District 1 lower seeded field hockey teams advance to finals

Is it time for District 1 to implement a power-rating system for field hockey just as it has for football?

Although the issue has come up in the past, it has gone nowhere. After what happened in the just-completed District 1 Class AAA field hockey playoffs, maybe it's time for another look. Or was what happened with the district seedings this year just an aberration?

Representatives of the leagues in District 1 got together for the seeding meeting on Oct. 20. The names of the teams were thrown out for discussion. Team records, strength of schedules, common opponents, etc., were factored into the discussion until 28 teams were selected for the Class AAA brackets.

Central Bucks South, the Suburban One League Continental Conference champion, was given the top spot. West Chester Henderson was selected the No. 2 seed, followed by Council Rock North and Wissahickon. All four received byes in the first round but were eliminated by the end of the quarterfinals. Three were gone after their first game.

Eleventh-seeded Unionville and 16th-seeded North Penn ended up in the final four, along with Owen J. Roberts and Mount St. Joseph, the seventh seed.

"We've discussed [a rating system], but it's been very difficult to come up with a good format," said Sheila Murphy, who serves as the district's rep to the PIAA for field hockey. She's a former field hockey coach and athletic director from Neshaminy.

Murphy said the current selection method has worked very well for the district. Comparing actual results with the seedings has shown a remarkable consistency.

"Was this year an anomaly? I don't know," she said.

District 3 uses a power-rating system to pick the top 20 teams for its playoffs. Lower Dauphin was the top-rated team in Class AAA, and it won the district championship over Penn Manor, the No. 2 seed.

There doesn't seem to be a strong feeling among the coaches for a power-rating system in District 1.

"I don't know enough about the systems," said coach Maurene Polley, whose Villa Maria Academy team won an unprecedented fifth straight District 1 Class AA title Saturday. "I'd like to know more about the rating systems that are out there."

Her fellow Athletic Association of Catholic Academies coach Lois Weber of Mount St. Joseph expressed similar sentiments.

"I know it was mentioned a few years ago," Weber said. "I am not familiar with the specifics of the systems. Our present method did not work very well this year. A power-rating system might be an option to consider."

Clarence Jennelle, who coached Owen J. Roberts to its first Class AAA district title in the school's 52-year history on Saturday, said he would need some explanation before making a decision on any power-rating system. The Wildcats were the No. 5 seed this year.

Murphy said she plans to meet with coaches in the district over any issues they may have before meeting in a session with the PIAA in December.

It will be interesting to see if a power-rating system comes up for any discussion.

Byes or no byes? Although Owen J. Roberts (22-2) was not among the top four seeds, Jennelle wasn't about to complain about not getting one of them.

"Some times you think that it might be nice to have a first-round bye [granted to the top four seeds] because it can give you a chance to rest up or heal," Jennelle said. "I'd rather keep playing. I think it helps keep you sharp."

Wildcats Taylor Shronk, Amanda Fuertsch, Corinne Mattia, and Heather Morris agreed in one voice after the Wildcats won the district crown.

"We've accomplished a great deal this season, but we worked very hard for it," Fuertsch said.

"We picked it up when we needed to," added Mattia.

"When Unionville tied it [at 1], we showed we could play smart, too," Shronk noted.

Well deserved. Despite her team's loss to the Wildcats (19-1-2) in the final, first-year Unionville coach Madison Weary had to be proud of her team.

"We have come a long way," the rookie coach said. "We've become more of a team. It's been an amazing year so far."

Asked if she expected the Indians to get to where they are, awaiting a game Tuesday in the state playoffs for the first time since 1992, she said: "I can't say that I'm surprised, but they deserved to be here in the [district] championship game."


Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.