Five Fourth Year Seniors Are Providing Leadership And Character For The Leopards

There are actually 7 seniors on the squad this year counting the two seniors to took a covid year. Both Molly McAndrews and Becca Harbert have been a part of this campaign and have contributed to the character of team. I did write about them last year and my words stand as written.

This Sunday we will be honoring the five, fourth year seniors who. have meant so much to Lafayette and the Field Hockey program. All five have been champions in the classroom making the all Patriot academic squad as well as the NFHCA national academic squad. Senior members of any team provide the anchor and set the character and personality of the team, and these five have certainly done that. So in order of their game jerseys…..

Number 3 Shea Balderson

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Shea is an economics major and an academic award winner 3 year running. She hails from Moorestown, N.J. bringing a sack full of championships and honors to Lafayette College including a Group 3 state championship. She has made an impact on the college turf in 3 plus years. So far she has had 4 shots 3 on goal while playing defense and the midfield.

She has appeared in 9 games this year for 217 minutes and is a key contributor. Like all her teammates she is intense and a winner as evidence by her athletic and academic skills!!

Number 4 Sydney Woolston

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A defender, Sydney may be one of the strongest players on the team. She plays healthy and hurt and is the consummate teammate. The civil engineering major is no slouch in the classroom having made both all academic squads, League and Nationally. A regular at the USA Field Hockey national trials she is force on the field.

The Berlin N.J. native has taken 5 shots in her career, none bigger than her only goal of her career against Princeton last week opening up scoring for the Leopards. There is only one word to describe this player….intense!!!

Number 12 Tara Hamilton

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I first met Tara outside of Kirby Sports center after a basketball game accidentally running into her and her mother during her official visit. I recognized her from her recruiting video and remarked how impressed I was.

Indeed I was, and she has not disappointed. Unfortunately she injured her knee in 2021 at a scrimmage with Delaware. But showed her character during rehab and returned to the lineup this year playing 163 valuable minutes in 8 games. So far she has 3 goals and 3 assists on 16 shots during her career.

Tara is a native of North Vancouver, BC. She demonstrated her team spirit during her injury rehab by helping in practice and encouraging her teammates. I was so happy to see her back on the field this year, contributing. She has shinned in the classroom as a League and National Honor Roll member.

Number 15 Felicitas Hannes

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There are those players who just seem to have a nose for the goal and the ability to place a shot in a vulnerable spot past the goal keeper. Felicitas is one of those players. The Cologne, Germany native, and all academic student athlete, has been a regular on the pitch during her career. She is an economics major.

This year she has appeared in 10 games with 9 starts and 3 goals, all at crucial times. But there was one, no more special than her game winner against Princeton in overtime.

In recognition of her skill and strength, she is the designated stroke taker having converted two this year expertly. You can be certain once her stick hits the ball it is going somewhere important.

Number 23 Simone Hefting

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From Den Bosch, Netherlands Simone is the heart of our defense. She is the commsumate athlete and student. Again, a member of the League and National Academic Squads, she was also named defensive player of the year, and on the second team mid-east region team and 1st team all patriot league team two years running. The International Affairs and Psychology major is certainly a topic of conversation in scouting reports by opponents.

This year, she has 3 defensive saves, anchoring the stout Leopard defense. She has 9 goals on 85 shots as the designated striker on corners during her career. No shot is more celebrated than her goal against Princeton as time was ticking away during the fourth quarter. It was a score tying the game, and sending the teams into overtime and an eventual Leopard win!!

One can only imagine what an imposing figure Simone is to Lafayette opposition. However, it is her leadership skills as co-captain that could be her most impressive feature. The replay of the Princeton game can demonstrate her urging her teammates on and directing play on the field like a quarterback in American football.

It has been privilege to watch her these four years….but its not done yet with perhaps the best yet to come!!

The Group

Together, all seven had to play through a pandemic, injuries, and the ordinary adversities experienced by any athlete. I feel there is even better to come in these remaining games. No doubt the experience has made them stronger, I look forward to seeing what they accomplish as alumni in the future!! It will be just as exciting to watch!! Go Pards!!

Leopards Get Ready For Lehigh

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Sarah Bonthuis is a key player for Lehigh

In past year’s Lehigh has been a step along the way. Not any longer. The game this Friday is as close to a must win game as can be. Lafayette has no w’s in the win column in the Patriot League with 4 games left. Lehigh in recent years has improved and become a real challenge in the League. To date they have not won one Patriot League game and lost one to Boston 1-4. A loss to the Leopards would put them to 0-2 with Bucknell, American, Colgate and Holy Cross to play. A win by Lafayette would make them 1-2 in the League with Boston, Colgate and Holy Cross to play.

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To my mind, it is four wins that is the magic number to just about assure a place in the tournament. Lafayette seems to have had the tougher schedule with an impressive recent win against Princeton. The Bucknell loss was problematic as I have previously written. The other loss was an OT loss to American.

The Leopards must find their offense. To date, they have 13 goals to Lehigh’s 21. It looks like Raffi Fragomeni has earned the GK spot with a 72 % save percentage while the veteran GK at Lehigh, Maddie Kahn has a 69 % save percentage. Lehigh’s leading shot taker is Sarah Bothuis with 7 goals on 47 shots, with next highest shot taker, Abbe Brown with 16 shots.

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McAndrew scoots away with ball against Princeton

Lafayette’s leading shot taker is Molly McAndrew with 16 shots and 3 goals with Spanns following with 17 shots and 2 goals. As is typical with Lafayette teams, shots and goals can come from anywhere on the field.

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The Lafayette defense is very solid, led by Simone Hefting who also has three defensive saves.

The Leopards must keep the ball in Lehigh’s end and earn corners while shutting down Bothuis. The game is at home with video review possible!!

I believe in the skill and heart of this team and a home game in front of friendly fans should serve them well. This team and coaches deserve support. After the outstanding win at Princeton there is plenty for Lehigh to try to be ready for. We can do this!!

Leopards Fall 2-1 In Bizarre, Tough Game

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In a game more noted for its official’s consultations and complaints the Leopards fell 2-1. Having struck early on a beautiful cross set up by Catalina Rubel, Molly McAndrew delivered a strike to put the Leopards up 1-0 at 39:44. The goal was all the more remarkable because Lafayette’s DPC line turned away 8 straight penalty corners. I don’t know if it is some Division one record the official was trying to reach but from my position and 30 years of watching field hockey there were some “mystery calls” in that sequence. But the “mystery” was not to end there. At 43:39 during a scrum in front of the cage the official called a goal which looked like the ball never crossed the goal line. The Bucknell ESPN announcer thought the same on the air initially. Captain, Simone Hefting argued to no avail. Unlike Lafayette, the Ivy League, the Big Ten, the Big East, and the ACC, Bucknell does not have video referral, and the Patriot League does not require it. During NCAA playoff games video referral is required.

The farce continued as a second goal by Bucknell was called at 54:29 and appeared to hit the outside of the post ( out of bounds) and poked in afterwards. Again there was a protest by Hefting and without VR was to go to naught.

During the game, the official interfered with Molly McAndrews as she was to enter the circle. The official shrugged her shoulders and laughed…not funny!! At the end of the game, Lafayette had earned two corners but the official was to give Hefting, a key member of our APC unit a card.

I have to add, this is an independent blog with my own opinions and are not made with any consultation at Lafayette. As a supporter of the sport, as evidence by my working contributions to schools and national organizations, I recognize the need for competent and fair officiating. For that reason, I support universal video review, not as punishment but as an assurance to players that the results are fair and correct. Tonight that was not the case and merits some rethinking by the League and its members.

I still believe this Lafayette team. is a good team. They showed that to me all game long, even after the 8 consecutive corners. I was especially pleased with freshman Raffi Fragomeni who took on Bucknell’s best player one on one during the game. I could name others who have showed great grit and determination this season. I hope, no, I believe they can dig in with the same heart for the remainder of the season. We could see that Sunday with a match with number 7 Princeton and a crucial match with Lehigh on Friday. I would not want to be Lehigh in that game.

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Leopards Show Their Stuff Against Monmouth

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For a first competition, and just a scrimmage, there was a lot to be pleased with and much to be improved upon. First the score which really ended in a win for the Leopards with Lineke Spanns and Molly McAndrews providing the fire for the afternoon. The defense looked solid and happily the goalkeepers showed their skill and mettle all afternoon. The format was a regular game with an overtime. The Leopards put in the winning goal during the extra minutes. After that there was a practice session of shootouts and both the Monmouth goalies and the Lafayette goalies showed true division one skills.

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From this fan’s point of view, it was the growing maturity of the younger players playing this very fine CAA opponent that caught my attention. Sophomore Laine Delmotte showed me how much she was missed last year. She was sidelined with an injury but showed us all how ready she is. She has strong skills and sees space to deliver the ball with intention. India Ralph returns and showed why she was so valuable last year. Newcomer Josephine van Wick demonstrated extraordinary skill and a field sense in the game. Her classmates Aimee Hoefnagel and Hannah Findlay could drive opponents mad as well.

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Soph Lineke Spanns, was of course a big factor, especially when Monmouth tried everything to stop her. Lineke makes everyone else better. The back line is solid with Sydney Woolston and all league Simone Hefting providing a wall.

I was especially gratified to see the Video Replay system in action and it worked in the Leopards favor during the third period. There are still some glitches to be worked out, but should be shipshape by the time of the first game.

All in all it was a good afternoon with fodder for everyone. I am sure Coach Stone will be refining the rough edges as the week progresses.

On to Albany on Sunday for a stiff test before it begins for real!!!

July Is A Tough Month

Last night, I watched the Division One Championship between Liberty and Northwestern for at least the third time. It was a great game for fans as there were two teams who had never been NCAA Champs in field hockey. The intensity was palpable as players were diving to the turf and using every ounce of energy to bring the trophy home. Liberty pulled their goalkeeper with over 6 minutes left, down 2 goals which were scored by Northwestern late in the third quarter.

We had two coaches, one, the head coach from Liberty who had been on the job about 5 years, and Tracy Fuchs the former 2 time olympian whose time at Northwestern was in the mid-teens. My leanings were to Tracy who to my mind deserved it. She is well liked and respected by her peers, and I kind of thought the hockey “world” was on on her side. Not surprisingly in my third watch of the game, Northwestern still won, and demonstrated a championship determination that cou;d please most fans.

It’s now July. Yes, we have college camps, Nexus games and other competitions but its not the same thing. FIH games are over ( sadly without the US in the World Cup). But, I comfort my boredom with watching Lafayette alum Audrey Sawers playing on the big stage with the Canadian national team. Hard to believe less than a year ago, she was playing in the Patriot League playoffs.


McAndrews goes after the ball

In one month, preseason will begin for our Leopards, with the first exhibition game on August 17 against Monmouth. I imagine veteran players and first year players are starting to get serious about conditioning. I am excited to see out new first year’s, which have been described to me by another Division one coach as “really good.” Potential is not enough to win championships as a team must mesh together and that process begins with a well conditioned team.

On paper, this Lafayette team looks like an ideal mix of veterans and newcomers. but I know Coach Stone is actively thinking about how to get the best from this potential. Right now, July seems like a long time to wait!!!

Meanwhile

The US women’s national team goes into offseason mode. Many of the senior members will play on club teams overseas, while the college age players will retreat to their NCAA homes. The FIH schedule resumes next spring but there are rumors of a game in December at their training site at Queen’s College in Charlotte,NC. By the way Queen’s College is moving to division one

Santiago Panamerican Cup 2022 women Match 5 – USA vcCanada Photo: Copyright WorldSportsPics/Rodrigo Jaramillo

USA Field Hockey has advertised a post for the Head Coach position. Resumes have been asked to be returned by July 22nd.

There will be a new Head Coach at Bucknell as the Patriot League continues to improve. There will be two players at Lafayette exercising their Covid option year, which should help with depth. I suspect there will be a third coach added by Coach Stone before the beginning of practice.

Filene Gerbrandij sees Felicitas Hannes

Players that return will see video review installed, new dressing up of Rappolt Field and capital improvements on the campus proper. ( Most noticeable, reconstruction of the parking garage behind Markle). During Orientation it appears the new larger than expected first year class will be encouraged to go to a soccer or field hockey game. ( Maybe there will be big crowds at those first games)!

Anyway it.s July….at least 30 days to wait. I guess I’ll go get my 2nd Covid Booster today to be ready for the fall!!!

2022 Class Announced For Lafayette

Yesterday I covered the beginning of the announcement of the incoming class for Lafayette Field Hockey with Josephine van Wijk. This morning the rest of this group of 8 outstanding athletes have been revealed.

Mackensie Switzer

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Mackensie will add her 5’9″ frame to the roster. She has great defensive skills that were noted in the state championship tournament. She was mentioned in the Max Field Hockey watch list which list the top players in the country. She is celebrated as a first team all state player and just for emphasis, is a black belt in Karate and plays the guitar!!

Catalina Robel

Catalina comes to Lafayette by way of Atlanta,Ga but her roots are in Buenos Aries, Argentina. She attended the Washington School and played for the Atlanta FHC. She is advertised as a striker/midfielder and has exhibited strong stick and scoring skills. The 5’6″ athlete played for Gimnasia y Eqima de Buenos Aries where she no doubt picked up her strong reverse stick shot.

Aimee Hoefnagel

Amiee hails from Rotterdam and comes as a midfielder, but has demonstrated her versatility as a five sport athlete, Field Hockey, Tennis, Gymnastics, Alpine Skiing and Sailing. She was selected to train with the Dutch National U 18 team.

Peyton Guinter

Peyton attended Archbishop Spalding and played her club hockey at Freedom. At 5’7 she was a !st team all conference nominee, while cited as the 4th highest scorer in the state. Her coaches describe her as a driven team player, and will add to the strength of the Leopards this fall!!

Raphaela Fragomeni

Raffi will travel all the way from Mountain Lakes. N.J. to attend Lafayette this fall to be Goal Keeper in this first year class. She holds the county record for career saves at 393. This past fall she had a game in which she had 32 saves against Randolph, only to lose 1-0. She was an all state Group one selection and named a Max 100 selection.

We look forward to welcoming her this fall as she starts a career that will no doubt add to Leopard successes.

Hannah Findlay

Hannah Findlay will have the longest trip of this class. Hannah will come all the way from New Zealand and bring with her a host of on the field skills. She was selected for the New Zealand U 18 development squad as well as the best all around female athlete in senior High School.

Her stick skills were evident in her club play. I think she will find her place early this August as the Leopards prepare for the season!!!

Ellie Barton

Coming to Easton from Concord Massachusetts, Ellie shows a profile that is similar to her classmates. She is a multisport athlete also playing ice hockey and lacrosse. She loves the Bruins, and her Middlesex and club coaches describe as coachable and intense.

Viewing her videos certainly shows her intensity, intercepting passes, and taking shots. She is also disciplined, as she finds a way to get open or to pass to her teammates. No doubt she will enjoy the Leopards New England swing to Yale and Holy Cross as well as home games with Quinnipiac and Boston U.

Along with yesterday’s article on Josephine van Wijk, that is Lafayette’s class of 2026. They will all be traveling beginning in August…… a short 60 days away. The team has no doubt received a training schedule and along with the intense preparation in August, will be ready for the first pre season game at Lafayette against Monmouth at 1 pm on August 17. Start running everyone!!!!

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.

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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