Before We Realize, The Season Will Be Upon US

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Summer break is nearly over and the pages of summer work outs, the clinics and camps  are slowly behind the Lafayette student athlete, and in less than a month, they will be returning  to campus to begin the final preparation and rehearsals for the fall season.  By this time next month, their first division one competition, in the form of a scrimmage will be upon them. About 85 percent of the seventy plus schools have already published their schedules, and they are beginning appear in publications like “Field Hockey Corner.”

But the campus itself is beginning to come alive. You can see small bands of athletes organizing for captain’s practices. The Football team will be the first to arrive and the start of their summer workouts might be more of a subtle change in routine, as you can already see larger and larger groups working out under the hot sun at Fisher Field.

For those of you thousands of miles away in Germany, Holland, and Vancouver it’s been very hot here in the US Northeast with temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees, I can only imagine the heat on the astro-turf surface. As parents and student athlete alike arrive in less than a month, they will see a campus in the midst of large changes.

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The new integrated science center is nearly completed, Just in time, as STEM offerings are being enhanced. The school will be offering a new BS in engineering which will complement the other more specific engineering offering. The new dorms have begun construction on Cattell Street. They will be ready for occupants in 2020. They will include a plethora of new retail shops on the bottom floor replacing the old worn out housing and retail space that has occupied the Hill for years.

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The freshman college population will well exceed 700 as the school advances to their short term target of 2900 students. In the coming years we will see additional changes and renovation to accommodate the new populations. On the list of renovations according to highly placed sources, will be the science building, Kunkel Hall, the student housing at Marquis, McKean, and others.

The college is also committed to change and improvements in the athletic department. Sherryta Freeman, now more than a year into her job as Athletic Director, is changing the face and resources of the department for a reinvigorated sports program. There is a new women’s Lacrosse Coach, and additional staff for the Men’s Lacrosse program as well as the women’s basketball program. There is a new administrator for compliance ,who I understand will also have some sports responsibilities.

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I have also learned from high sources that a new fence surrounding the field hockey field is in the works, and upon inspection recently I see small flags on the outside where the fence will go. Upon arrival at Metzgar Fields the new construction of fences and welcoming signage finally makes Metzgar have the look of the  beautiful campus Lafayette is. Also in the works are permanent bathrooms adjacent to the field hockey stands, which will bring comfort to our many fans. The timing is unclear but I am assured they are on the way.

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We will welcome seven new families and they will learn quickly how the program is a family friendly activity. There is excitement always, and this season is no exception. The Patriot League is as competitive as ever and as we begin that schedule, Lafayette will be facing familiar coaching organizations, each with the goal of not only making it to the post season league playoffs but the NCAA national tournament.

There will be some new opponents and according to their already published schedules we will be seeing  App State, and Monmouth among others for the first time in a while. There will also be the familiar names we have seen in the past according their schedules, Penn, Temple, Liberty, and Richmond have us on their websites. More about that in later posts. I plan to go over each Patriot League team later this summer and I eventually will have something to say about our out of conference games as they approach.

For me its been a long summer waiting. but its almost over!!

 

It’s All In The Details At Individual Camp

Head Coach of the Lafayette Leopards, Jennifer Stone, has annually organized two camps in early July to help young players develop their skills, and to improve team  dynamics. The first of those camps is a camp devoted to individual skill development, and the second camp is a team camp.  The camp instructors and demonstrators are the Lafayette coaching staff, and some of the current Lafayette players. This year there was an added opportunity for athletes preparing for the fall season. Stone invited two members of the USA Field Hockey team defender Julia Young and Midfielder Amanda Magadan to instruct. For those of you looking for a metaphorical comparison, it would be like two members of NFL champion New England Patriots giving instruction on how to play football.

 

 

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The two USA players are part of a young squad, that will be defending their title at the important July 26-August 11 Pan Am Games this summer in Lima Peru. As an olympic qualifier, the games have added significance. Both athletes have a list of honors too long for this blog. Amanda and Julia both graduated from college in 2017, Amanda from Lafayette, and Julia from UNC. Both were named all-Americans and first team all-conference.   Both were members of the World Gold Cup  semi-final teams in South Africa in 2017. That was after working their way up to the US Team through the various junior national teams. Amanda has 67 international caps, and Julia has 44 caps. Illustrating the youth of our national team, only 7 team members of the 27 listed on the roster have more caps.

I was able to have a short conversation with both of these athletes and posed a few questions  to them:

What makes or defines an “elite athlete.?”

Both agreed elite athletes have to be able to put in the work,  and prepare every day. In Amanda’s USA bio she quotes Emerson, ” What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside you.”  In Julia’s bio she says, ” Hold yourself to a high standard and don’t stop raising the standard as you grow and get better.”

Can you spot a future US Team member early?

Both agreed, you can only see potential, but that potential has to be nurtured. Julia started playing  futures in 7th grade in 2004, Amanda  an excellent softball player, only began playing field hockey in 2009.

What is the one skill you practice everyday?

Again the two elite athletes agreed, as they almost said in unison “the right foot pass.”  Now as a 25 year hockey dad, that was a new one, and it had to be explained to me. Since the stick is always in essence a ” right handed” instrument, the tendency is to step with the left foot when passing. Developing a right foot step can give you an advantage against a defender and a player can shield the ball from the defender.

How do we “grow the game.”

As a trustee for the US Field Hockey Foundation I was curious about their vision. Julia felt people need to hear more about the game, and there is a need for more publicity about Field Hockey to get people interested. Amanda pointed out the need for equipment for younger players to play, and cited that the team has been giving sticks to younger players to encourage them. That was symbolically demonstrated at the FIH game with Germany this year when before the game sticks were given away by the team.

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Julia and Amanda demonstrate for campers

The rest of the day was filled with drills and Coach Stone organized stations around the field where individual skills were demonstrated and tried under the watchful eye of Julia, Amanda, Coach Stone and her staff.

The 30 or so campers were certainly advantaged to have the opportunity to learn skills that will used in their respective fall seasons.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to these young women. This fall I will be expanding my writing beyond just Lafayette Field Hockey. I may start covering and attending other college games in the future, and I will certainly be covering the journey of the US Team in their quest for Olympic recognition.

Summer Is A Time For Decompression And Preparation

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Audrey Sawers and Tara Hamilton display their gold

As the earth makes it annual journey, so too  our field hockey student athletes begin their annual preparation for the tasks at hand this fall. It’s a little more than a month away when our team will report for the challenges of preseason. Certainly circled will be the first scrimmage with Fairfield on August the 18th. For the first year teammates, it will be their first taste of Division One hockey as a Leopard. For the veterans, it will be the time of reconstruction and dedication for the challenges ahead. By accounts, this is a team that could be in the hunt. There are only 17 scheduled “obstacles” in the way and two playoff games during the chill of November.

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Sidney Woolston at the Futures National Tournament at Spooky Nook

In fact, no team in a Division One environment is standing still, so the challenge is not one of passing a static opponent, but keeping up and surpassing those along the way. Aside from summer study, family and personal travel, we have had a chance to see and an occasional Leopard in action. Arguably, it’s seeing our newest Leopards in action that is the most interesting. Yesterday, I had a chance to see Sidney Woolston, a freshman defender/midfielder in a game at the Futures Championships at Spooky Nook. Sidney was playing on a New Jersey team ( London), and saw lots of crucial minutes in her first two games of the three day tournament. The weather was challenging ( it must have been over 100 degrees on the turf).  They played under the old high school rules, and did not separate the game into four quarters, but played two long halves in a challenge to fitness  as well as skill. The 5’7″ defender showed her potential to those of us on the sidelines and I was to get several action shots for my camera.

Meanwhile, 3000 miles away Tara Hamilton was to join one of our key leaders, Audrey Sawers in a Tournament at their club in Western Canada. They led their team to the gold medal. I have no report yet as to any scoring by either athlete. But their working together might portend a combination this fall. Audrey of course earned her first caps in Ireland playing for the Canadian under 21 team in Ireland. ( cheered on by her Lafayette teammates)

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We all know about Grace Angelella and  Molly McAndrew’s play after bering selected for the 2019 Young Women’s National Championship. Molly was reported to score a nifty goal in her final game of the tournament. I hope that will be a warm up for the fall season.

Meanwhile, I hear the rest of team is playing pick up games once a week at Rappolt, and I am sure they have been following Coach Stone’s fitness regimen. The first day of preseason is no time to begin getting fit. I expect all will arrive ready to learn and play.

In a couple of weeks camps will begin at Lafayette and it will give Coach Stone and her staff a chance to evaluate where the team is, as perhaps some freshmen and veterans participate or teach at the camp.  There will be additional instruction from Lafayette alumna and national team player, Amanda Magadan, who will be joined by US teammate Julia Young. Traditionally, our first year players are in plentiful supply at the individual camp.

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Jenn Delongis snags the ball against Maryland

No doubt league rivals are getting ready as well, as will our out of conference foes. We can’t be more excited by the potential of the team this year, because there is no doubt about the talent. No doubt the skill is there to return to the PL tournament and perhaps make that next step to be champions and play in the NCAA tournament. Championships are won  in the off in the season as the saying goes. A little more than 30 days and counting….

Leopards Cheer On US Team Vs Germany

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Amanda focuses on an opening during the game

With Leopard alum Amanda Magadan starting for the US Team, Leopard fans and alums were not in short supply at Spooky Nook, home for US Field Hockey on Saturday.  The US gave Germany all it could handle on the field as the crowd of over 4500 fans cheered for their country with all the enthusiasm it could muster, and Amanda’s former teammates were behind her at every moment during the 2-3 loss against the number 5 ranked team in the world, Germany.

The game had all the atmosphere of an Olympic contest, national anthems, cheering fans and great hockey. The Leopards in attendance, Brittany Blass, Meg Lillis, Aliza Furneaux and Theresa Delahanty did not hold back as their friend and teammate gave her all on the field.

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The Delhantys were there in force!!

It was almost like old times as our alums were joined by Lori Lillis, my wife Pam. the Delahanty’s, Peggy Furneaux, and Silvia and Aldo Magadan also engaged in the festivities. All that was missing was the. pre and post game tailgates.

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Theresa Delahanty, Aliza Furneaux, Brittany Blass and Meg Lillis together

It was time for a little catch up as the alums explained where they are now. Brittany has accepted a job with a hospital in Minnesota in the critical care unit as a Physician’s Assistant. Meg Lillis is in DC as is Aliza who just finished her masters and is working for the EPA. The most recent graduate, Theresa Delahanty is decompressing while evaluating job applications  after receiving her degree in Mechanical Engineering,  All four young women still play a little hockey on a club team and agreed to get together to  play in the future.

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Silvia Magadan makes no secret of whom she’s rooting for

Silvia Magadan is Amanda’s number one fan ( easy to guess in her game day garb)!  She will be traveling to Chilie to watch the Pan Am games and has volunteered to work with the team.

Angelella and McAndrews Play With The Best At The YWNC

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Angelella gets ready in position on the offensive corner

What a better time than Father’s Day weekend for hockey dad’s and mom’s to see their daughters compete in an all-star  hockey format. There are 138 elite athletes competing for a chance to play for the United States on one of its high level national teams. There are players from a variety of Division one teams from across the nation. Sprinkled throughout the stands were parents, siblings, teammates and friends wearing a mixture of tee shirts, hats and tops from a plethora of schools. Lafayette was privileged to have two of its own on the turf, Junior Grace Angelella and sophomore Molly McAndrew.

Forgetting previous honors or affiliations all were equal as they competed on 8 teams in a 20 game tournament. Forgetting the purpose of the event, the hockey was entertaining and played at high level. All the games were played under the new rules for the fall collegiate season, and US Field Hockey added one additional test. Coaches were not allowed to coach in the first quarter each game, while the players were encouraged to solve their own hockey problems on the field.

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Angelella ready to recieve the ball

We traveled to Spooky Nook, the home of US Field Hockey, Friday and Saturday, seeing both Leopards perform a full game each day. Originally, McAndrew and Angelella were to play on the same teams, but Molly was moved to the “Pride” team at the last minute because they were short players. Friday, the two teams played at the same time so watching both in its entirety was impossible. Therefore we opted to watch Grace’s team,”Freedom” on Friday and Molly’s team Pride on Saturday.

Freedom and the Patriots put on a display of intensity in the Friday match. They played at a  skill level, which belied the fact the teams had one practice together that morning. Passing was especially accurate, and they moved the ball up and down the field with ease. Grace Angelella at mid-field fit right in. She was involved in a lot of play from her starting midfield position and became a key contributor, using her considerable talents. Both teams had a hard time finishing, but I thought Freedom had the better of the action when Taylor Blood ( yes, from Patriot League Boston University) connected on an off-target insert during a corner  with seven minutes remaining giving Freedom the 1-0 win. On the second day, while we concentrated on Molly’s game with Pride, Freedom got their second win on a 3-1 victory over team Courage. They currently lead Pool A with six points and a goal differential of 3.

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Molly McAndrews shows classic form

Molly McAndrew meanwhile met on Friday with the US under 19 squad and lost 4-1 in their first game, but from our point of view it reenergized as we watched them win the second game played on Saturday by a 3-2 margin. Molly saw lots of action as she started in her customary attacking position.  Pride seemed to dominate play for each of the 4 Quarters. Dream ( their opponent) scored first in the second quarter and Pride responded by hitting the post twice. It took another quarter to even things up. It was in the fourth quarter when things were opened up on a penalty corner early in the fourth quarter. A third goal was to ensure the win with a rebounded shot. Dream was to get within one as they connected late in the game on a penalty corner of their own to end the scoring, giving Pride the win and third place based on goal differential as of Saturday night.

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McAndrews recieves the ball on the run

The weather was perfect for field hockey with a mixture of sun and a cool westerly breeze.  Today, on Father’s Day will no doubt see the stands filled with justifiably  proud”field hockey Dads.” It looks like Tuesday, games will be live streamed for those of you who would like to watch.

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Some familiar fans expressing obvious pride from the sidelines. (Marty and Sue McAndrews)

 

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63 Days And Counting

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Greta Kulby in Germany with new teammate Lici

Now that graduation has passed and final exams are done, our favorite Leopards have spread to destinations all over the world. There is exploration of all kinds going on. Whether it be athletic, academic or an internship to sharpen skills and provide contacts for eventual employment, I am sure our athletes will find the skills of teamwork, time management, perseverance and leadership valuable commodities to their eventual employers in the future.

Their experiences this summer will be varied, but will no doubt enhance their multiple resumes. We have already seen Audrey Sawers earn her first international caps in Ireland, witnessed by her friends and teammates in Dublin, Liza Welch who was traveling, and Sophie Carr who lives in Ireland. I got an email from Sue Kullby,  Greta is studying in Germany, and she attached a picture of Greta with her new teammate Lici. Greta also hopes to contact Lisa Van der Geest in Holland and Ana Steps in Germany before her return to the states.

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There are a number of Leopards at school doing research with their professors, one I hear is involved with an NIH a research grant. Others are taking courses to enhance their education at Lafayette, and try new things. However, Hockey remains on their minds. Tomorrow, my wife and I will take a drive out to Spooky Nook to watch Grace Angelella and Molly McAndrews participate in the Young Women’s National Championships.

 

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I understand members of the team regularly get together for informal captains practices to keep their skills sharp. Head Coach  Jennifer Stone no doubt has given them a fitness regimen to follow, and I am sure they all have early August in mind, as they rigorously follow its carefully prescribed exercises.

It is 63 days until the first scrimmage and we are all anxiously awaiting!! Go PARDS