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Archive for Field hockey

Apr. 17, 2017 — Pulling a dandelion

Today in a court in Polk County, Iowa, opening arguments take place in the lawsuit filed by former senior University of Iowa senior associate athletic director Jane Meyer are scheduled to take place.

Meyer’s lawsuit is over her termination in the wake of the firing of field hockey coach Tracey Greisbaum only days before the start of the 2014 season.

The witness list in this trial is going to include a number of prominent figures in University of Iowa athletics, including Iowa athletic director Gary Barta. His role in the Greisbaum firing is going to receive the greatest scrutiny in this trial, and it’s going to be interesting what kind of tone is set by the defense.

After all, there are two more lawsuits upcoming; Greisbaum’s lawsuit against Iowa is scheduled to go to trial in early June, and Meyer has filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit in recent months.

This could be a bumpy, and damaging, ride for many people.

Apr. 10, 2017 — Youth (and age) being served

The United States women’s national field hockey team placed fourth and last at the Hawke’s Bay Cup in New Zealand, which concluded over the weekend.

But with a pair of chances for the U.S. to qualify for the 2018 FIH World Cup later this year, all eyes will be on head coach Janneke Schopmann’s player choices coming off this tournament.

First-timers such as Ashley Hoffman, Amanda DiNunzio, Erin Matson and Alyssa Parker had goals during this tournament. Veterans Kat Sharkey, Jill Witmer, and Michelle Vittese also had major impacts for the Applebees.

But it’s fine the differences between teams — especially teams of the quality of Australia and New Zealand — that could have been the difference in the Americans’ effort in Hawke’s Bay. The States won one game, drew one, and lost five. Only one of the defeats was by more than one goal.

With so many caps left home, however, this is an encouraging series of results. How good could this team get with the right mix of players?

Apr. 5, 2017 — Another field hockey legacy team fades into the sunset

“Cool kids never have the time
On a live wire right up off the street
You and I should meet
June bug skipping like a stone
With the headlights pointed at the dawn
We were sure we’d never see an end to it all.”

— Smashing Pumpkins

In the fall of 1979, a multi-ring field hockey circus took place on the grass pitches on Princeton University and some of the area surrounding the south end of campus.

The event was the 1979 Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national tournament. For the first time, the competitors were split into three divisions, allowing more teams a chance to have their one shining moment.

It was pretty well known that West Chester State University, winners of the previous four AIAW crowns, would not be as much of a contender in the fall of 1979. Head coach Vonnie Gros and a number of members of those powerful teams were together training for the inaugural women’s field hockey event at the 1980 Olympics.

That opened the way for other teams, such as Division I champion Long Beach State and Division III champion Shippensburg. While Shippensburg remains as a championship-caliber varsity program to this day (the Mauraders having won two of the last three NCAA Division II titles), Long Beach State ended its program in the 1980s.

The Division II winner, Southwest Missouri State, persisted, even as many neighboring teams — Kansas State, Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri State, and Central Missouri State — dropped their field hockey programs.

But the persistence ended Monday, as a budget shortfall of an estimated $1 million forced the hand of the university to cut the school’s field hockey team.

It’s the latest in a number of cuts — Rhode Island, Philadelphia University, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, Philadelphia Biblical University — that have a number of members of the American field hockey community on edge. There have also been threatened cuts at Lock Haven and at the University of California, Berkeley. It was posited that the long and drawn-out controversy at Berkeley regarding the team’s home ground could have been a pretense for dropping the program entirely.

The dissolution of the Missouri State program, to me, is troubling. It’s a direct affront against the field hockey community within Missouri and southern Illinois. Plenty of talent comes from these schools, and one school, St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.) invested in an on-campus hockey-specific stadium with short-pile water-based turf and a watering system.

If an all-girls’ school can invest in field hockey, what is preventing Missouri State University from doing the same?

Mar. 31, 2017 — A breakthrough for the Boys in Blue?

Last night, the U.S. men’s field hockey team had to deal with one final twist in its World League Round 2 quarterfinal against Trinidad & Tobago.

The organizers exercised the option of moving the times of the quarterfinals for the benefit of the host nation. What this did was to move the USA-T&T quarterfinal from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to allow more supporters to come to Tacarigua, a town eight miles inland from Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad.

It was certainly a loud crowd, and it was even louder when the hosts took a 2-0 lead on a Dylan Francis extra-man goal with under three minutes remaining in the third quarter. With that much time remaining in the States’ hopes for a World League Semifinal berth, the Americans pressed. Michael Barminski responded with a goal from the left baseline that went into the top corner on a near-impossible angle over the head of T&T goalie Kwasi Emmanuel.

That important proximity goal gave the U.S. some momentum heading into the final 15 minutes. With time ticking down, and with the U.S. having pulled goalie Brandon Karess for an 11th outfielder, Adam Miller sent a diagonal smash into the circle from the left side of the midfield. Patrick Harris, one of the few U.S. players to play semiprofessionally in Europe, got his stick on it to put the match on level terms.

In the resulting penalty shootout, the States managed to get the early advantage through Harris, but it was tied 2-2 when Tyler Sundeen managed to fake down Emmanuel deep into the eight-second limit, providing the margin of victory with a turnaround shot.

The U.S. now goes into the semifinal round against Japan tomorrow, needing one win to make into the Hockey World League semifinals, something the Boys in Blue have never done before.


Mar. 24, 2017 — A new contender in Florida

The last few years, the story in scholastic lacrosse in the state of Florida has been the rise of the Vero Beach (Fla.) program, which has been willing to host all comers. And there was also the rise of Naples Barron G. Collier (Fla.), which beat Vero Beach for the state title a year ago.

Collier is undefeated on the season in its road back to the state title. But there’s another undefeated side that could break through into championship contention.

Orlando Dr. Philip Phillips (Fla.) has a 12-0 record heading into the Panthers’ last two games of the regular season. The Dr. Phillips have been playing extremely well the last month, averaging more than 20 goals a game and giving up 10 or fewer in all seven of these games.

Dr. Phillips has had a few long runs in the state playoffs, but for four years straight (2012-15), the Panthers fell out of the state tournament against Orlando Timber Creek (Fla.).

Head coach Tim Morse, currently in his second season at the helm, has been looking to improve the team’s fortunes. The Panthers lost in the first round of the postseason a year ago, but are very much on track for a high seed in the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Tournament.

“We were hurt last year; we were missing our whole midfield line,” Morse tells The West Orange Times and Observer. “I knew going into the fall, we’d started having a lot of success against a lot of the good teams in Central Florida. We definitely thought we would be in this situation.”

But the Panthers need to beat Ocoee (Fla.) and Lake Mary (Fla.) next week to guarantee a top-of-the-top seed in the state tournament.

Indeed, this year’s FHSAA tournament could feature a number of outstanding games towards the end; there are talented players all over the state, and they are making contributions to their high-school teams.

Mar. 23, 2017 — Back across the bridge

The first time I met Shaunessy Saucier was in 1999 at the National Futures Tournament in College Park, Md. On a hot afternoon on the University of Maryland’s recreational turf, I sat down to talk with her mother Dorothy, a field hockey coach from Old Town, Maine.

Old Town is a village of about 8,000 located in the center of the state, a few miles from the University of Maine in Orono. It’s a place which is not for the faint of heart when it comes to winter weather; most every car has a block heater, most every house has some sort of heating gadget to melt snow off the roof before it got too heavy.

Dorothy Saucier, who has coached at Old Town for decades, told tales of the program at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, which had a team since the inception of World War II, and had a distinct home-field advantage late in the year, when snow would pose an occupational hazard for the players.

Shaunessy Saucier was at the NFT, playing for the New England Region team and doing pretty well. Little did I know that, a decade later, she would become an NCAA Division I coach at Bryant University.

Bryant, a financially foundering school in the mid-1990s, made strong infrastructure investments and increased endowment towards the turn of the century. In addition, the school made a bid for admission to NCAA Division I in 2007.

It’s while the school made its move that Saucier made her impact as head coach of the Bulldogs. Recruiting heavily from her home state, she made the team a factor by the time the 2013 season unfolded. The Bulldogs went 11-7 that year, all the while riding the ragged edge. In October alone, Bryant went into overtime five times.

The wheels fell off the last few years; Bryant went 4-14 last fall, but did have the fourth best GPA of any NCAA Division I team.

Saucier announced her resignation today to become the head coach and owner of the Black Bear Elite field hockey club back in Orono. In point of fact, she is crossing the Piscataqua Bridge to go back home.

I have a feeling she’s going to do great things while she’s there. She’s too good a hockey mind not to.

Mar. 22, 2017 — A significant opening

What has distinguished the Walpole (Mass.) field hockey team from most others in the U.S. — aside from its ersatz nickname — is stability. The Porkers have had exactly three coaches since 1967, all of whom have contributed to the legacy and legend of this powerhouse scholastic program.

The first coach was Sue Brainerd, who coached the team to its first MIAA state championship in 1984, then retired. Penny Calf, who played under Brainerd, would win seven more state championships until turning over the reins in 2002 to Marianne Murphy, who also played field hockey under Brainerd.

Murphy, through her use of enterprising and quick players, won four state championships, including one just this past fall in the MIAA Division I bracket.

But there will be a different set of footprints in the technical area this coming fall, as Murphy announced that she would be stepping down.

“I have enjoyed all 15 years,” she tells The Walpole Times. “I had great kids, they really went on after high school and excelled on the field and off the field. It gives me great pleasure to see them as young women today, but I have other things I want to do in my life before I get too old.”


Walpole, a town of about 25,000 located halfway between Boston and Providence, R.I., has developed a significant field hockey subculture over the last five decades. The team received raucous support at its old ground, The Porker Pen, a grass pitch that played to the team’s strengths.

The addition of artificial grass in recent years only added to the program’s significant home-field advantage, especially with a quick team.

But it’s going to be up to the next Walpole head coach to keep that championship form and that civic pride alive.