100 Years And Counting

On Saturday June the 18th the field hockey world descended on the Union League of Philadelphia to celebrate 100 years of activity. It may have been 4000 years ago that the Egyptians played the game as documented on hieroglyphs. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that Constance Mary Katherine Applebee introduced the game to the United States. She was the co-founder of the American Field Hockey Association, founder of Sportswoman magazine and was the athletic director at Bryn Mawr for 24 years.

She lived to be 107 years old. In the summer of 1901 she took a tour of women’s colleges introducing the sport. In 1922 she established an annual 3 week camp for intensive field hockey instruction at Mt. Pocono,Pa.

She introduced the sport at a time when women were considered too fragile to play an intensive sport. She served many roles for US Field Hockey and was active for many years. Remarkably, there are still “Golden Girls,” who still remember “the Apple”, and many were in attendance Saturday.

Especially poignant was a gift in honor of Shelly Shellenberer by the estate of Grace Reynolds which I had the honor of being her executor. She left a legacy by, donating her entire estate of 2.5 million dollars to the US women’s national team.

The room was filled with US Field Hockey elite and all were attentive during which Steve Jennings ( Head Coach of American University) and “Char” Morrett- Curtis ( Head Coach of Penn State) spoke about the game.

Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey Executive Director presented annual awards to Stanford Field Team and Alumni and Friends for “Grow the Game”, as their efforts prevented the demise of the sport at Stanford.

The national coach award went to High School coach Jill Cosse who has over 500 wins in her career.

The National Umpire award went to Mallory Federoff

The Club of the year went to Gateway Field Hockey Club and Kate Yates

The humanitarian award went to Jeanne O’Brian who helped establish programs for those with phsyical challenges.

In addition, the Hall of Fame added five names to its roles, Barbara Longstreth, Aaron Sher, Larry Amar ( accepted by Abbey his wife), Rachel Dawson and Lauren Crandall Liska.

Pam Stuper, the Executive Director of the US Field Hockey Foundation not only organized the evening along with Amy Crandall, but MC’d the event.

The event was live streamed and demonstrated the strength of the organizations supporting Field Hockey, but charging everyone to help grow the game!!!

The US Team responded on Sunday with a 2-1 win against China, but more about that later!!

Lafayette and Coach Stone Begins To Reveal New Recruits

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The first player announced is Josephine van Wijk from The Hague Netherlands. Her team won the Dutch National Championship recently. She is described by observers as quick, with very good passings skills. She also has a deadly, powerful drag flick which has developed over the years. A quick look at her videos confirms all that.

She is touted as a midfielder/ attacker which always fits into Lafayette’s needs, as they challenge for a Patriot League Championship. Her speed is an obvious asset which will drive opponents crazy along with teammate Leneke Spanns.

She plays the drums and this writer hopes beats the back of the cage with the same skill. Welcome Josephine!!

Field Hockey Celebrates 100 Years

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It’s been 100 years since field hockey was first played in this country, and USA Field Hockey is not letting the year pass without a celebration. On June the 18th at the Union League, beginning with a 5 pm cocktail hour, fans, players, coaches, and USA officialdom, will gather for a celebratory banquet. There will be US team members, and as a special treat new members of the the US Hall of Fame will be honored.

A limited amount of tickets are still available on the US Field Hockey site. However, for my readers I have 16 free seats available for Lafayette current players, alumni, fans, and parents of alumni. Significant others are included. It promises to be a fun evening with all of those who love the game. Please PM or otherwise email me if you would like to go and claim a seat for free which I will arrange.

First preseason game is less than 100 days away.

Spanns burts out on an offensive corner

The Leopards will be meeting Monmouth on Aug 17th at home in a preseason meet-up. They will be changing their conference to the CAA next year, and they have seen a steady improvement in recent years. It should be the kind of game the Leopards will need, with a very challenging season approaching. The Leopards will actually arrive days before in Easton, for conditioning and practice, with some bright new shinny recruits donning the Maroon and White for the first time. ( Tip..it’s not too early to start your preseason conditioning).

In the meantime our US players will be high performing.

Molly McAndrews heads for the goal

Several of our players will most likely apply to play in some of USA Field Hockey’s high performance events in June at Virginia Beach. Keep an eye out for their appearance on the turf as they take their shot at national teams. Lafayette’s Amanda Magadan is the current captain of the US national team and Audrey Sawers is on the Canadian national team who will be in the World Cup this year!!

Coaches will not be idle either

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The Lafayette coaches, will soon announce the incoming class in the coming days, but will also be active looking at players that will arrive in 2023. In addition, they will also be announcing the schedule as the season approaches.

Recently, I was present as the last details were tested for the installation of video referral. There could be as many as 9 views available to assist officials. The system could also be used at practice as a coaching tool. Everyone, all during practice can be watched for progress!! Stay tuned for more information. Lafayette will be the first to use video referral in the Patriot League.

Although we will be missing some key players from last year’s 14-5 season, this is a veteran team that will certainly be capable of challenging for a title!! Go Pards!!

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!!!

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.

Leopards And Owls Tangle In Spring Game

It’s been about five months since Temple and Lafayette last met when the Leopards prevailed 1-0. Today Temple prevailed 2-1 in a spring game that tested both teams. Lafayette at first had trouble adjusting to Temple’s aggressive zone defense but gradually were to get opportunities one of which was a reverse stick shot by Lineke Spanns that found the back of the cage.

Temple was to later connect on a direct shot that made it two to one….an advantage that Lafayette was not able to counter. Lafayette was able to use both their goal tenders Becca Herbert, and Emma Garvey, both having their moments as the game progressed. The Lafayette defense benefits from a veteran backfield of Simone Hefting, and Sydney Woolston. Last year India Ralph saw significant minutes and acquitted herself well today.

The midfield features Lineke Spanns who scored the only Lafayette goal during the regular game. Filene Gerbrandij also showed some of her regular season skills as the game progressed.

The forward line was solid with Molly McAndew getting a few looks on goal as the Leopards out cornered Temple. Laine Delmonte also saw significant action and was in the center of the action often. Ariel Schumacher was visible for her aggressiveness as well.

Coach Stone should be satisfied with the effort today but clearly there is room for improvement. But that is why we have spring hockey. It’s hard to come to any hard and fast conclusion, and I am sure we will see continued progress as the spring moves on. ( Hopefully with warmer days)

The afternoon ended with some practice shootouts that ended in a 4-4 tie.

Next week Syracuse and Monmouth arrive at Rappolt Field and should be a strong test of the Leopards progress!!!

Liza Welch ’19 To Run In Boston Marathon

From time to time I get an email or letter from field hockey alums letting me know what they are up to and more often than not express appreciation for their years of Division One Field Hockey at Lafayette. I got one such email from Liza Welch of the class of 2019.

Liza was a chemistry major and distinguished herself in the classroom. She is working for a computational chemistry company, Schroedinger, that makes software for drug discovery and materials science research. She didn’t want to work for big Pharma and takes great pride in working for a company that makes drug discovery research accessible to smaller companies.

She remarked how she has friends for life as a result of her time with Lafayette Field Hockey . As she entered the workforce she feels MILES ahead of everyone she works with, given the intensity of her athletic experience. ” I legitimately cannot be more thankful that I was able to instill myself in a program like Lafayette’s.”

She played in the USA Field Hockey’s Young Women’s Championship scoring a difficult goal….remarking how she almost felt famous and gained a lot of confidence for her senior season!!! While at Lafayette she had worked her way to the top of the fitness test her junior year, even though she was not the fastest on the team!! She and Sophie Carr, who was rehabilitating a knee, enjoyed pushing her teammates and making it fun! For all of you current players “enjoying” spring training, Liza said if there was some way to transport myself to spring training , I’d do it in a heartbeat.

What is not well known is that Liza had vision issues, and had cataract surgery in 2016 and 2018. She also had it done again in 2021. Her coaches said she made other people better on the field once she got her vision back.

She is grateful to her team of surgeons at Mass Eye and Ear that preserved her vision. It is with that in mind, she is running in the Boston Marathon to raise money for their practice. She training as hard as she can, much like she did at Lafayette. She is not aiming just to finish, but to do the best she can.

If you would like to support Liza, please contact her directly. Do not use the given gain web site as they charge a 5% fee!!

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!!!

Fourteen Seconds Adds To Lafayette Field Hockey Lore

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Alden Boccella lines up a pass

With fourteen seconds left on the clock in regulation I must admit it looked pretty bleak but THIS team was not finished. Short handed, due to a late card, the Leopards had pulled their goalkeeper but somehow managed to earn a corner and lined up what was perhaps the last play of the game. The first shot went to the top of cage bouncing off the crossbar….damn I said to myself. But Alden Boccella, sophomore midfielder, who had been sidelined with an injury since the Lehigh game stepped up and smacked the ball in to tie the score….overtime.

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Filine Gerbandij fights for possession

But this game was filled with additional heroics and character. Senior attacker, Molly McAndrew opened scoring with a rocket squeezed past the Bucknell goalie only 4:46 into the first quarter. Bucknell later answered with a goal at 9:38 and 32:54, which gave them a 2-1 advantage by the third quarter.

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McAndrews goes after the ball

The final heroics began in the fourth quarter, as rookie of the year freshman, Lineke Spaans took control at midfield, turning on her afterburners, and scoring an unassisted goal at 48:25. Spaans was clearly on Bucknell’s mind all game as she was marked closely, but her speed was evident on both defense and offense along with her ball control.

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Spaans outruns the Bucknell defense

Bucknell was to respond with about 7 minutes left in the game with their own freshman ace scoring on a corner, making it 3-2 Bucknell, setting up the last minute tying score by Boccella.

Overtime, with its 7 v 7 format, opened up space for the Leopards and they patiently waited for their opportunity. The Bucknell aggressive play was to backfire, as a Bison player was cited for a hard tackle near the circle causing not only a card but a corner!! Audrey Sawers took the game in her hands, delivering a hard shot to the right side of the goal in a small space left vacant by the Bison goal keeper as she went down.

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Offense Player of the Year Audrey Sawers shows some offense

As we left the field, I thought of the difference in this Lafayette team. It occurred to me it can be explained in the meanings of sport and athleticism. Good athletes exhibit skill which enable them to play their sport. How they apply their athletic ability allows them to be successful!

This 14-5 Leopard team, who will play for a championship this Saturday, understands character and the objective of their sport. Team sport in particular builds team memories and program “lore.” Everyone, fans, players and coaches had that added to their DNA on November 4th!!

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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