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Archive for Field hockey

April 28, 2018 — Into the gap

It’s already conference tournament season in NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse, as four tournaments are already underway, with two AQ champions being crowned by tomorrow afternoon.

Huh? How is that? Aren’t there a total of 13 tournaments and AQs on order?

Well, yes. But two conferences — the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the Big South — have a one-week gap between the first round (held at home sites) and the final two rounds (held at a predetermined site). Another conference, the Patriot, starts its tournament on May 1, then plays its semifinal round on Friday with the final Sunday.

I don’t remember this happening in the past, though I did note that the Big Ten did something very similar in field hockey last fall. All nine teams played their preliminary tournament games on campus sites, then converged on the University of Michigan the following weekend for the semifinals and final.

In many college sports, the conference tournament not only serves as a final opportunity for teams to play their way into an NCAA Tournament, but also serves as the venue for a conference’s annual banquet and for the conference to release its league all-star team as well as announce its player and coach of the year.

It’s for this reason that I believe a conference loses a little bit if you have a break in between the first round and the semifinals, since you’re not going to have every team in the same location at the same time.

But I guess, in these days of athletic budgets being what they are (except for football and men’s basketball, that is), this is going to be the new norm.



BULLETIN: April 24, 2018 — A field hockey figure is now in charge of the NFHS

Dr. Karissa Niehoff, a former field hockey player at Marblehead (Mass.) and at the University of Massachusetts under Pam Hixon, has been selected as the next executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, the national governing body for high school sports. The announcement was made today, and her first day on the job will be August 1.

Niehoff is the first woman to have the post. She has served as the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CASCIAC), the state governing body for the Nutmeg State, as well as chair of the NFHS Rules Committee.

In addition, she also served 10 years on the Board of Ethics at USA Field Hockey and was the field hockey program leader at the International Youth Camp during the Atlanta 1996.

We don’t know what changes may come specifically for field hockey with Niehoff at the helm. But I think that the organization is likely to try some progressive ideas, especially when it comes to gender imbalances and dangerous drops in participation.

Those drops are in wrestling and gymnastics, but there are also challenges when it comes to other sports competitions competing for the attentions of school-age athletes. This has led to the flight of many boys’ and girls’ soccer players to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy league, as well as a small, but growing number of field hockey players choosing to train with the senior U.S. national indoor and outdoor teams rather than play for their high-school teams.

April 21, 2018 — A change in recruitment, but is it the right one?

This week, the NCAA Division I Council voted to change a very important date in the recruitment calendar of high-school athletes.

The day is Sept. 1 of a potential student-athlete’s junior year of high school. That’s the first day that a player may make an official visit to a university campus, and the first day of permissible contact between a coaching staff and a recruit.

The vote, made during meetings of the Council last Tuesday and Wednesday, was spun by the NCAA as some sort of major initiative:

[M]ost prospective student-athletes will follow a recruiting model that resembles the schedule other students follow when choosing where to go to college … The new recruiting model allows potential student-athletes more time to make thoughtful decisions about their next steps after high school.

The rules were written for every NCAA sport except for football and men’s and women’s basketball. A few sports, like softball, see the rules as necessary given the number of 8th-10th grade commitments that have become the norm, especially amongst mid-major softball programs.

It must, however, be pointed out that there have been more than enough sophomore, freshman, and even middle-school commitments which have hit the news in both field hockey and girls’ lacrosse the last three years.

Indeed, when Syracuse announced that it had landed Caitlyn Wurzburger, an attacker now playing for Florida powerhouse Delray American Heritage (Fla.), a vote one year ago this week amongst NCAA lacrosse coaches put a ban on certain kinds of contact before Sept. 1 of a recruit’s junior season.

Sound familiar?

That’s pretty much the same legislation that was passed by the NCAA Council this week to cover most of the rest of Division I scholarship programs, albeit the Division I softball coaches have put down more severe strictures in a separate vote.

Now, it’s dubious what the long-term impact is going to be. In field hockey, a number of players have already escaped before the barn door closed. Carly Hynd, a freshman from Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.), committed a few weeks ago to the University of Maryland. And rising senior Sammy Popper, who contributed to the United States senior women’s indoor national team a few months ago, had committed to Princeton during her freshman year at Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.).

I do not know how many more freshmen or sophomores will be precluded from making verbal commitments or early decisions. I guess it’s the hope that the NCAA Council’s vote will give parents more time to make a good decision about their child’s future, or whether the Council will adopt softball’s stronger rules governing phone contact between coaches and recruits.

But given the national-team, professional, or Olympic dreams of some of these players and the single-mindedness of some to do whatever it takes to pick the right college, there will still be a handful of very elite players who will take an early plunge, sometimes just to get the decision over with.

April 16, 2018 — Seeing double, moreover

A quarter of a century ago, the field hockey team at Florence (N.J.) Memorial boasted three sets of twins — the Luybers, the Correntis, and the Careys, whose niece Lexi Smith would eventually break the National Federation record for career field hockey goals.

This year, another team in the capital region of New Jersey has a similar story, but it is a girls’ lacrosse team. Read Joe O’Gorman’s notes about the four (yes, four) sets of twins at Lawrence Notre Dame (N.J.).

April 9, 2018 — Meanwhile, at the Nook

This week is an important one for the U.S. women’s national field hockey team as this week’s four-match Test series is the last audition for hopefuls for making the World Cup team this summer.

The extended roster is missing a handful of veteran players such as Katelyn Ginofili, Erin Matson, and Michelle Vittese, but will be offering golden opportunities to players such as Anna Dessoye, Taylor West, and Mary Beth Barham. Barham, you may remember, was a veteran of the U.S. women’s indoor national team, which won an unforgettable match against Argentina to get into the FIH Indoor World Cup.

The four matches will be played in very changeable weather conditions. There is projectected rain and sleet this evening, but the temperatures could reach 80 degrees by the time the last match is played this weekend.

Should be an interesting time for the physios, equipment managers, and the players when it comes to climate adjustment.

March 29, 2018 — A mess in Lausanne?

I’ve been sitting on this for the last few days, looking for some correlation, confirmation, or response. But, given what I know about international governing bodies of sport, the narrative in this story is, regrettably, completely plausible.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

March 26, 2018 — History, repeating

It was only about two weeks ago when a video of a pair of Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) students singing along to a hip-hop song using a racial slur went viral. Some 2.5 million people saw the video, which included junior national field hockey team member Charlotte de Vries. She was suspended from the United States’ team and from school, and issued an apology.

Today, the attention is focused on the Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse team, which filmed itself singing along to a hip-hop song using racial slurs.

To its credit, Virginia Tech and its coaching staff has been out in front of the story, issuing an apology on behalf of the team and John Sung, the head coach, being transparent about how he is handling the situation.

“They’ve got to be educated to make better decisions,” said Sung. “They’ve got to know what’s socially acceptable, and I think they’re learning all these things. A lot of it is on me as the leader. People forget — I’m a minority.”

Indeed, that’s the shame of the situation, where the young women representing the Virginia Tech program chose to broadcast the video to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

It’s this kind of thing that does not do honor to the game.