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!!

Leopards Finish Tough, Challenging Spring

Lafayette finished their last competition of the spring defending a series of shots on goal as Penn desperately tried to find the back of the net. Becca Harbert turned away three in a row putting an exclamation point on a spring where Stone’s warriors challenged some of the best in Division one. They improved their tempo and pace as the spring marched on while dealing with adversity and very little bench to give them a break on the field.

There were some teams in the league that were content to play some divsion 2 and 3 teams, but our Leopards steeled themselves for a challenging season this fall.

Lafayette started out with Delaware and gave up 2 goals on corners, but in the second quarter they answered with a goal from Lineke Spanns who was busy all afternoon. Felicitas Hannes found her range later on against Penn and was threat to be reckoned with as she wound up towards the goal.

Fans got a glimpse of the future as Spanns and McAndrew teamed up moving the ball up the field. We also saw progress from Alex Conway and Shea Balderson and they were able to turn the direction of their opponents consistently.

Simone Hefting and Sydney Woolston were a wall in the back line often time starting the offensive attack. Despite shortages of personnel, this team shows promise for the fall. There will be 6 or 7 new recruits to bolster the lineup, and springtime injuries will have healed in the coming 100 days.

In any case, our Leopards showed their toughness and skill and will be a considerable threat. Goals missed during the spring will be made this fall, as this could be a fun season for all!!!

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.

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!!!

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!!!