Alia Marshall tips the balance as Northwestern beats Liberty for national championship
Keep the tip - Say “tip drill,” and most sports fans think football and interception. But the better field hockey programs work on tipping at every practice. And some players are great at tipping or redirecting a shot on goal; the inserter on corners goes to the near post after delivering the ball and in many ways becomes the most dangerous person on the field. Alia Marshall of Northwestern, with nine minutes left in the third quarter in a scoreless national championship game versus Liberty University, inserted the ball to Maren Seidel, who took the shot, which was tipped by Marshall on the post for the first goal of the game. It proved to be the game-winner. One hand on the stick lets the ball hit the blade side and deflect itself. It looked so casual and was followed by the Marshall leap, going back to coach Tim Bamforth and Beacon Middle track. Sesame Street by the Sea social media connections lit up like the Rehoboth Christmas tree. Northwestern went on to win 2-0 for its first national championship in field hockey in the 40-year history of the program. Coach Nikki Parsley of Liberty, who played at Northwestern and Milford High School, became the youngest coach to lead a team into the finals. My name for Parsley when she played hockey and softball for Milford was Knick-Knack Nikki. She is an athlete – a gamer – who always finds her way into the winner’s circle.
The Ship - Shippensburg, a Division II field hockey powerhouse, beat West Chester 3-0 in the national championship game Nov. 21. Jody Boyer, a senior straight out of Cape and Beacon track, enjoyed her second national title for the Raiders, who finished the season unbeaten. Cami Smith (Cape) played in her first national championship final for the Golden Rams.
Tearing up the turf - The turf is coming up this week at Champions Stadium, and new turf is going down, a compromise version that is good for both field hockey and lacrosse. Cape soccer teams, both boys and girls, prefer to play at Legends Stadium; it must have something to do with the bathrooms and the concession stand. The first upgrade of Champions had to go to referendum using funds from new Cape High construction, and the early morning Blue Bird Special people voted it down. But then the Cape High project was completed and there was enough money left to upgrade Champions without a referendum, so that is what happened, and athletes can thank Dr. Dave Robinson every time they walk through the gate.
Bottom three Tier 3 - I can put myself to sleep writing about the new three-tier football and playoff system for Delaware high school football. All 11 teams in Tier 3, the biggest and best teams in previous history, got invited to the tournament. Top five received a bye, while the next six played to determine which three advance to the eight-team quarterfinals. Still awake? Sussex Central beat Caesar Rodney 35-0, Appoquinimink shut out Cape 36-0 and William Penn beat Hodgson Vo-Tech 41-6. That's a 112-6 advantage for the three winners in the first round, and the winners will be projected to lose in the season round. There are currently 43 licensed college bowl games, but to be “bowl eligible,” a team must have at least six wins. And many individual players opt not to play in a bowl game and risk injury, to say nothing of an extra month of practice. COVID and the 2020 season complicate the mishmash of rules, all of little interest to the most ardent of viewers who can only watch so many bad bowls over the holiday. Perhaps a clean and simple rule for DIAA postseason football playoffs: A team must have a winning record to participate.
Goalies uniquely most valuable - A great goalie protecting the house in the sport of field hockey gives a team the best chance of winning. Cape has now won 12 state championships, and listed here are the athletes who protected the house for those victories: Delia Clark (1979), Sherry Swartzel (1995), Maddie Meade (2011), Katie Kolobielski (2012, 2013), Tina Gooding (2014), Riley Shields (2015), Lori Ferguson (2017), Marlee Geppert/Julie Heffernan (2018), Heffernan (2019, 2020), and Morgan Newcomb (2021).
Snippets - Most sports use a ball to settle the score, but “runs like a track kid” is the ultimate compliment to a ball-sport athlete. Reagan Ciabattoni, Noelle Sabbagh, Emma Duffield and Hannah Maney are “track kids,” and so are Alia Marshall and Jody Boyer, part of the Beacon Middle School dynasty. In indoor hockey, the athlete learns to “knick-knack paddy whack” in small spaces, but when the field gets bigger, “run like a track kid” has big UPS: You can deliver like Amazon. Go on now, git!