Despite a significant snowstorm over the weekend the Leopards returned to their first series of workouts with Coach Stone and the strength and conditioning team yesterday. When asked how everyone looked, predictably Coach Stone said we have work to do to compensate for the wonderful Christmas and New Year’s festivities. They will not return to the turf for several weeks but I get the impression fitness will not be an issue …….by then.
Meanwhile it was announced today that the team as usual put in a maximum effort in the classroom last fall as 12 were placed on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. To be eligible for the Fall Honor Roll student athletes must earn at least 3.20 grade point average. Leading the team was junior goalkeeper Katelyn Arnold with a perfect 4.0 average in a double major of Economics and Government and Law. She was one of ten Patriot League Field Hockey players in the conference to accomplish the feat.
Aside from Arnold others listed in alphabetical order are freshman Rachel Bird 3.43 in economics, sophomore Kaitlynn Ewing 3.40 in economics, junior Aliza Furneaux 3.78 in civil engineering, Meg Lillis sophomore major in economics 3.43, senior Paige Macrae biology major 3.58, junior Amanda Magadan Psychology major 3.58, Hannah Millen senior History major 3.58, freshman Adriana Pero Neuroscience major 3.40, senior Abbey Stefanides Biology major 3.68, junior Ami Turner Economics major 3.35, and senior Kendall Weedling biology major 3.67.
Congratulations to all of these scholar athletes.
Time marches on and the weekend of February 6 will see most of the new Leopard recruits on campus as they get together for the first time with their new teammates. Welcome to all!!!
Lafayette field hockey returns to the familiar surroundings of the College next week, along with their classmates, to begin classes for the spring semester. Unlike their friends who are not athletes, the team will begin its preparations for a spring season that will be a period of experimentation for the fall. The coaches will be evaluating their returning talent, and without the graduating seniors and new recruits, this will be a period of competition where many will see far more playing time than they did in the fall.
Many of our Leopards have not been wasting the December-January period but playing and honing their skill as well keeping fit. Spring is always a challenge that many of the youngest players have not seen before. However, upperclassmen as well have been hitting the turf to be the best they can be. Amanda Magadan is playing with the US under 21 team, getting ready for the Junior Pan Am games by playing against tough international competition. Freshmen Rachel Bird and Kristen Taylor spent early January in Barcelona playing with their Vancouver Team in the 68th Torneo de Reyes tournament. Kristen was the captain of her team leading them to a 1-1-1 record against teams from Holland, England,Belgium, and Spain.
This period can be extremely important especially for the younger players. Arriving on campus in shape and ready to play is extremely important. The first order of business will be conditioning, as the coaches plan to have the team ready to hit the turf in a month when the snow and ice leave the field. They will be using the field house in the meantime to play indoors, and Coach Stone has planned to attend an indoor tournament March 5-6 where the Leopards will meet against some of the top teams in the country, including Maryland and Syracuse. The indoor game, played on a hard floor with a different stick is faster than the outdoor version, but is a welcome break to the monotony of early training.
The spring schedule, time wise, is less demanding than the fall schedule, but in many ways doesn’t lack for intensity as everyone is trying to impress the coaches with improvement. In the meantime, classes remain a primary focus and there are less travel issues, as all the games are weekends and at local venues.
The NCAA is weighing ideas to limit the hours athletes devote to their sport. Many of the ideas, are already current practice for Ivy and Patriot League schools. One idea calls for a ban on practices and other mandatory athletic activities from 9pm to 6am. I can’t remember a time where that was that issue at Lafayette. Another proposal is to create a three week break at the end of the traditional season. Again that is a practice for Patriot and Ivy schools. Some colleges at the “elite” level spend 40 or more hours a week on sports. I have heard of cases where coaches have discouraged players from majoring in the STEM area, because of time limits at some schools.
The above proposals are a starting point, as described by the NCAA, but to my mind do not touch on the most important consumer of time, and that is travel time. As many large university athletic conferences have merged and enlarged, the regional nature of athletic conferences has disappeared. Unlike the Patriot League and Ivy League, it would not be unusual for a soccer team, field hockey team or worse a baseball team to travel thousands of miles during the week to meet their conference foes, missing valuable classroom hours in the process. This is especially acute for the “non-revenue” sports. The Patriot and Ivy conferences remain regional conferences with no foe more than a bus ride away.
This does not make either of the conferences less competitive, but certainly more in the line of supporting the term “student athlete.” I have written about this before and more that ever I believe young recruits should take that into consideration in their school choice. Even the big power conferences are beginning to realize there is a limit. One conference is considering including travel days as part of a 20 hour restriction on athletic time. Jack Swarbrick, the athletic director at the University of Notre Dame agrees, and was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ” If you’re really concerned that student athletes have enough time, you ought to focus on scheduling and traveling. Nothing is more important than that,” he opines
Time will tell how this eventually gets sorted out, but the Patriot League model continues to be a pretty good template to follow in my opinion. Perhaps in the future, conferences may be more sport specific and regional, to rationalize the travel time issue. That’s my suggestion but, highly unlikely to be adopted anytime soon.
It has been nearly two months since the end of the season for the Leopards but preparations for the 2016 season have already been put in motion as the team and its Coaches look to improve and challenge for the 2016 Patriot League crown. Lafayette returned to the playoffs last year, but fell in a hard fought contest in the semi-final round. Although they will lose six seniors the Leopards will return a strong group of experienced players to build from. Team captain and all league and all region player Amanda Magadan will return for her senior season with a full year of experience under her belt with the under 21 US team. Amanda is the “Vice Captain” of that squad demonstrating the respect she has earned nationally and internationally. Rising sophomores Kristen Taylor and Rachel Bird have been playing in Spain with their home Canadian team honing their skills as well.
Coach Stone has been busy combing the US and abroad for new talent to fill in the gaps lost to graduation. She has signed six during the early signing period in November and has an additional commitment from an overseas star which will be revealed on the April signing date. She expects to add to that commitment with one additional to make the total new class eight strong!!!
A spring competition schedule is in the works for the returning veterans which will include an indoor tournament in Spring City, Pa on March 6-7, an April 2 game at Temple, and an April 17 game at Columbia. There is still an open slot on April 9th for a home game and the annual alumni game on April 16 followed by the team banquet.
In addition, the fall schedule has been finalized, which will include two early scrimmages with Rutgers and Columbia before an opening game at home with former Patriot League rival Fairfield University on August 28 at home, at noon. The Leopards will spend September playing out of conference foes Monmouth, Longwood, Yale, Quinnipiac ( now in the Big East), Towson,and Hofstra,before meeting Boston Uninversity at home at 7pm on Sept 23rd followed by Delaware on Sunday the 25th.
October as usual will be filled with Patriot League action with out of conference foes Albany, James Madison, Harvard and Temple mixed in. The Patriot League Tournament will be played at the site of the highest seed on Friday November 4th and Saturday the 5th. Followed by the NCAA tournament the next two weekends.
The team is returning to school at the end of January when preparation will begin to return to the field. My next article will focus on two initiatives at work by the NCAA. The first is to ease demands on athletes time and the increasing tendency for coaches to gather commitments earlier and earlier. In my neck of the woods, I have heard of commitments being given as early as the freshman year in high school to Division one schools.
Lafayette coaches have been busy reloading for next season by taking advantage of the early signing period. The Leopards have a habit of graduating one hundred percent of their student athletes and 2016 will be no exception as six fine players will join the ranks of alumni this coming June. Abbey Stefanides, Hannah Millen, Paige Macrae, Kendall Weedling, Kirby Szalkowski, and Katie Birlie will grab their well earned diplomas in various disciplines and move on to new adventures and careers.
As quickly and efficiently as senior departure approaches, Coach Stone is beginning to add to her roster another highly skilled group of scholar athletes. As it stands at the moment, there are seven who have navigated the labyrinth of admissions and found worthy of acceptance not only as students but as members of the Lafayette field hockey team. Most are from New Jersey and Pennsylvania but at least one will come from as far away as the Netherlands. They are all stars in the classroom, and on the playing field. Many have known championships, and recognized for their athletic skills, but they are also talented students as well.
They have chosen to play in the Patriot League, known for its commitment to having representative student athletes on the field. The first six have been identified through social media and one has given her commitment and will be announced in April during the next signing day. Lafayette and Coach Stone will announce the whole class at that time which could reach a total of eight by then.
However, the first six have been named and a search of the internet gives me an unofficial peek at the this class. Here is the list with a short view of their athletic talents. No doubt there will be more information once the class is announced but this is what I have been able to glean so far.
First is Ana Buzzard from Haddenfield High School who captured the Central Jersey trophy, she was elected captain of her team.
Second is Cameron Costello who played for New Hope Solebury High School and Mystix field hockey club. She will see action in the attacking area or mid-field. She holds the school record for goals and points and also sports a 4.0 average in the classroom. She was Philadelphia area all-star.
Third is Jennifer DeLongis who is from North Penn was selected as an all league mid fielder who will add depth to the front line this coming fall
Fourth is Samantha DiMaio from Medham who had a strong 18-3 record, ranking third in the state rankings in Group 3. Samantha scored 8 goals this year. She is a second team New Jersey Group 3 selectee.
Fifth is Sarah Park a goalie, from Methatcon who sported a 86 percent save percentage this season. She is a highly sought after goalie who has had a strong high school career.
Caroline Turnbull is from Madison High School who had a 21-3 record and won the Group 2 title. Caroline has had 54 goals in her career and 38 assists. This year alone she scored 26 goals as she garnered first team State Group 2 honors.
The seventh recruit has yet to be named, but she has committed and will be revealed in April with the whole class. This looks like a difference maker class that is used to winning and will add strength and depth all around.
The Leopards will return US under 21 team member Amanda Magadan, goalie Katlyn Arnold, defender Aliza Furneaux ( who really started to show her skill and ability this year). Rising Junior Ellen Colbourne returns with her speed and skill that often times attracts double and triple teams. Ami Turner will be a senior whose distributions skills and intensity will impress opponents. Rosie Shanks is one of my favorite players, who finds a way to find the back of the cage is back for her Junior season as well. Cody Hunsicker will also be a junior was a regular, steadfast defender as that line will get a chance to learn to work together. Classmate Kaitlynn Ewing will get spring playing time to refine her skills as well. In addition, there were a number of freshmen who I expect will have an impact, Kristen Taylor, Rachel Bird, Theresa Delahanty, and Adriana Pero will benefit no doubt from a strong spring experience.
Rising junior Meg Lillis had several starts and will no doubt see a lot playing time this spring and fall. Liza Welch suffered leg injuries in her freshman year and will get a chance to show her skills this spring. Freshman goalie Gabrielle Ulery will also see more time in the cage this spring against division one competition.
I will stick my neck out and state that if this class is as good as I think it is the Leopards will not only qualify for the Patriot League tournament but could challenge for the League title and a spot in the national division one tournament. They will be deeper, well skilled, and there is speed to replace that asset lost to graduation. We will know more after the spring games and practices.
In the intense atmosphere worthy of a semi- final game, Lafayette fell 4-2 to American University on friday afternoon. The Leopards came out on fire jumping out to a 2-0 lead 21 minutes into the first period. With many playing their best hockey of the season Lafayette used their speed and intensity breaking American’s high press and striking them where they were most vulnerable, on fast breaks. Amanda Magadan was a thorn in American’s side all afternoon attracting triple team coverage at times. At 12 minutes spent in the game Madagan picked up the ball along the sideline and drove to the base line shot and then shot the rebound slamming her 10th goal of the season into the backboards stunning the confident American Eagles. Eight minutes later while attracting double coverage Madagan found the speedy Kendall Weedling along the right side and she beat the Eagle defender and then avoided the American goalie for the second goal of the game, and her second of the season.
Madagan was to be threat all game, taking 7 of Lafayette’s 14 shots. After Lafayette’s second goal the American Eagles regathered themselves and within 3 minutes they tied the score with a strike by freshman Rafela Rubas with an assist by Katie McCormick. The Lafayette defense was to dig in until Lafayette was to give up a penalty corner with time running out. With 00 showing on the clock Rubas again found the back of cage knotting the score at 2 each.
As each team retreated to the sidelines most fans were afraid the last score would signal a turn in momentum. American was in fact able to get the first penalty corner 4 minutes into the second half which was saved by Arnold who had 8 saves all game. She was to save another shot one minute later just about the same time American got a green card. With a player advantage, Leopard fans took heart. The next shot came from Lafayette Junior Aliza Furneaux the defending weekly Patriot League defender of the week. McBeath, the American goalie made the save. Lafayette had the next three penalty corners without a result.
At 50:45 as a result of a shot on goal by an American player illegally blocked by a lafayette defender, the official called a penalty stroke ending in a score for American breaking the tie. Lafayette was to have several opportunities but could not convert. With minutes left on the clock, fans were wondering when Lafayette would pull the goalie in a last minute attempt to tie the game.
Before that was to happen American was awarded a penalty corner and scored on a redirect of a shot putting them up by two goals. The Leopards at that point pulled the goalkeeper putting Millen in goal for the last 2 minutes.
It was a somber team after the game, but they played well and with great energy. In the second period they out shot American 7-6 and out cornered them 8-4. For the whole game American had the edge in shots 17-14 and there was a tie 10-10 in corners. Second team all league junior goalkeeper Katlyn Arnold had 8 saves, six in the first period alone.
This of course was the last game for our seniors and it was clear they left it all on the field. It was perhaps Kendall Weedling’s best game of her career. The intensity of Paige Macrae was evident as well in front of the goal. Kirby Szalkowski was in the face of Eagles all day. Abbey Stefanides made the most of her appearances on the field overcoming losing 1/2 the season to injury. Katie Birle was looking for one of her patented deflections to add to her five goals this year. Co-Captain Hannah Millen was a force in the backfield and on corners, and was rewarded with a deserved all tournament selection. They will soon be Lafayette alumna with new fields to conquer, but will no doubt draw from their experience on the turf to succeed in whatever they choose to do. Good Luck ladies!!
As for the remaining team, there is a respectful period of reflection and soon a rededication. A spring season awaits as this talented team which has the ability to be a factor next fall. Soon we will know the names of out newest Leopards as we reload for next year.
American went on to lose to Boston University in the finals 2-1, today. Boston will represent the Patriot League in the NCAA national tournament. The league is getting stronger each year and I can see the day when the League could get two bids in the future. My assessment of the League going forward is a topic for a future article.
Last night Pam and I had the privilege of sharing dinner with Kevin Lacz,probably one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. Kevin was a Navy Seal. You may remember the movie “American Sniper.” He played himself and he is every bit as impressive as he was on the big screen . All of 6’3″ and some 230 pounds, he has that boy next store smile that anyone could warm up to as he approaches. There is something though in his demeanor that says so much more. His 33 years belies a life experience only few could imagine.
Born in central Connecticut, Kevin had enrolled at James Madison University. He was inspired by the attacks on September 11 which took the life of a good friend’s father and he decided to leave school. Even he admits that school was not for him at this time in his life. He was immature and needed something else to direct his life. He saw a poster in a Navy recruiter’s office and decided to enlist with the intention of becoming a Seal. Before going to BUD’s training in Coronado he attended the Combat Medical School at Fort Bragg to learn to be a Hospital Corpsman. He did two platoons at SEAL Team Three as a platoon sniper, breacher, and combat medic, each with a deployment to Iraq. It was there that he met Chris Kyle, the subject of the “American Sniper,” It was his experiences in Ramadi that most of the movie is based on. He was awarded the Bronze Star with a Combat V along with other medals before leaving the service.
After his enlistment ended, he returned to school at the University of Connecticut eventually graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Political Science in 2011. Drawing on his experience in combat medicine he applied to Wake Forest with the goal of becoming a Physician Assistant, Today Kevin works with Regenesis Llc in Pensacola, Florida. He works actively to support his brothers and sisters currently in the service and with veterans in the community.
Introduced to Clint Eastwood, Kevin was hired to play himself shortly before shooting was to begin on the basis of a Skype interview. He also served as a technical advisor for the film. For those of you who saw the film, he was the guy in one scene who had a target tattooed on his back and his buddies played darts at it. He neither confirms or denies the veracity of the scene. However, he denies having the tattoo.
So, why am I writing all this? Lacz explained to us why people are able to do extraordinary things in the most stressful circumstances. In an incident in Ramadi while his platoon was pinned to a rooftop an RPG landed in the middle of his team. One of his friends, immediately dove on the device smothering the blast and saving his buddies. He of course died in the effort.
“We were a team”, Lacz said. Nothing got accomplished without a cooperative effort. There was no hesitation on the part of that man and you got the impression if it wasn’t him, someone else would have made the sacrifice. The field hockey pitch or any other playing field are not the streets of Fallujah or Ramadi, but the lesson is similar. He said the difference between success and failure is always on top of the shoulders and between your ears. If you need to run faster, you have to think and believe in yourself to run faster. Defeat is not an option, whether it be in an ordinary life or on the battlefield. Yes, there may be losses along the way but you can not be defeated unless you become defeated in your mind. Lastly. he defined leadership as calm in the middle of chaos. Your heart may be racing and world may be collapsing but the leader expresses that calm that keeps everyone to the task at hand.
We need heroes to remind us what is possible if we just let the human spirit within ourselves drive our actions. We may think we live mundane lives, but the next time we see little bumps ahead think of Chris Kyle or Kevin Lacz and their model of living. As we departed, Kevin gave me a friendly embrace, the warmth of which will remain with me the rest of my days.
Junior Katelyn Arnold and Sophomore Rosie Shanks stepped up on Senior Day to have key roles in a 1-0 victory over Yale. Seniors Hannah Millen, Paige Macrae, Kirby Szalkowski, Kendall Weedling, Katie Birle and Abby Stefanides appeared for the last time in a Lafayette uniform at Rappolt Field. All were determined to make their last appearance on their home turf a memorable one. Pre-game ceremonies included introduction of all six players who were joined by their parents at center field in front of an appreciative crowd. This senior class has not only seen winning seasons but a Patriot League championship, a national ranking as high as seventh and an appearance in the national NCAA Division one tournament. They have also traveled as a team this year to Spain to compete and they have distinguished themselves in the classroom.
This year the team has qualified for the Patriot League tournament which will be played this friday and saturday in Boston. The winner of the tournament gets to go the NCAA tournament as a final sixteen participant. Sunday’s game with Yale, although a non-conference game was important, in that the seniors would leave with nine wins for this year ( three more than last year), a record tying appearance in the Patriot League tournament, and a chance to continue playing. They also succeeded in scoring more goals than the last two years in a season. This class wears a Patriot League Championship ring, and in their freshman year were consistently ranked in the top 20 while appearing in the NCAA division one tournament losing to Maryland 0-2.
The game with Yale was hotly contested evidenced by the 0-0 score at halftime, although Lafayette led in shots 5-3 and corners 4-2, each team was to hit the post. Yale’s Carol Middough was to hear the clank of metal at 18:32 and Ami Turner on the Lafayette side was to hit the post at 25:29. After the halftime break Yale came out determined to guard Lafayette closely and try to force turnovers, the Leopards were trying to flood the circle in hope of getting that second or third rebound to find the back of the cage. At 39:38 it was Rosie Shanks of Lafayette who was to break the tie as the ball came off the glove of the Yale goalkeeper into the air. Shanks spotted it mid waist, and batted it with the skill of a baseball player into cage. It was that goal that was to stand up for the remainder of the game as Katelyn Arnold was to make 2 key saves giving her and the team their second consecutive shutout of the weekend and Arnolds’s fourth of her career.
So as the clock ticked to 00, the seniors reached that poignant moment of walking off the home turf wearing the Maroon and White for the last time. ( I sometimes wonder if there is more melancholy from the student athletes or the parents) There would be the celebratory tailgate with memorable poems and laughter, and they were to do it with a win at their back. There is still work and things to accomplish in the coming days but for today they can return to the Hill after a job well done.