LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the NHIAA postseason tournaments this fall will be unprecedented.
The placements — what would normally be seedings — for the Division I, Division II and Division III field hockey open tournaments were randomly generated and teams were split into regionalized brackets. The boys and girls soccer and volleyball open tournaments will follow this model, NHIAA Executive Director Jeff Collins said.
There is no real way to seed based on regular-season results with teams playing a differing number of games both in and out of division. Regional play has been successful throughout the fall, Collins said.
“It certainly took some brainstorming and looking at all sorts of different angles,” Collins said. “The driving force was what the athletic directors worked so hard to put together this regular season — scheduling within their region. That piece worked so well during the regular season and there was so much time and effort put into it, it seemed like the best way forward. Certainly better than putting everyone in a hat and pulling out opponents to start.”
If not for the hard work and dedication of the state’s athletic directors, Collins said, there would not have been a regular season let alone open tournaments.
“It’s amazing how hard they have worked to bring about sports this season for their kids,” Collins said.
Any NHIAA member school can participate in the open tournaments and can also opt out of any tournament, if they choose.
Collins said he does not believe any schools opted out of the three field hockey tournaments, which begin Monday. He is still waiting to hear from schools with their decisions regarding playing in the soccer, volleyball and football tournaments.
The NHIAA traditionally holds each sport’s semifinals and championship games at a neutral high school or college site but not this fall. Collins said one of the participating teams in each game will host their respective semifinal bouts and the championship.
“Another difficulty of this whole thing is schools willing to have people from outside onto school property,” Collins said. “Colleges and universities said no to neutral sites because they’re closed to anybody from outside. It will go by the way it has gone during the regular season with the emphasis on the game and getting kids the opportunity to compete.”
The NHIAA recommended for the field hockey tournaments that each home and away team player receive two game tickets for friends and family but some schools’ spectator policies do not allow any fans or only allow home team fans to attend games. Each school’s spectator policy will take precedence over the NHIAA’s recommendation.
“We’ll comply with those pieces,” Collins said. ‘Hopefully people understand we’re trying to put a tournament on with a pandemic.”
Collins also said both the state’s youth and amateur sports and the NHIAA’s COVID-19 safety guidelines will be followed during the tournament.
With the ever-changing landscape during the pandemic, Collins said the state tournaments might have to be adjusted but that he believes this is the best-laid plan as of now.
“The bottom line is getting kids out there and competing,” Collins said. “We’ll do our best to do that and make the best decisions we possibly can.”
Field hockey coaches, players applaud switch to quartersThe National Federation of State High School Associations’ decision to change field hockey games from halves to quarters this fall has been met with positive feedback from NHIAA coaches and players.
Similar to the NCAA’s format, games are now played in four 15-minute quarters instead of two 30-minutes halves. There are two-minute breaks between the first and second quarter and the third and fourth quarter and a 10-minute halftime intermission. With the new inherent stoppages in the game, there are no longer team timeouts.
“I think field hockey over the last handful of years has really begun to be more focused on skill and I think moving to quarters emphasizes that,” John Stark of Weare coach Dennis Pelletier said.
Manchester Central/West seniors Ava Demers and Grace Mayhew prefer the quarters format in part because of the built-in break between the first and second and third and fourth quarters.
“It gives you two minutes to just talk with your team off the field,” Demers said. “You can just rest your legs for a minute, get a sip of water and then get back on.”
Nashua South coach Ciki McIntire echoed Demers’ sentiments.
“I like the fact that I can check in with them (the players) after 15 minutes and we can kind of make some quick adjustments and they can kind of get a breather together as a team,” McIntire said.
Tenth-year Gilford coach Dave Rogacki has used the between-quarter breaks to substitute out a player who needs a quick rest just before the end of the quarter then put them back in at the start of the next one. Rogacki also feels he can strategize more with players during the two-minute break between quarters than he could during a timeout.
“I’m doing more individual coaching with individual players,” said Rogacki, who has coached field hockey in New Hampshire for 33 years. “I do have two minutes so I don’t have to say, ‘Do this as a team.’ I can say (that) then grab a player aside and say, ‘You need you to do this or do that.’ That has definitely improved the quality of what I give to players that they can use on the field.”
The one change that has been difficult for coaches is no longer having timeouts to utilize. Rogacki recalled the closing moments of his team’s 3-2 loss to Newfound of Bristol on Sept. 25 as a time he most needed a timeout. Gilford tied the score at 2-2 with about three minutes left before Newfound responded with the game-winning tally with about one minute remaining.
“There was nothing I could do,” Rogacki said of when Newfound took the 3-2 lead. “It takes away any strategy you can use and sometimes the kids are looking at you like, ‘What do we do now, coach?’”
While Pelletier and Rogacki would both like to see the rules amended to give each team one timeout, both agreed the move to quarters is an improvement for the sport.
“My main point is I think it’s for the betterment of the game,” Pelletier said. “I’m really hoping it draws more growth to the game of field hockey.”
Golf tournament dates changedThe NHIAA Division I and Division III team golf tournaments have been moved to Tuesday and the Division I, Division II, Division III and Division IV individual golf tournaments have been rescheduled to next Sunday.
The Division I team tournament will take place at Mt. Washington Resort Golf Club in Carroll and the Division III team tournament will be held at Derryfield Country Club in Manchester on Tuesday.
The Division I and Division III individual tournaments will be held at Concord Country Club beginning at 10:30 a.m. The Division II individual tournament will be held at Windham CC beginning at noon. The Division IV individual tournament will start at 11:20 a.m. at Souhegan Woods Golf Club in Amherst.