a group of players, sticking together through a preseason lasting from August until February, are unleashed on their opposition teams in a sprint of a season, all the while motivated by a couple of mind-boggling expectations. And when the time came for the group to claim the ultimate prize, their leader could not be with them because she was two days away from giving birth.

But Carrie Holman’s team pulled through and won the final — by shutout. For steering the Warhawks through a season like no other, giving up no goals in the process, Holman is the TopOfTheCircle.com United States Coach of the Year for the 2020-21 academic year.


The James Madison field hockey team’s preseason began in August with two unanswered questions: “Will the Virginia High School League have a season?” and “When will the season take place?”

For the next five months, individual players worked out on their own or in small groups, as the Warhawks team was not allowed to have organized team activities as a group. As more news spilled out about the form and fashion of the season to come, the players kept on training, even as the fall season was postponed into a “Fall 2” season spanning about six weeks over the late winter and early spring.

Holman, as it turned out, had a lot of confidence about the kind of team she would be able to put onto the field when field hockey got the green light from authorities.

“I saw this group of seniors when they were freshmen, and I was the JV coach,” Holman says. “We knew they had the potential to be really good.”

Over a Zoom meeting shortly before training camp began, the team reached a consensus in the form of their team goals.

The two goals: “Have an undefeated season,” and “Not give up a goal all season.”

The latter of the two goals was a lofty one indeed. Less than a dozen teams have ever shut out all of their opponents in a season lasting eight games or more in the recorded history of scholastic field hockey in America.

These goals were tested early and often. First off, the opening outdoor practice for the Warhawks was postponed due to snow. There were no preseason friendlies in the Fall 2 field hockey season, meaning that every hour of practice before the team’s March 2 opener against Chantilly Westfield (Va.) was a precious resource.

Holman managed to get the team together in time to compete. She knew that her strength was in the senior class, and her personnel strength was in the midfield. She chose to put her three key players in a midfield triangle: Tess Satterfield as an attacking center midfield, and Lacey Rousseau and Elizabeth MacNiff as holding midfielders.

Against a Westfield team which had, only three seasons earlier, won the state championship, Madison won the opener on a last-minute goal. The team kept on winning, spinning together clean sheet after clean sheet. Holman’s coaching style was borne of simplicity: wind up the players in practice, let them go in games, and it if it gets results, don’t mess with it.

The results kept coming. The team, having placed first in league, had to go to the Northern Virginia Regional tournament (now known as the VHSL Class 6D Tournament) knowing that there was no room for error: only the winner of the regional would get to the four-team Class 6 state tournament. In a comprehensive performance to finish off the 13-team bracket, James Madison beat Arlington Washington-Liberty (Va.) 4-0 to advance.

After a win 2-0 over Fairfax W.T. Woodson (Va.) in the state semifinal game, the Warhawks would meet Virginia Beach Floyd Kellam (Va.) in the state title match.

The encounter would not be easy. The Warhawks would have to travel down to Virginia Beach for the game, but Holman, only two days from giving birth to son Rian, would not be making the trip. In addition, the town of Vienna wouldn’t be coming out to the game like it normally would because the school’s football team was playing in the state semifinals that day.

The odds should have been stacked against James Madison maintaining a shutout, much less winning the game.

But, in this pandemic year, there was an extra factor: technology. Holman watched the Virginia High School League state final through the NFHS Network, a digital channel run by the National Federation of State High School Associations. During quarter and halftime breaks, she connected with assistant coaches Noelle Anderson and Rachel Cooke by video call.

Satterfield would score in the 45th minute to give the Warhawks their first state championship in field hockey, and in the process, made history.


ALSO CONSIDERED:

Chantal Ayers, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.)
Christina Elisio, Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.)
Jodi Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
Alex Marshall, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
Debra McMullen, East Greenwich (R.I.)
Lissa Opolsky, New Tripoli Northwestern Lehigh (Pa.)
Tara Rose, Cincinnati Indian Hill (Ohio)
Courtney Spleen, San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.)
Gina Welling, Nortport (N.Y.)

June 28, 2021 — The perfect demographic for Athletes Unlimited

Last week, USA Field Hockey picked a cohort of 35 players for a U-22 squad, from which a team will be selected to play at the 2021 Junior World Cup qualifier in Chile in late August.

It’s a difficult squad to not only assemble, but to keep together, since the qualifier bumps into preseason play for many of the players’ college teams.

But I think this group is more than just an age-group national side. I think it could form the basis of a possible professional field hockey league in the United States.

Athletes Unlimited is an organization which gives women athletes in softball, volleyball, and lacrosse a platform and forum not only for playing professionally, but for marketing and other purposes.

AU is picking up where the National Professional Softball League, the Premier Volleyball League, and the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League have left off, and have been using social media to gin up interest in their nationally-broadcast games.

There is some chatter out in the Twitterverse about bringing back a competition similar to the Harrow Cup, which began play in 2013.

An Athletes Unlimited league would run similar to the other sports: a pool of players are divided into an even number of teams (four, six, or eight). The teams would have no coaching staffs; the players would control all aspects of their teams, such as training, substitutions, and strategy.

During AU games, players are awarded points for various metrics. In an AU field hockey league, this would mean counting up goals, assists, whether a player is on a winning team, and also perhaps other metrics such as completed passes and steals. The top players within the league, regardless of team, become captains for the next week and select the following week’s rosters. This means that no team has a set color or team identity, and players which may be teammates one week might be rivals the next.

It is a format which you might not think would work in a structured environment such as a field hockey team. But it has seemed to work in volleyball and softball, which also have a great deal of structure within the usual team.

Now, the women’s lacrosse league is going to start within a month. Because of the free flow of the game, I think the AU model will work really well and the natural talents of the athletes will determine which teams will do well.

I think that can happen in an Athletes Unlimited field hockey league.

Now, to make it happen.

BULLETIN: June 25, 2021 — Your national scoring champion strikes again

This afternoon, in her debut for the U.S. women’s indoor national team, Hope Rose, the graduating senior out of Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.), kept on her torrid scoring pace, even on the hardcourt. She led the U.S. with seven goals in a 20-2 win over Guyana in pool play in the Pan American Hockey Federation Indoor Cup.

Ashley Sessa, who with Rose were added to the senior outdoor national team’s player pool just this week, knocked in five goals, while Elizabeth Yeager, who didn’t play a minute of varsity field hockey her senior year because her league was in COVID lockdown, added a hat trick. Ryleigh Heck, the Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) star who was the nation’s leading scholastic scorer in 2019, had a brace for the States, while Corinne Zanolli, the leading collegiate scorer from Stanford University, also added two. Madison Orobono, from your national champion North Carolina, had a single for the Americans.

The U.S. team, seeking a berth in the 2022 Indoor World Cup in Belgium, faces Canada this afternoon, then Argentina and Uruguay tomorrow. The Americans need to finish in either first or second in pool play to make the grand final on Sunday.

June 25, 2021 — Your national field hockey scoring champion

Hope Rose graduated from Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) on June 2nd.

Since then, she’s been traveling hither and yon her field hockey stick. A week ago, she participated in the Young Women’s National Championship, a USA Field Hockey event which brought together top players from the U-19, U.S. developmental, and senior women’s national teams for a tournament in Virginia Beach.

This week, she has moved her talents to Spring City, Pa. to play for the U.S. senior women’s national indoor team at the Pan American Hockey Federation’s Indoor Cup, competing against four other national teams for a berth at the 2022 FIH Indoor Women’s World Cup.

If that’s not enough, there’s also the matter of the National Club Championship, which begin a scant three days later, in which Rose’s W.C. Eagles club side is scheduled to start play. Oh, and there’s that little matter of being called up to the United States senior women’s national team, as part of a group of 36 pool athletes who will be training near Charlotte, N.C. in August.

Oh, and have we yet mentioned her matriculation to the University of Maryland in the fall?

Rose, your national scoring champion for the 2020-21 season, is in high demand these days. Sure, she was amongst the nation’s leading goal-scorers her junior season, but she was a different kind of player her senior year.

In a COVID-shortened 18-game season, Rose scored 90 goals, all the while creating openings in opposing defenses and facilitating other members of the Rams to score as well. Rose’s season compares favorably to the highest-known strike rates in the history of scholastic field hockey in the United States:

STRIKE RATE
5.43 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2020
5.00 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) 2020
4.27 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 2018
3.92 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.) 2020
3.55 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2013
3.51 Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2014
3.39 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2019
3.37 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 2017
3.36 Maryanna Watson, Gloucester (N.J.) 1961
3.28 Tracey Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 1983
3.21 Maryanna Watson, Gloucester (N.J.) 1962
3.12 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 2019
3.00 Michelle Vizzuso, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 1994
3.00 Megan Rodgers, San Diego Serra (Calif.), 2016
3.00 Carol Middough, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.Y.) 2016
3.00 Talia Schenck, Lawrence (N.J.) 2019

As you can see from above, Rose’s strike rate was amazing, but last year’s national leader, Ryleigh Heck, had an even better strike rate. Both are far above any others that have ever been seen in more than 110 years of scholastic field hockey in America.

Hope Rose’s total of 90 is incredibly impressive, given the shortened season. Still, it’s no less of an achievement for her and Central Dauphin, which made its first state tournament with a performance for the ages in the PIAA District 3-AAA Tournament. On Nov. 12th of last year, Central Dauphin beat rival Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) on a walkoff goal by Rose in extra time. On the play, she self-started into a 60-yard sprint, beating three midfielders for pace, then getting an angled shot that went into the cage. That started the Rams on a memorable run through the state bracket, but the Rams lost 4-0 to Emmaus (Pa.) in the state final.

Rose joins a talented list of field hockey players who have led the country in scoring the last few years. Please let us know if there are any additions or corrections that need to be made to the list below. This especially goes for 1988. That missing number is something I hope to find before I shuffle off my mortal coil.

2020-21: Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.) 90
2019: Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 78
2018: Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 124
2017: Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 91
2016: Megan Rodgers, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 81
2015: Nikki Santore, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2014: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 95
2013: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 96
2012: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 68
2011: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2010: Danielle Allan, Pompton Lakes (N.J.) 56
2009: Kelsey Mitchell, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2008: Lucas Long, Allentown William Allen (Pa.) 43
2007: Lauren Gonsalves, Harwich (Mass.) 56
2006: Kaitlyn Hiltz, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 50
2005: Kelly Fitzpatrick, Palmyra (Pa.) 66
2004: Amie Survilla, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.) 64
2003: Anne Marie Janus, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 44
2002: Shauna Banta, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Amanda Arnold, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) 49
2001: Tiffany Marsh, Marathon (N.Y.) 57
2000: Rebecca Hooven, Plumsteadville Plumstead Christian (Pa.) 54
1999: Rebecca Hooven, Plumsteadville Plumstead Christian (Pa.) 48
1998: Kelli Hill, Manasquan (N.J.) 43
1997: Tiffany Serbanica, Madison (N.J.) Borough 43
1996: Carla Tagliente, Marathon (N.Y.) 51
1995: Kim Miller, Frank W. Cox (Va.) 63
1994: Michelle Vizzuso, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 69
1993: Melissa Pasnaci, Miller Place (N.Y.) 60
1992: Diane DeMiro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 56
1991: Denise Nasca, Centereach (N.Y.) 56
1990: Shelley Parsons, Waterfall Forbes Road (Pa.) 50
1989: Christine McGinley, Medford Lakes Shawnee (N.J.) 40
1988: Unknown
1987: Kris Fillat, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 53
1986: Dana Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 57
1985: Hope Sanborn, Walpole (Mass.) and Sharon Landau, Mamaroneck Rye Neck (N.Y.) 53
1984: Michelle Vowell, Garden Grove Santiago (N.Y.) 56
1983: Tracey Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 82
1982: Mare Chung, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 48