Where Is The Next Miracle Coming From?

 

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Last night, my wife and I watched the movie “Miracle,” about the 1980 gold medal run from our Olympic Ice Hockey Team. The parallels were disturbing. The country and the world was caught in a malaise, as President Carter described it. There were Americans being held hostage in Iran, gas prices were in the stratosphere, if you stood in line for hours to get it. Inflation was out of control, and we in the midst of a presidential election. Maybe its time for all of us to at least cinematically relive the moment.

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The iconic game between the US and the Soviet Union became a fixation for America. The Soviet Union was the best team in the World, having even beaten a team of NHL all stars. The US team was not the “dream” team we are now accustomed to today, but a team of 21 year old college players picked more for their ability to mix as a team rather than those that had individual skills. In the movie, the players were asked by their coach to describe themselves, they answered by their name and college team played for. Near the end of the film, they described themselves rather as a player for the USA.

I mourn for the athletes of today for missing the experience of being a team. But I also mourn for the people in the stands who identify with the “team.” It must be hard for people to imagine the uplift that game was for the United States at that time. The chants of USA USA still echo in the back of my mind as I sadly watch the news today!!

I have always liked team sports over individual sports, and encouraged my own children to play at least one team sport to experience the shared efforts towards a goal. I believe the need is still here in our country and the world, unfortunately I believe our college leaders have either  forgotten or never understood that need for a civilized society. Maybe this pause will be short lived, but in the interim we have lost something important in the life and soul in our world. Sad.

 

Patriot League and Patriot League Schools Struggle With Season Cancellation Consequences

We “may” have fall sports compete in the spring, was a simple enough phrase, however, the entire list of consequences of moving fall sports to the spring to student athletes, whether they are beginning their hoped for athletic journey, or ending, after after three years of hard work deserve answers. I was asked a question by a player from another Patriot League School, about the league extending a fifth year to those players losing a season.  The NCAA has allowed the fifth year, but what is the League position? A senior athletic official in a PL school said to me the League rules state that for situations beyond the control of a student athlete, a fifth year will be allowed. That official opined COVID would fall into that category, and student athletes should consult their compliance officers regarding that action.

There a myriad of other questions that deserve to be answered sooner, rather than later:

1. In a fifth year will scholarships be continued, and the NCAA needs to answer whether will scholarship team limits be relaxed?

2. In the event the Ivy and Patriot League are the only Division One schools to halt fall sports,  will spring practice and competition rules be demanded by the NCAA?

3. If an athlete decides to transfer, will the one year waiting transfer rule be enforceable?

4. Will gap years be permitted for all athletes?

The implications of the Patriot League and the Ivy League being the only Leagues without fall competition, begs the question as to who they will play and when. For individual schools, how will resources be rationed. ( Training personnel, field time on sites that host multiple sports, and priorities associated with weather and wear and tear on fields).

Each school has different resources to bring to the table not everyone has 40 plus billion dollars in endowment like Harvard.

I still believe this was a hasty, ill considered action by the Patriot League presidents. If it was well considered, those answers to the above questions would be readily available. They should have waited for the rest of Divison one ( especially the ones sponsoring Olympic sports ) to come to a considered solution. There was. no reason to be the second through the door with no one behind you!

Ok Now What……Again

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I kind of wear my opinions on my sleeve, so if you have been reading my articles you’re probably going to know how I feel about the cancelling of fall sports. First of all the unanimity of the Patriot League decision is a myth. There are 12 football playing schools in the conference, four have decided to continue with fall “olympic” sports, Army, Navy, Georgetown, and Fordham. Army and Navy as full members will continue all sports, Georgetown is a member of the Big East and they will continue their olympic sports in  that league and Fordham is in the A-10 and will play all sports except football this fall.

So if the situation were so dire and obvious about having a soccer or field hockey game this fall why, are these schools deciding to play on outside of the league?  Now, I may be proven wrong but recent testing by schools, especially in the Northeast are getting favorable results ( eg. UConn reported yesterday O cases out of 200 tested). Even those who had reported cases, those persons are isolated and recovering, showing the wisdom of the 6 week “resocialization” period prescribed by the NCAA.

Getting back to Field Hockey, if the Patriot League and the Ivy League remain as the only conferences not playing this fall, there will be a NCAA tournament with most likely 3 open slots in the 16 team field for that championship tournament.

That leaves the spring. There are still regulations in place that would NOT allow a full practice and game schedule this spring. So who would the IVY and Patriot League play in that case? How many athletes would choose a gap year rather than a half hearted spring season? Would the Patriot League allow red shirt years for athletes that choose to sit it out? Would scholarship limits be adjusted to account for those returning players and a new freshman class??

The Patriot League should have either left participation up to the individual school or moved the reporting  date back to allow for resocialization to take place and time to reassess the risks. I do realize there would be some additional expense involved and maybe that’s the real crux of the decision?!

Ivies Do The Expected And Cancel Sports And Stanford Drops Field Hockey Forever

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The Ivy League did the expected and dropped their entire fall athletic season. The move was anticipated, since they were only allowing a partial return to actual residence at their institutions . So for 50 grand plus,  parents, for the most part will have their kids get their Ivy League education at the kitchen table. It’s hard to see how a winter and spring season will follow with only partial attendance to continue. Meanwhile, other Conferences and schools prepare to open in the fall, with no doubt, an abbreviated schedule.

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Molly McAndrews eludes a VCU defender

I look locally where, flexible plans are prepared for local schools, postal workers, daycare centers, grocery stores and others are working together in the real world, with some adjustment to keep this country going!! Pam and I went to our local gym where many accomodations were made for safe attendance.  Not so much for the supposed brightest in the Ivy space apparently!! I understand  faculty did take a large role in the decision. Unlike the rest of the world, I wonder if they expect to be paid for not teaching…..of  course they do!! So far the Patriot League has stood tall and resisted Ivy Envy.  Here is a quote from the AD at West Point ) a Patriot League member, ” There is no option for our cadet athletes to extend or make up for lost time in sports . If we can do so safely, I will do everything within my power to ensure they get that opportunity.”

On another sad note, Stanford permanently dropped 11 sports, including field hockey. It’s hard to see the other two west coast division one schools continuing on. They will play one last season this fall “like normal,” and honor all scholarships.

There was no official word from the Patriot League, and I would hope the coaches are busily rearranging schedules to see where a new match is located on an already fractured scheduling sheet. No Ivy envy so far!!!

 

Lafayette Shows They Are For Real In 8-0 Win Against Holy Cross

The Leopards displayed every weapon in their arsenal and put the league on notice that they are ready. Twenty-one players make it onto the turf getting goals from 7 different players with 34 shots to only 7 from the Crusaders. The leopard defense was a stone wall as Sarah Park collected her first career shut out. There was no doubt the Leopards were ready to play as Grace Angelella got the first shot of the game with only about a minute having rolled off the clock.

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However, it wasn’t until the second quarter when 19:52 had been expended on the clock that Molly McAndrews collected a rebound and scored the first of her 2 goals for game. The pressure on Holy Cross’ excellent goal keeper was not to let up as the Leopards were to collect 19 shots in the first half.

Scoring was to reignite in the second half as Felicitas Hannes used a rebound to notch Lafayette’s second goal of the game. With that breathing room and an excellent half time analysis by Coach Stone, the offense began to click on all cylinders as we had been waiting to see all season. At 41:34 Sophie Carr deflected a pass from the left and lit up the scoreboard in the 3rd quarter to make it 3-0.  Caroline Turnbull followed a minute later on a corner assisted by Ana Steps with the 4th goal of the contest.

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In the 4th quarter the Leopards continued to roll as Sam DiMaio got revenge for a near goal that hit the post by using a deflection to score on a pass from Hannes. Audrey Sawers got in on the action with a hard shot from the right at 53:22. The eighth and final goal was to come from Hanna Lewis with her first collegiate goal at 57:15.

Head Coach Stone got as many as she could into the came and by my count had 21 players on the field for this Patriot League opening game.

The Leopards will travel to Cornell to meet a strong Ivy League rival on Monday evening.  This will give Cornell plenty to think about. Next, the Raiders from Colgate will come to town for the Leopards second league matchup. Colgate lost to Lehigh 2-1 as Lehigh came from behind in the last 4  minutes to win the game. Bucknell surprised Boston with a 1-0 win in Boston.  American also lost, to UC Davis 1-0 on Thursday not playing a PL team this week.

We missed all the live action, as Pam and I are at a family wedding in beautiful Santa Cruz, Ca., but we were cheering every goal and stop, as we followed along with livestats. We supplemented it with some description from Leopard fans who were there. Go Pards.

An Afternoon Of Field Hockey, Syracuse v Umass Lowell and Maryland v New Hampshire

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Syracuse vs Umass Lowell

Umass Lowell has only been in Division One for a short time but they gave Syracuse all they could handle. Syracuse came away with with the statistic that counts, a one goal win. In every other category it was Umass who had the edge. Umass lead in shots ( 14-8), SOG (12-2), and corners (4-6). The majority of the game was a defensive battle with Umass carrying the game to the Orange. It looked for a moment that “The River Rocks,” would score the first goal in the fourth quarter but Hoffman from Syracuse made a spectacular diving save, stopping what looked like a goal dribbling into the net. Ironically this would lead to the winning goal by freshman Charlotte DeVries, (number 10) who was to beat a sole defender on the counter attack- break away. It was DeVries third goal of the season and second game winner. On Friday she not only got the tying goal against Vermont but the winner in overtime.

The  Syracuse freshman goal keeper Sara Sinck put in nearly 58 minutes and to date has an 88 percent save percentage between the two games.

Syracuse of course is Lafayette’s next opponent and the Leopards must find some way to contain DeVries who is the real deal. She was ranked the number 10 recruit in the country by Max Sports. Syracuse did not make the NCAA playoffs last year and came in last in the very tough ACC. However, they were ranked 18 th in the NFHCA pre- season poll. The 6pm game tomorrow will be Syracuse’s 3rd game in 4 days.

Maryland vs New Hampshire

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As I wrote earlier this year,  I would travel to other NCAA Division One games. I had the afternoon free and decided to make the short trip the University of Maryland who were to challenge the University of New Hampshire. Both were experiencing their second game. New Hampshire lost 4-2 to American and Maryland had beaten Richmond on Friday 5-1.

In a short conversation with Missy Meharg before the game she lauded her team who has great talent. Given the rule change to 15 minute quarters, she had the enviable concern of getting playing time to all who deserve it. She needn’t have been concerned because the 5-0 score and athletic domination of the game allowed her to sub in almost everyone included her goalkeeper. The stats tell it all. The Terps had 25 shots to UNH’s 6, along with a two corner advantage, 6-4.

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At the beginning of the game from the sidelines it seemed like UNH were like deers in headlights, before they settled in. However, the obvious athleticism of Maryland was to carry the day. I am sure Missy Meharg, the fine coach she is, will need to polish up their execution in coming weeks, as it is obvious to me that their best game is in front of them.

The first goal came at 2:36 on a penalty corner, the second at 21:54 on a chip shot and goal off another corner and rebound at 24:10. That was a warm up for the second half when the fourth goal  came at 50 minutes,  and short time later the last goal was put with an assist.

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Maryland’s preseason ranking is 2nd in country and based on their ability certainly deserve it. It is a young but deep team who will undoubtedly be there at the end in the playoffs. As always, there is a need to polish things up and the team will have 5 days to do that before traveling to Evanston, Ill. for the ACC/Big Ten Cup. They will first meet with Boston College. I have included several photos taken from the position  I try to occupy at every game I attend including Lafayette. Enjoy!!!

Since Maryland is a Big Ten school the game was played using  video replay which was used once reversing a referees decision.

In other games, PL and other future opponents were busy. American lost to Richmond in overtime 3-2, William and Mary topped Duke decisively 4-0, Bucknell got past Lock Haven 1-0, Liberty dominated JMU 5-1, and Northeastern tripped up Monmouth 3-2 in overtime.

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.

An Ivy League Field Hockey Tournament

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Audrey Sawers shadows a Harvard midfielder

The ancient eight may be trying to live up to their name by denying, for the last 24 years, an opportunity for the only exclusive women’s team sport, a post season championship. Forget that mens and women’s lacrosse have a tournament. Overlook that  basketball has a tournament. There seems to be no logic for the absence of a field hockey tournament for the Ivy League.

Every other conference has an established league post season competition. The Patriot League has a four team competition with the best four teams in the League held at the site of the regular season champion. The winner at the end gets the auto-bid to the NCAA national tournament.

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Kristen Taylor gallops through the Columbia defense.

Recently a large majority of the Ivy coaches have been lobbying the League to include the Field Hockey programs in the post season. My information is that it is close to a unamious application by member schools. There are a variety of formats they could consider. The ACC includes everyone, and the Big Ten has a majority of the field hockey playing schools in the tournament for example..

There is a petition circulating, which at this moment has almost 1200 signatures from fans, coaches, alumni, former and current players, and parents. Tournaments can be the highlight of an experience that encompasses  a four year collegiate career. It could carry memories that last a lifetime as well as solidify a connection to the game.

Kyle DeSandes-Moyer, Penn ’13 and Head Coach of LIU writes, ” At Penn, I was given countless opportunities to play high level field hockey….but I also felt  cheated of an experience as a student athlete….As an alumna, I always want the team’s experience to be better than my own.”

It is astonishing that the Ivy League, that bastion of liberal education, is the last league to deny its female athletes what most athletes in the league and  other leagues have been experiencing for decades. I find little reason for rejecting it. Unlike basketball it would not be expensive to produce, has great support among its participants, and would be in line with the experience of other female student athletes. Only the most stubborn or selfish would reject this effort.

Anyone can sign this petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Ivy-league-field-hockey-tournament. The petition was started by  Penn alum Kyle DeSandes-Moyer. Help to grow the sport and support her in this campaign. It’s good for the Ivy League and more importantly it is even better for the sport!!