Stand Still And Be Run Over

Every year the powers that be, review the rules for field hockey to look for improvements for the game. Coaches look to new ways to arrange their team to take advantage of opponents. Likewise, technology marches on, providing coaches, players and officials with tools to make the game fairer and accurate.

Several years ago there was the advent of cardiac monitors to give coaches on the sideline a view of the effort and stress on the field. For most Division one teams this has become a standard addition for practices and even for monitoring during games. Officials now communicate with each other via headphones on the field.

The next generation of technological innovation is being worked on at Lafayette. My wife and I were on campus yesterday and took a short drive to Metzgar athletic campus and observed there was installed in the south side of the field hockey field, three cameras. Lafayette is now testing a system that will eventually include as many as six cameras for video referral.

Video referral is now standard at many schools including those in the Big Ten, ACC, and many Big East schools. It is required to be provided by host schools in the NCAA tournament. Lafayette will be the first school in the Patriot League to have video referral at home games. Which means potentially, Lafayette might only play 3 games without referral. If Lafayette were to host the Patriot League tournament that tournament like the NCAA tournament, would be played under referral rules.

Aside from games, the software could be used at practice to focus on individual players to assist coaches in improving skills and tactics. Yes, Lafayette initially will be the leader in the Patriot League in providing this technology. I believe it won’t be long before the rest of league will be catching up. Those who stand still, risk being run over!! Go Pards.

No doubt other improvements are being considered as Lafayette builds a winning culture…stay tuned!!!

Leopards Finish Strong In Spring Contest

It was a tale of two teams as Lafayette started out as cold as the north wind that was blowing across the field at St. Joseph’s. It was a three way series of contests between Lafayette, St. Joseph and Penn State. By the the end of the day the light went on for Lafayette and they demonstrated why their Patriot League opponents will have a lot to think about this fall.

The first two contests between Lafayette and Penn State and later St. Joe’s had the Hawks and Nittany Lions setting the speed and pace of the game. However, by the end of the day the Leopards went into high gear scoring and winning one game with Penn State and getting numerous shots against the Hawks of St. Joes.

Lafayette was finally getting fast breaks and beating the high press their opponents continued to throw at them. It gave this fan a peek of the Leopard team potential.

Everyone was to contribute and our forwards took their legs into high gear until mid afternoon. The Leopards sprint on the field seemed to coincide with the sun which finally came out, as the Leopards were to show their ability.

The day ended with a sudden death overtime 7×7 followed by a shootout with St Joes which the Leopards took.

The next game is with Big Ten opponent Rutgers at 7 pm on Friday.

What Is Required At The “Next” Level

As our young players move from high school to college, the level of hockey continues to improve as many high schools and now universally, clubs, play on turf. At the club level in particular, skills are acquired that can be used in college, as the short water based turf at clubs is more akin to the turf that is used at all division one schools.

Like most sports at the Division one level and beyond, the defining skill for success on the field is speed and the acquisition of receiving skills. The players are faster, the ball is faster, reaction time is faster and increasingly, awareness on the field includes anticipation of not only where your teammate or opponent are on the field, but most importantly where they will be.

Passes are made to give your teammate a lead in full stride much like a football quarterback will lead his wide receiver. On defense the anticipation of movement will lead to opportunities for fast breaks and turning a defensive effort into an offensive scoring threat. It’s a beautiful thing to see when executed in any sport, and often time defines success at each level. Stand still and get beaten at any level. Coach Stone’s emphasis on fitness is the foundation for being able to play the game at a high level. Without fitness, movement will not be possible. She is trying to give all her players experience with top teams who play at a championship level. Spring gives everyone a chance to reach the “next” level and test themselves.

This spring Lafayette will meet St Josephs, Penn State, Rutgers, Penn and, Delaware. All will play at an increasing pace and Lafayette will be learning to play at the pace that defines the “next level.”

This Saturday the Leopards will traveling to St. Josephs and will also play Penn State. Both teams were NCAA tournament participants. Each “game” will be 2 full quarters with 2 minutes between quarters. So 30 minutes of playing. It will be a total of 42 minutes between game start times. The day starts at 11 with St Joes and Penn State. Lafayette plays Penn State at 11:42 and St. Joes at 12:24. Lafayette will next play at 1:48 against Penn State and follow with St. Joes at 2:30.

There is a final game with St Joe’s starting at 3:12. It’s an interesting day for Lafayette and an opportunity for Lafayette to improve their pace and speed.

Spring Is A Time For Learning

The Leopards are still in the construction phase of organizing their team for the fall. Coach Stone has presented the team with strong challenging opponents, which should in the end expose weaknesses as well as, strength while providing learning opportunities. This afternoon, the Leopards faced two good teams. The Hawks of Monmouth, newly a member of the CAA, and the ACC’s Syracuse Orange who showed why they are highly regarded.

The afternoon started out with great promise as Lafayette scored the first goal of the afternoon in an intense scrum in front of the cage. Molly McAndrew found the handle finally to score with only 1 minute having run off the clock.

For the next two periods Monmouth displayed their fast breaking slashing style. The Lafayette’s defense held up well, but the Hawks managed two more goals ( one on a corner). During the three quarters, Monmouth managed as many corners as goals.

Syracuse, who was an NCAA tournament team, also scored 3 goals against another goal by McAndrew. Syracuse also had four penalty corners and five shots on the afternoon.

The weather was threatening all afternoon, and I have to say the Leopards played their best quarter against Syracuse on their third try. The Lafayette offense has yet to get in mid season form, managing few shots and circle penetrations. Most concerning was the lack of any penalty corners all afternoon after six quarters of hockey.

But this is why we have spring “games.” It is not only an opportunity for young players to find their place, but for coaches to evaluate and groom their current talent before the new recruits arrive. The fall will have fewer opportunities before the beginning of the championship season.

For many of the players this is their first spring training where they are having the opportunity to improve their skills and for their teammates to know where they are on the field. Meeting teams like Syracuse, Penn State, Temple and Monmouth is an opportunity, as they may see them again this fall!!

Next week gets no easier, with games at St. Joseph’s with Penn State joining in the fun. I expect our passes to be crisper and energy to be more obvious.

Temple Surges Past Lehigh In Early Spring Contest

Lehigh was missing their fine goalkeeper, Maddie Kahn who is playing on the under 21 national team. In addition, they only had 11 players to put on the field against the 20 plus strong Temple squad. Temple had a number of rising sophomores in the lineup, which proved too much for the rebuilding Mountain Hawks.

For what it’s worth, Temple scored 7 goals to Lehigh’s 2. The Owls scored with 7 minutes left in the first quarter to get an early 1-0 lead on a corner. Lehigh did manage to get two goals in the second quarter, catching the supine Temple goalie on the ground. Temple answered with two goals of their own, the last coming with 6 seconds left in the half taking a half time lead 3-2

In the second half, Temple turned it up, with 4 additional scores from the field, and from corner opportunities. Temple earned seven corners to Lehigh’s 2. The lack of a bench for Lehigh was a factor as the game progressed.

Lehigh made significant use of aerials to advance the ball from the backfield, but Temple was to use their athletic abilities to spend most of the game in Lehigh territory. Lehigh veterans Anna Piecuch, and Sarah Bonthus, who scored in the game were engaged. Lotte Smorenburg, a rising Junior, performed well in the backfield. Rising junior Emily Mars contributed as well. There will be adjustments and work to be done to replace graduates Lenke Havas and Drew Pecora. I saw no indication of a Lehigh player exercising their Covid option

Temple on the other hand showed progress from last year with a plethora of undergraduate talent returning. Rising Juniors Myrthe Schuilenburg, Olivia Vacari, and Maddie Molchany showed strength. Rising sophomore Julia Bunch looked strong, scoring multiple contested goals. Number 33 Juliane Kopec, another rising sophomore, scored two goals on strong shots while having multiple strong circle penetrations.

Most impressive was number 8, Nienke Oerlemans who appears to be exercising her covid option. As a strong defender and inserter on corners she seems to have that strong hit and control that puts the ball where it needs to be.

Lafayette travels to Temple tomorrow to meet the Owls for a contest of their own!!

Let The Games Begin!!

Hefting was there when needed

The long wait is over as the 2022 edition of Lafayette Field Hockey begins their spring season this Sunday at 1 pm at Temple. The Leopards completed a fine season last fall only to lose to American in the Patriot League championship game 2-1. The last part of the season was marred by several key injuries and there is no doubt a healthy Lafayette squad this year to my mind, makes our Leopards a clear talent leader in the League.

The 3-2 loss at Lehigh was difficult for us fans to take, especially since three starters were missing from the lineup, and the winning goal came after suffering a penalty stroke in overtime. For many of us, that call will stick with us until next year’s contest at Lafayette with full strength n the field!!

The Leopards all last season responded to a difficult schedule with several close losses to quality teams. The double overtime loss to Ohio State and the one goal loss to then number one ranked Rutgers with many Lafayette returning veterans, gives me encouragement on the prospects for the coming fall.

Lafayette beat Temple last year 1-0 on a Molly McAndrews goal on October 24th while dominating the other stats in the process. They out shot Temple 14-9 forcing their GK to make 10 saves. Penalty Corners were 6-3 in Lafayette’s favor ( playing with video referral). The game was played after the Lehigh game and enabled the Leopards to bounce back even with a depleted bench!!

The Leopards have lost a very good senior class but the returning vets are talented and motivated! The coaching staff remains in place as Lafayette will be adding 5-7 new recruits to the roster!

There will be several changes around the League in physical plants, one coaching change, and several teams now adding international players to their squads. At Lafayette, their is a credible effort to add video referral to their resources. Although I have no hard information about the rest of the league ( though I do hear rumors), Lafayette’s out of conference schedule will no doubt be filled with team’s who have video referral!!

Bucknell has welcomed a new coach, Kelsey Kolojejchick who comes from a very successful run as an assistant at Harvard. She arrived at Harvard after a short stint with Syracuse and was a U.S. national player and a four year all American at UNC. Bucknell will add 6 new players including 2 international players from the Netherlands and Germany. Lafayette won two close 1 goal games against the Bisons. The last one was a semi final win in overtime, getting the Leopards into the championship game.

On the other side of the coaching spectrum Boston University head coach Sally Starr continues her amazingly long career having signed an extension this winter, after finishing her 40th year! In addition, Boston is putting down new turf which should fix the problems in the current turf, which made it difficult to transfer the ball from side to side. This spring, Boston will be practicing at Harvard while construction begins, and will be playing their first spring game against Umass this Saturday.

Holy Cross will also be replacing their field after the spring track season. ( their field is surrounded by the track). They will also be installing a more modern irrigation system. Holy Cross is also dipping into the international pool of players by adding two internationals, one from Vancouver and another from England to their 5 person incoming class. Lafayette is at Holy Cross this year. Due to construction, which will not be finished by the fall, the Crusaders will be playing teams in California according to reports.

Lehigh proved themselves to be players last year making the PL tournament for the first time in several years as well as posting a winning record. Leneke Havas and Drew Pecora will not be there this fall but U 21 GK Maddie Kahn will back between the pipes. I am hoping they will upgrade their schedule improving the League RPI in the process. They will be playing Temple on Saturday ( they beat the Owls last year 2-1) which should give us a window on relative strength. Next year the Lafayette/ Lehigh match will be at our house with all its attendant importance.

I have no info on Colgate except we will be playing them in Hamilton in the fall.

There are at least 5 teams that will compete for the title this year. Only four will make the League tournament. With Lehigh improving its schedule hopefully the League could be in a position to make a lot of noise in Division One.

The 2022 Field Hockey Leopards Are On The Field

Spaans outruns the Bucknell defense

In about two weeks the 2022 version of the Field Hockey Leopards will play their first spring game. Coach Jennifer Stone has released dates and opponents for this spring’s competitions and she has not been reticent in making sure it’ll be tough enough to be worthy of the ability of Lafayette. It includes NCAA qualifiers and a team who during season was ranked number one in nation.

For the first game, the Leopards will travel to Philadelphia to meet the Temple Owls on March 27th for a 1 pm meeting. Last year, Stone’s charges won a 1-0 game late in season. ( As an aside Lehigh will be playing Temple the day before,) On April 3rd Lafayette will host two other teams, Monmouth and Syracuse. Syracuse of course is an ACC rival while Monmouth will be joining the CAA. Six days later it’s back to Philadelphia for a challenging afternoon on April 9 playing a very good St. Joseph team and perennial Big Ten power Penn State, who beat the Leopard 3-1 last fall.

McAndrews goes after the ball

The challenges keep coming as Rutgers travels to the Lehigh Valley and Rappolt Field on April 15 for a 7pm night game. Rutgers was ranked number one last year when the Leopards lost by one goal in the last regular season game in October. The last game of the spring will again be in Philly on April 23rd at UPenn with the University of Delaware joining the festivities.

Mary Gould and Felicitas Hannes get into position

Coach Stone and the Leopards will be looking for the formula to break through and bring its first championship to Easton in ten years. Last year the Leopards were thwarted in 1-2 loss to American in Washington, DC. Lafayette also lost on September 18 to American in a regular season contest in overtime 0-1.

The Patriot League will be improving as Lehigh has also been knocking on the door as they lost to American in the semi-final 0-1. Lehigh has become more competitive and will be traveling to Lafayette this year. I can also believe that Boston University will also improve as they also will be visiting Lafayette in the fall. Bucknell has a new coach and will be trying to avenge a 2-3 two overtime loss in the regular season and 3-4 exciting overtime loss in the PL semi-final. Having a successful regular season record and hosting the championship game has to be a goal for the Leopards in the coming campaign.

The Leopards will look to replace many key players due to graduation but will still see a veteran team on the field this spring and perhaps 5-7 new recruits. Molly McAndrews will be returning for her Covid season and will be there leading a diversified offense. Leneke Spanns, a fan favorite will be there to spark the offense with her super speed and competitiveness to please the home fans. Alden Boccella a hero of the Bucknell semi-final game will be back with even more experience and playing time to drive opponents nuts. If that isn’t enough, Felcitas Hannes adds her strong shooting skills to bother opposing goalkeepers!

Hefting was there when needed

However the defense will also be stout with Simone Hefting providing strength and leadership. Shea Balderson, India Ralph, Alex Darrah,and veteran Sydney Woolston adds to the wall. One key position will be GK, as Emma Garvey steps in. She will be featured in the spring games this year, which will give her the experience and confidence to anchor that position. I will note that she had a fine spring last year and looks to me to be up to the challenge.

The midfield and transition game is solid with the aforementioned Bocella and boosted by Filine Gerbrandji. Today’s Field Hockey game requires solid players to step up and Ariel Schumacher, Carly Kreytak, Alex Darah, Mackenzie Hall, Laine Delmomte and Alexandra Conway are true division one athletes and proved it last year. The spring will be a great opportunity for them to step up!!

One addition could be Tara Hamilton who suffered a knee injury in the Delaware scrimmage last year. Her return could make our offense truly awesome.

I really don’t think I am being just a homer, but I feel this team could be one of our great teams. The preseason predictions have always passed by the Leopards ( even during our consecutive championships) but this team certainly deserves to be challenger for the championship. I can see them as a top twenty team given the work I believe these young athletes will put in between now and August. I am pumped for the spring!!!!

Go Pards!!!

Future Looks Bright For Lafayette Field Hockey And The Patriot League

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The Lafayette defense steps up!!!

Lafayette College and the Patriot League made major progress this season as many of the teams played right with the royalty of Division 1 hockey. Lafayette had single goal losses with several Big Ten teams and beat Indiana on neutral turf in the second game of the season. At the end of the regular season Lafayette lost to number one Rutgers by one goal.

American who won the Patriot League title by one goal against Lafayette played in the second round of the NCAA tournament losing 3 to 2 to nationally ranked Iowa.

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Abbott making one of her 13 saves against Penn State 

Even more telling was the amount of PL student athletes selected to NFHCA regional teams. All together the Patriot League had 14 athletes from all League teams selected. Noor Conan, Georgia Davis, and Bryn Underwood were selected from American in the mid Atlantic region. The mid-East Region featured Lafayette’s Audrey Sawers (PL offensive player of the year), Lineke Spanns ( PL rookie of the year), and Simone Hefting. Lehigh had Lenke Havas, Sarah Bothus and Drew Pecora as selections in the same region. Lily Nelson from Bucknell and Taylor Cassamassa from Colgate rounded out the Mid- East Team. Sinead Walsh and Caitlin Little from Holy Cross and Rachel Borzymowski showed up on the Northeast team.

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Sophomore Alden Bocello takes off in Boston

By my count, more than half of the above nominees will be back next year. Lafayette will return Leneke Spanns, a freshman and Simone Hefting a junior. There is a high likelihood that additonal players at Lafayette and the League will exercise their covid year option to play next year.

Post season honors continue to roll in for Lafayette players including Audrey Sawers who will join the Canadian National Team in Chula Vista and may end up playing against US National Team Captain and Lafayette Alum Amanda Magadan in test matches later this month!!

In addition Lafayette will be looking to improve its facilities with some upgrades and additions to their home field. Financing for Video Referral has been secured, and their are plans for other upgrades in the works!!

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Filene Gerbrandij sees Felicitas Hannes

Coach Stone has secured NLI’s from a number of excellent recruits and is working hard in the off season on rounding out the class by the spring. Spring practice and workouts in the new year are already being planned with competitions that will give us a clue on what the 2022 Leopards will look like.

There is no doubt in my mind that Lafayette will be a top four selection in the League and may even be the League favorite given it’s strong under class roster!!

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I can’t wait to see this team this spring, rested, energized and ready for challenges!!

In the meantime Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends who read this blog!!!

A Post Script

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I decided to wait several hours rather than write as I came in the door. I wanted the emotion of the moment to pass, so I had time to reflect on this season. This 2021 game was a game of champions. As I had written, this Patriot League Championship had the best field in my memory. Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell and American played three games, worthy of the name, championship series. Each game was decided by one goal, demonstrating an intensity and preparation that spotlights the best of the sport, and represented these athletes well.

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American will be a good adversary in the NCAA tournament, and it is a shame there will be only one representative from the Patriot League in the tournament. Bryn Underwood was named most valuable player, and given the one goal margins, the sophomore deserved the honor.

As to the Leopards, Coach Stone and her staff deserves kudos for their run in these 20 games. They had to overcome many obstacles ( some artificially imposed and some just fate) but they showed championship mettle all during the season. To the seniors, thank you for your individual courage and devotion to the program and your teammates, Molly McAndrew, Alix Talkow, Audrey Sawers, Hailey Abbott, Mary Gould, Kara Tiedtke and Becca Herbert. Hopefully, we shall see several return for their Covid season.

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You can go to Goleopards.com for an account of the game but I have other points I need to make. There is no other way to say it, but officiating of Field Hockey in the US is sub par, and yesterday’s match was a clear example. Officials and players did not have the benefit of video referral. The second American goal could and should have been reviewed. One official in particular refused to state the nature of multiple penalties that caused corners, when asked by a responsible player, and in one case cited a non existent rule.

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Building A Worthy Infrastructure To Match The Effort On The Field

For some of us, we are charged to improve the game and the infrastructure that these young talented athletes compete in. As many of you know, both my wife and I are on the Board of Trustees of USA Field Hockey, as such, we will continue to use our influence to improve the game in the United States. We believe there are several important efforts that could do that. There are initiatives that could improve officiating and the overall game day experience.

First, encourage and even mandate the use of video referral at least at the division one level.

Second, once video referral is established, encourage the use of a third official to interpret those referrals.

Three, mandate a requirement that calls ( especially on referred calls and always on corners) are recognized and transmitted via loudspeaker to the crowd to have them understand the reason for the call. This is done in American football, and since corners now have the clock stopped it should not be a burden. It is done in FIH games, it should be done at the intercollegiate level.

Fourth, officials should be fairly compensated. Patriot League official are compensated less than other leagues.

Finally, I urge Lafayette to be true to their plan to create and encourage championships, which includes the installation of video referral. I have been on a mission for two years to get that done. It’s time to step up and be a leader in the League. My sense in conversations with other PL coaches is if we were to do it, others would follow!!

I also urge the college to reward coaches who have done well and encourage others by example to follow. Again, the college should be an encourager rather than an obstacle to success. Covid was a serious concern but unwise and overzealous administration of protocols was and is more of an obstacle than an assistance.

The college should be helpful for those who choose to exercise their Covid season.

The college should be mindful of the fan and not ignore needs like adequate bathrooms and press and video facilities to have parents, alumni, and ordinary fans participate in the experience. This will enhance the fund raising capabilities and pay for itself!

With these modest improvements the “program” can continue to prosper and earn the championships these athletes deserve. Doing less is not acceptable!!!

I was so proud of our team in yesterday’s game. They gave everything they had……we should be doing no less!!!

Why I Love The Leopards This Post Season

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Hefting was there when needed

The Leopards have not a won a League Championship since 2012 and last participated in a Championship Game in 2019. Last year, in the spring season that substituted for a real season, each Patriot League team did not play every other team. The Leopards were hobbled with Covid misadventures last spring, that limited the number of squad members. Despite all that, they lost a number of games by one goal.

Despite the obstacles, Lafayette returned for a season to remember. They returned this fall with a deeper and effective bench, and a first year class that contributed right away. They have the best overall record in the League at 13-5 and didn’t back away from any challenge, completing a schedule that included two of the top five teams in the country. They suffered injuries before a key game with Lehigh that ended in a controversial call in overtime. They stood tall at the end of the season beating Bucknell and giving the number two team ( by some reckoning) in the nation, Rutgers, all they could handle.

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Spaans uses her moves

This is the strongest field for a Patriot League tournament in my memory but Lafayette brings perhaps their strongest team in their history. They are fast, and they are skilled, and may be beyond the injury bug that plagued them late in the season. In my estimation anyone could end up the winner on Saturday afternoon. No doubt I am a partisan but there is reason to think the Leopards are ready.

First, they are peaking at the right time which is so crucial this part of the year. Their last game was with a tough Rutgers team, American beat Colgate 3-0 on Friday, Bucknell lost to Drexel and Lehigh lost to Wagner on Sunday.

The Leopards captured every category in the weekly player of the week awards this past week. Audrey Sawers and Leneke Spaans earned season awards as the top offensive player and rookie of the year!! All league honors went to Sawers, Spaans, Hefting, Abbott, and McAndrews. But that is not the full story. The Leopards have scored 48 goals for a very good 2.67 goals a game but other side gets little press, they only allowed 1.22 goals per game. They take 15.8 shots a game and allowed only 9.9 goals per game. Abbott has a .767 save percentage and looks stronger every game.

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Filene Gerbandij know how to get around a Drexel defender

There will be challenges. Bucknell is a fine team and is always dangerous once inside the circle and they are the defending champion. First games are always intense and expect the two games will be worthy of the moniker of a championship playoff series.

Lafayette has that inner desire to win that makes for the intensity that is required in a championship series.

Make no mistake the first game between Lehigh and American will be no less intense as they try to cap off their most successful season in recent years. Anything can happen and a Lehigh/Lafayette championship would be this fan’s dream!!

But most of all I believe in the energy, skill, and experience of the Leopards…..Go Pards!!!

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