Lafayette Gets Ready

The sun was barely breaking the horizon, when my wife and I decided to climb into the family chariot, and drive to Easton. We were assuming Coach Stone would beat the heat, and begin practice around 8 am. We guessed right, and the team was already on the field “warming up” under the already 75 degree heat when we arrived.

After about 10 minutes of stretching, jumping and whatever else the trainer had them do, they came to the sideline to pose and greet us. The picture is mounted here for your pleasure. and as you can see all are in fine fettle anxious to begin. They are keeping in mind that in one week, they will have their first challenge against the University of Delaware.

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They did a series of sprints and we tried to keep tab on the fastest players. Not surprisingly, Sydney Woolston and Alex Talkow consistently had the after jets on as soon as the whistle blew. Although I don’t usually pick out individuals at preseason practice, it’s nice to see the all around intensity on the field. After coming together as unit, this team could be very deep and the coaches will be pleased with options the team will present during this fall!!

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The presence of Audrey Sawers on the field is also a plus for this team, of which one half have yet to play a Division one game. I am confident the mix of experience for this team will be less of an issue as we approach Patriot League play. More about that in later blogs.

In the meantime it was great to be in the stands this morning, and gives us confidence we are really going to see a real season!!! It may even be an exceptional one!!

Go Pards!!

Ready….Set……

Collectively, the Lafayette Field Hockey team will have traveled over a distance half the circumference of the planet, to arrive in Easton, Pa. It is August the 9th, one day before the official report time, and already they have begun arriving for the 10th reporting date. It will be the first normal preseason in almost two years. There are new dorms, restaurants, school stores and classrooms ready to begin a semester which will greet the largest freshman class in Lafayette history.

Unlike the last two semesters it will have classrooms filled with young learners, and in person teachers. Vaccinations are mandatory, therefore College Hill will be a safe refuge from Covid. Fall teams are already at work. The football team has been hard at work since Saturday, and the women’s soccer team has already had its first scrimmage with Villanova ( a Lafayette 1-0 win).

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Since the team for all practical purposes are in the environs, tomorrow will lack many of the first day awkwardness. It will be a fun day of medical checks, instruction, and the first opportunity to wear their game uniforms as they pose for publicity pictures. The hard work begins the following day, if it follows previous practice.

There will be two a day practices as our young women greet two new coaches, who join Jennifer Stone’s brain trust. They bring to Rappolt Field skills accumulated over the last several years, but it all needs to be meshed together to make the whole better than the parts. They are intelligent ( or they wouldn’t have been enrolled), athletic and at this point hopefully fit.

There are 9 days until the first test as a team against the University of Delaware…no time to waste!!!

…..Go!!!!!!

Lafayette Adds Two Field Hockey Stars To Their Coaching Ranks

Madison Maguire and Ashley Mendonca Add Wealth Of International and National Experience

Maguire_092217FH22 Madison Maguire will add a wealth of offensive experience. She recently has been playing with the US national team as a striker receiving 5 caps in the process during NIH play!! The Rumson N.J. native earned her collegiate accolades at the University of Maryland. In 2019 she was named the Big Ten Preseason Team and named offensive player of the week. She was also Big Ten all academic Team, all NFHCA Mid Lantic Region, and played on the the Maryland Big Ten championship team as they became the NCAA runner up!!  She was named all American in 2019 and was the Maryland team Captain scoring 34 points with 12 goals and  10 assists! She had two appearances in the National Championships while at Maryland.

Her favorite sports quote is from Derek Jeter, ” There may be people who have more talent than you, but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” And I believe that.

I hope every Leopard repeats that every day!!!

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Ashley Mendonca comes by way of the University of New Hampshire and was an all NFHCA northeast region selection. More recently she served as a graduate assistant coach at Springfield College in Massachusetts.

At New Hampshire she was also on the American East all championship team and all rookie team. She was also a member of the U21 Canadian National team from 2010 -2017 and qualified for the Pan American Cup in 2016.

As captain of the Wildcats in her senior year and a key defensive player she had  career goals of 16 and 14 assists and an impressive 8 defensive saves. Looking at her stats, I believe she was key member of the offensive corner unit where she led the team in shots!!

The two will meet the 2021 fall Leopard squad on August 10 after which they will. begin preparing for the fall season. The first scrimmage will be at the University of Delaware on August the 19th.

To Vaccinate Or Not For Collegiate Athletes

As reporting day fast approaches, colleges, are beginning to form a policy position for student athletes who will soon be reporting for class. Athletes may be traveling to areas of the country where Covid is starting to surge, and public vaccinations are slowing. There is serious doubt that the US will soon approach herd immunity.

Most the of worry is with regard to variants, but if vaccinations were universal, the variant would not have a chance to emerge. There is good evidence that the two multi-shot vaccines ( Pfizer and Moderna) provide excellent protection against getting the virus and secondly, if you get it, prevents serious outbreaks.

It is in this environment schools are evaluating protocols for the fall. At a large state school the field hockey coach said to me that vaccinations are optional but unvaccinated student athletes must travel and live separately. Team meetings will be done virtually for those students as well. For all practical purposes the unvaccinated will not really be participating fully.

Harvard. Princeton and Yale have stipulated all students must be vaccinated by August 1, and provide evidence of that fact to the school. In the past week, that mandate has been extended to faculty and staff. At all three schools, vaccinations are provided on campus, but a student in residence can not move in without being fully vaccinated. Medical exceptions are granted as are religious reasons judged by a health committee.

In an email to all students, Lafayette College is requiring a completed copy of the Covid 19 vaccination card be submitted to their health portal by August 1, before they will allowed to move into residence halls. Those not in compliance risk their fall enrollment status. If the second dose is after August 1, students are asked to email covid-19.lafayette.edu/covid-19vaccinations. Exemption request were due yesterday July 21. Failure could jeopardize course selections and housing assignments.

Oddly, unlike the Ivies, faculty and staff vaccinations are not required. I think students should be aware of faculty who may not be immunized for their personal safety. Perhaps that will change in the future.

I have been vaccinated and I believe those who are able should be vaccinated for their own safety, the safety of the community and their own family.

Less Than Three Weeks Until Reporting Day

It’s less than three weeks until the Lafayette Field Hockey squad will report, to begin the rigorous preseason preparation for the fall 2021 season. I am sure the squad is doing all its pre season conditioning regimen, to be ready to assemble and play as a squad, pointing to a championship season.

The first test will occur on August 19, slightly less than a month from today, at one o’clock in Newark, Delaware, the home of the always competitive Delaware Blue Hens. Three days later it gets no easier when the University of Albany arrives at Rappolt Field at 2 pm to test the Leopards in a exhibition game. Five more days later the real fun begins at Rappolt, for a 4 pm game against an improving Hofstra team.

The period between August 10th and the 27th all the effort will be to mold a group of fine athletes and skilled hockey individuals into a team. The hope from the coaching staff is, that all will arrive in shape in order to spend the maximum time on learning to play with one another, and to allow a true evaluation of talent. It will be hot, and double sessions will tax the most earnest team member.

For we fans, it means we still have a little time to wait for some real competition. Meantime, as fans we look at schedules and rosters and try to handicap the season. There are still three Patriot League teams who need to post fall schedules and rosters. Colgate, American, Lehigh and Lafayette have done that, and it’s allowed this writer to start speculating on the coming season.

I still believe Lafayette has accumulated one the finest recruiting classes in the league, but they still need to be put to the test. The first Patriot League game is with American on September 18th at 11:00 am in Washington,DC. By then, American will have played VCU,Georgetown, Old Dominion, Delaware, William and Mary, Richmond and UMass. Lafayette’s schedule is no less daunting with Hofstra, Villanova, Ohio State, Indiana, Yale and Quinnipiac. Both teams will have had six competitive games under their belt to be prepared. Last spring the Leopards went to overtime in both games…..they have something they owe to American, for those two loses. A win in DC would be sweet!!!

The other two teams appear to have slightly easier schedules but no doubt both will be ready to play come their dates with Lafayette. Lehigh has been getting better and they seem to measure their success by their rival game. Oct 22 is another revenge date at 7pm in Bethlehem!!!

Meanwhile The NCAA Struggles

No one seems to like the NCAA these days, and they are making their lawyers rich in the process. They reported recently they spent nearly 68 million dollars on legal bills losing the Alston case in Supreme Court. Despite this the President, Mark Emmert continues on, having had his three million dollar contract renewed.

The large football playing schools seem to be ready to split off, on their own to be regulated by their individual conferences. NCAA seems all but conceded to a bifurcated structure where big time college football is its own animal. This will leave a regulatory structure overseeing basketball and the olympic sports at best. 

The NCAA has only itself to blame, as they left large regulatory problems behind, and contented themselves to be a harassing supervisor with an outdated 460 page rulebook.

Leopards To Play Four Big Ten Schools In Challenging Fall Schedule

Alix Talkow blocks pass against American

The fall schedule was posted on twitter but with a couple of changes needed. It was incorrectly reported that Lafayette will play 20 games. ( The article incorrectly reported the first two scrimmages with Delaware and Albany as official games). However here are schools and dates for games as reported.

The two scrimmages are Aug 19 and 22. Delaware will be away at 1pm and Albany at home reportedly at 2 pm. The first official game will be home August 27th with Hofstra @ 4pm,  followed by an August home contest with Villanova on the 29th@ 3pm. Then, the following weekend will be the first two games away with Big Ten opponents, Ohio State on September 3rd @. 4pm and Indiana on September 5th @11 am.  The Leopards will return home on September 10th to host Yale in a game under the lights @7 pm. They will then hop to a bus to travel to Quinipiac on Sept 12th for a 1 pm game.

The first Patriot League game will be with the likely Patriot League favorite American University in DC on September 18th @12 pm. The Leopards went to overtime in both games with American this past spring including a controversial call in the second game which led to a game winning stroke. The Patriot League schedule continues the following weekend at home against Holy Cross on September 25 @noon. Lafayette will stay at home for the next two games on October 2 and 3rd against Colgate @ 11 am and Fairfield @2pm respectively. 

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Eva Kaplan sends a pass downfield

The next week the Leopards will again hit the road against Boston University on Oct 9th@ 12 pm and Brown Oct 10th @ 1 pm. The following friday, Oct 15th @7 pm will see the Nittany Lions of Penn State at Rappolt field, followed by Drexel on Sunday October 17 @ 1pm. The Patriot League schedule resumes with a game against arch rival Lehigh on Friday October 22nd in a game under the lights. @ 7pm. Temple will host the Leopards on Sunday Oct 24th @1 pm.

The Patriot League final regular season game will be marked by a visit by the spring league champion Bucknell on Oct 30th @12 pm quickly followed by a visit to Piscataway for a game with the fourth Big Ten rival Rutgers @2 pm.

This is an ambitious schedule which if successfully navigated could certainly lead to at least a top 20 ranking. A Patriot League championship by winning the Patriot League tournament would amount to an automatic slot in the NCAA national tournament.

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Audrey Sawers will be back to challenge Patriot League foes

One half of the Leopards had an intense spring game experience, the other half which includes a very talented freshman class will have not played a single division one game. The early games will be good experience and preparation for the latter part of the season. Audrey Sawers will be returning for her covid season bonus and should be a key leader on a team that saw each game played this spring to one goal margins as well as a number of overtime games.

American will return two for their bonus season and Lehigh will return two as well. Grace Angelella will be playing for Temple, a late season game as she will studying for a masters degree at the Philadelphia school. In addition, Teressa Delahanty a Lafayette  graduate from several year ago will be a volunteer coach at Drexel.

NIL Starts To Kick In

Lehigh University softball player Carley Barjaktarovich has signed an endorsement deal with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the minor league team. The July 22 theme night will feature a paid appearance at the Iron Pigs game. Last Monday the Iron Pigs announced that she has signed an endorsement deal. The Iron Pigs say it is the first professional sport deal since the NCAA decision to allow college athletes to accept endorsements for the use of their name, image and likeness while still competing for their school. Terms were not disclosed. Under Pennsylvania law, schools and leagues cannot sanction college athletes for deals like this.

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Meanwhile Erin Matson who plays for UNC has reported that she has signed a deal with Longstreath and other equipment companies for an undisclosed amount of money.

PS. I have just learned the game with Indiana will be at Ohio State in Columbus!!

Managing Change

The March To A “Normal” Season

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Audrey Sawers moves upfield

It’s only six weeks away, as coaches are preparing for a “normal” fall, where they will be returning to seasons dealing with restructuring, and building their teams for a run at championships. Players, fans, and parents are trying to adjust fall schedules to be in attendance, to watch any number of sports.   Student athletes will eventually be back to live classrooms and hopefully leaving the words like “zoom” behind them. In one and one half months bags will be packed and delivered to new dorm rooms. and college athletes will step on the field with their teammates. As the time approaches, all should all be increasing their off season training. Coach Stone believes in a fit squad, and quite logically the task of molding a squad that plays better as group than as individuals, can’t begin with a team more concerned about their next breath than their next pass, shot or defensive assignment.

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Emma Garvey and Mary Gould of Lafayette stop Bison attack at the goal

The past year has brought new changes as well. Lafayette will have a new president who will no doubt have her own idea about structure. By all accounts she and her spouse are committed fans of college athletics, given their experiences at Notre Dame, Virginia and UNC. In the world of NCAA athletics, it’s interesting how change that was unneeded or unwise has force schools and institutions back to the middle. Many schools, who had tried to drop sports, have now reversed their decisions. William and Mary not only reversed their decision to drop sports, but fired their AD and hired new talent. Stanford, who only 9 months ago decided to drop field hockey altogether will welcome Roz Ellis as their new coach. The Ivy League lost the chance to retain seniors who were deprived of their final  season.  They will see their graduates play somewhere else. Juliana Tornetta having graduated from Princeton, as an all american and now a member of the US Team, will play at Maryland this year! The Patriot League is preparing to deal with NIL and perhaps they have finally given up their aspiration to be “Ivy Light.”  The Ivy League certainly did not demonstrate any superiority of management last year. .

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Leopards get ready in Maroon Club weight training center!!

The NCAA is managing itself to irrelevance, as they seem stuck to managing minutia, as opposed to dealing with real problems. Their efforts seemed limited to changing small elements of the language in their regulations than addressing real problems.

Hopefully, Lafayette will emerge stronger, chastened by over zealous administration of rules, but keeping what is good. I expect athletics will emerge stronger as  Intercollegiate Athletics gets new attention, starting with a change in the reporting structure. All indications seem to be moving in that direction.

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A traffic jam in front of the Lafayette goal

I am ready to get down to the nitty gritty of fall competition. Lafayette will soon have on campus one of their most talented classes ever. Certainly it can be said individually, they can be as competitive with any team in the league. The question is repeated here, How will they mold together as a team?.

With many teams returning players for additional seasons, it will be challenging. Audrey Sawers the Lafayette captain, will be returning for her senior plus season and will be a threat to Patriot League foes. But Lehigh will return Lenke Havas and Drew Pecora, and American will return Noor Coenen and Gaby De Kock.

The League will be improved, and perhaps a better performance in out of conference games will get the League a better seed in the NCAA tournament. Bucknell’s performance in the national tournament certainly helped. Schedule’s are being finalized and Colgate already has reported a schedule that includes Albany in August. a late game with Syracuse. and two games with Cornell. Lafayette will host Colgate on Oct 2 at Rappolt Field. By my count, having reported only 15 games Colgate will have room for more games. There are reports that Lafayette will be playing  Yale on Sept 10 also at Rappolt.

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I will be interested in those early games and scrimmages, as experience must be gained. There will be 10 players for Lafayette who have never played in a Division one game. All manner of challenges, as the season approaches and certainly fodder for us fans!!

Two Lafayette Players And Asst Coach Heading To USA Field Hockey National Championships

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Molly McAndrew chases down VCU opponent

Veteran Lafayette teammates , senior Molly McAndrew, and junior Sydney Woolston will travel with asst Coach Jenny Rizzo to Virginia Beach on June 15-20 to play in the USA Field Hockey National Championships. The 10 team tournament is a selection opportunity for the U 21-22 US team, and the US Development team. The 10 teams will be sprinkled with current US team members, increasing the competitive talent for each team. Lafayette alumnus and captain of the US Team Amanda Magadan will be playing on Team Spirit, coached by US teammate Melisa Gonzalez.

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Molly McAndrew was assigned to Team Unity coached by Iain Byers head coach at Longwood University, Sydney Woolston will be with Team Brave coached by Ohio State asst coach Kate Lipton, and Jenny Rizzo will be with Team Courage coached by Roz Ellis, University of Iowa asst coach. They will be playing an international format with crossover games at the end to determine a champion.

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Sydney Woolston is part of the stout Leopard defense!!

Aside from the current US Team members, the teams are populated by the best collegiate and post collegiate players in country, competing for a coveted spot on one of the US teams. Because of Covid, the tourney was not played last year.

McAndrew was rookie of the year her freshman year, and subsequently been an all league selection. The respect she gets is demonstrated by her being double and triple teamed on most every occasion. Woolston showed her talent from her initial season at Lafayette on defense, by having defensive saves and is a key member of a very solid defense at Lafayette. Jenny Rizzo played for Penn State and also played professionally in Europe.

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Jenny Rizzo was star goalie at Penn State

Phil Edwards who is USA Field Hockey’s manager of Coaching and Performance congratulated all the participants on being selected to play in this prestigious tournament.

Season Ends With A Spectacular Championship Game….Now What??

The North Carolina v Michigan game was worthy of the championship imprimatur. It was a game that not only was played with skill but with heart. Michigan, who beat Bucknell 2-0 and Louisville to get there, showed they were ready. It was a game that demonstrated two different  regional styles of play. On the Michigan Big Ten side, it was physical intense play, but on the UNC side there was more finesse, behind the best player in the country, Erin Matson. It was Matson in the end, who performed on an overtime penalty corner….no fake…no dodge, just sheer power past a very fine Michigan goalie. However, it was still a gutsy performance by Michigan, ultimately hampered by several cards which limited their offensive chances. Great Field Hockey for us fans!!

Meanwhile the Patriot League Makes a Statement

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Congratulations to Bucknell, who put away a game and undefeated Virginia Tech team, on the way to playing the number 2 team in the nation. For the life of me I can not off the top of my head name a dominant star on the Bison team ( like I can name Erin Matson on UNC team). They played a steady, disciplined game, stressing a team approach. In the end Michigan was just too good.  But Bucknell represented the Patriot League well, and as their season progressed, they just got better and better in the end winning six straight!!.

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Sophie Carr sprints to get in position

What will the Patriot League look like next year? The League will be better as teams have already revealed that many senior stars will return for a fifth season. American will return Gaby de Kock and Noor Coenen, and Lehigh will return Lenke Havas. I would be pleased if Lafayette could return one senior who really was a dominant player  on the team…we will see!

In the meantime the Leopards have recruited one of the best classes ever. They dipped into the foreign player pool to pick up two players from the Netherlands, one from Canada and one from New Zealand. In addition, they have added a player from California and one from Connecticut. There are four good players who didn’t see action this spring due to Covid regulatory issues and will battle for playing time.

Coach Stone in her http://www.goleopards.com interview stressed how hard her team of coaches worked in building this class. The skill will be there, but the team and the coaching staff will have to work hard, molding this eclectic group into a  team this summer. Lafayette played every game to a one goal margin and just one other win would have put them into the PL tournament with a team that played Lafayette into overtime.

Lastly, I have urged the League and Lafayette to install video review. There DOESN’T seem to be a monetary reason to delay this any longer. Stay tuned!!

How Did The Various D1 Conferences Perform With Covid

First, the worst performance goes to the Ivy League who played no sports. Not only did they screw their students and athletes,  but ruled they could play a fifth year IF THEY APPLIED FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL AT THE SAME SCHOOL!. Only the ruling came after applications closed for Ivy grad schools. It was reported that many IVY baseball players went to Florida and formed their own league while attending school virtually. There are some graduating seniors who will play at other schools this fall. Grade for a miserable performance is F minus.

The ACC had a fall season and a spring, It was controlled and fair. Grade A

The Patriot League did not have a fall season but managed to put together a spring season with abbreviated schedules. The Field Hockey schedules for this 7 team league was undecipherable with Lafayette not meeting Colgate and playing American twice. Boston University was to play Colgate and Holy Cross twice (they failed to play the second game with Colgate) and did not meet American all season. Boston gets a huge question mark by forcing players to play with masks ( dutifully done by placing them on their chin). There were no cases of “chin” Covid all season!!!Bucknell was the only team in the Patriot League playoffs that played a complete schedule!  Lafayette, on the other hand was the first league member to allow spectators….well done!!  Overall grade for the League… a solid C.

Other leagues allowed out of conference games in almost all cases, so C plus to a solid B for the rest!!

Visiting The USWNT At Practice

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Amanda Magadan making a move towards the goal

As members of the US Field Hockey Foundation Board of Trustees, my wife and I were invited by the Head Coach of the US Women’s National Team, Anthony Farry to attend a practice, and meet the current team members. The team currently practices at the Proving Grounds in Conshohoken, Pa. At the present time, there are about 20 players hard at work preparing for a European trip in May. They will soon be joined by about 5 more, who are still busy with the NCAA tournament.

Coach Farry briefly described his training regime to us, emphasizing these are women who are not only sacrificing to wear the red, white, and blue but are already accomplished and skilled athletes. The challenge will be meshing all that talent into a smooth, cohesive unit. In the end, it will be real game experience that will do that. They will travel this spring with 30 players, first to Belgium, then to England and his goals are to see how the team works together.

He introduced us to his coaching team, assistant Coach Greg Drake, Kyle McMinn strength and conditioning  coach, and team manager Krista Page. Most impressive was a demonstration of the technology being used in the conditioning process. Coach McMinn showed us how they use the POLAR GPS system to keep tabs on work rate and efficiency on the practice field. The system tracks total movement and uses algorithms to measure and score performance, the idea is not just rate but is the athlete being efficient in their movements. In addition, each teams member has watch which can track sleep patterns. All this data is available to be downloaded to the coaches and each individual athletes.

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Much of the practice consisted of two goals about thirty yards apart with a goal keeper in each cage and two attacking teams practicing close in shots. Meanwhile, the rest practiced team drills on another part of the field. In addition, there were practice shoot outs where we marveled at the various skills of these women.

We had a chance to visit with Amanda Magadan ( Lafayette grad) who has the most experience at this point with 82 caps. Yes, this is a young team just now trying to discover its personality. They are all looking forward to the spring FIH games. In June, they will be returning to the US for a series of games in Virginia Beach. The Beach and US Field Hockey sounds like the formula for a great week end!!