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USFHL National Club Championship Crown Two National Champions

Content Courtesy of USFHL

The United States Field Hockey League (USFHL) National Club Championship is sanctioned by USA Field Hockey as the annual crowning event of the national adult hockey calendar. The top clubs from every region meet for a weekend tournament to contest on the pitch and determine who is the best of the best and deserves the title, National Champion.

Once again, the tournament was held on Fred P. Rullo Field at the University of Delaware. The pitch is both a high-quality watered surface, and one designed to be played either as a single field or as two fields, both regulation size.  Taking full advantage of this design, the USFHL ran the tournament on side-by-side regulation size watered fields, creating the opportunity for high quality hockey.  The teams did not disappoint.  Spectators saw 40 games over 3 days, and enjoyed a western themed evening social Saturday night. Games were also livestreamed over two channels at the USFHL website.

The 20 teams who qualified for the tournament were comprised of 12 women’s teams and 8 men’s teams.  The team came from around the US, representing regions from the west, south, north and mid-Atlantic areas.  Each had to qualify for the event by besting their local leagues or regional championships. Truly, these were the best of the best and each had a winning record coming into the event. 

The women’s teams have hockey pedigree’s that include former national team players and collegiate athletes.  All are stand out competitors. The greatest distance travelled was by the defending national champions The Olympic Club, out of San Francisco.  The Atlanta FHC, last year’s late qualifier whom Olympic had to defeat in the title match, came back this year as the top qualifier from the Southeast Region, undefeated in the regional playoff.  They were joined by other champions including the Islanders FHC of New York, SteelStyx of western Pennsylvania and Running on Empty, champions of the Pennsylvania Field Hockey League.  No surprise to anyone, Pennsylvania sent a trio of teams, and the Strikers, Spooky Nook Champions, completed the Pennsylvania trio. 

A pair of qualifiers from the metro DC area include the Washington FHA (WFHA) team and the dcDragons.  The Lonestar team from Texas and Santa Monica from California came to complete the qualifying teams.  A late drop created a vacancy in the women’s bracket and one of the top USFHL supporting clubs Miami Surf answered the call and sent their women’s team up to compete, despite little notice. 

The men’s teams had similar qualifying events, with the furthest traveling competitors being the Lonestar club, coming from Texas after winning the Southeast Regional Club Championship in Houston this spring. They were joined by League winners like Rye Westchester, North East FHA champions, local team Philly Premier, were the North East Premier League champions.   The returning national champions were the NY Islanders FHC, who arrived in their familiar orange and blue uniforms, great music and social tent. 

The Atlanta FHC men also qualified, as did the Minuteman team from Massachusetts.  Two combined teams came, the dcDragons and WFHA men combined for a single team, as did the Greenwich and Piedmont Triad Field Hockey (PTFH) teams. 

The men’s teams have a significant difference from the women’s teams in the USFHL.  Hockey in the US has been primarily a women’s sport, unlike the rest of the world where it’s seen as a sport for both men and women.  In fact, it’s the third most viewed sport worldwide, with recent viewer numbers topping 3 billion.  The result is that the majority of women’s players in the USFHL are home grown.  The men’s teams have no such big pool to draw from, and are a unique collection of hockey enthusiasts who happen to live and work in the USA, sprinkled with local talent.   The result is really good for men’s hockey here.  Young men can see high level hockey being played locally now by athletes who are lifelong students of the game.  This mash up makes for some great hockey.

Jim Beaver, Flat Tail Photography

The women’s semi-finals saw Atlanta FHC play the Islanders and WFHA contest against the dcDragons Sunday morning. The results put Atlanta returning to the championship match to play a determined WFHA team.  Atlanta came in still undefeated since regionals began.  They were clearly on a mission to finish the playoffs the way they began them in Houston, racking up a slew of convincing wins with lopsided scores.  They faced a Washington team that had not fared as well in pool play, but had demonstrated amazing grit and discipline on the field to best Delaware in a time expired victory the day before in their first elimination game.  

The game they began at 11:05 am was intense.  The score, however, doesn’t tell the full story of the game.  Both teams opened the first quarter strongly and play was quite even.  Just after the 6 minute mark, Atlanta was out-letting from their 25 and trying to escape a deep press by Washington.   As an Atlanta player tried to carry the ball out forward, Washington’s number 3, Grace Wilson, muscled in and matched steps with the Atlanta player, forcing her to turn back in an attempt to lose Wilson.  As they moved back towards the circle, Wilson maneuvered her stick onto the ball, claiming possession just outside  the scoring circle.  WFHA Teammate Rachel Huang watched the play develop and dropped to the baseline and into a scoring position.  The Atlanta Keeper, Sydney Taylor, also saw the shift coming and smartly moved out to meet Huang and the oncoming play.  Wilson put the ball in front of Huang, as Taylor moved out of goal, but Huang was a half-step faster to the ball, deftly putting beyond Taylor and into the goal.  1-0 Washington.  This momentary breakdown in the Atlanta defense would be it’s only conceded goal. 

Three more quarters saw what could be well described as a champions battle of defensive units.  Both teams found multiple opportunities putting the ball in front of the cage and in position to score.   Hard rockets crossing the cage by Atlanta were met with fast counter attacks by Washington, forcing the entire field to run at top speed from end to end to defend an attack.  Corners were earned on both ends, again and again.  Both teams played skilled team wide defense, denying every opportunity for another goal.  For people who love the nature of an invasive game, this was flat out fun to watch.  The defensive grit was just plain excellent.

The contest would end with the first goal being the only goal scored.   Washington’s grit and determination in the defensive third earned them the right to call themselves the 2023 National Champions, and Atlanta can be equally proud of their skill and ability on the pitch.  Both teams had earned the right to play for the title and it’s a compliment to both teams quality that only one goal was scored that decided the day.


Jim Beaver, Flat Tail Photography

The men’s division delivered great hockey as well.  Both semi-final matches delivered great scoring and fast hockey. The dcDragons/Washington FHA combined team met the Minuteman team and bested them 3-2. 

On the opposite field, the Islanders played the Lonestar team in a high scoring contest.  Lonestar gave the returning champions a mighty game.  Scoring was the order of the day, and no one disappointed.  The game ended with a score of 4-5, and see the Islanders returning to the Championship match once again.

In these circumstances, the Championship could be anti-climatic. It wasn’t.  The Islanders and dcDragon/WFHA teams know each other well.  In fact, they had both hoped to meet the other in the final contest, skill against skill, and with like-minded expectations for play and for victory.  The game was never lopsided, nor was it a certain outcome for either team.  Without a doubt, the skill displayed was very worth watching for every level of fan.  Capped by expert commentary provided by well known US umpire Gus Soteriedes, both teams played with skill and finesse.  For the uninitiated, it appeared effortless.  Thankfully, the guidance of Soteriedes illustrated and broke down the skills being displayed by the players on both sides, creating a fun and educational match.

The Islanders opened scoring with a goal, deftly illustrating a point being made of teamwork and experience, being made at the time on air.  The fast, accurate passing by two Islanders put the ball into the circle and then swiftly placed into the goal by number 23, Darian Isla.  The score would stay the same with very even play until the third quarter, when Isla put another one in from a pass into the circle, as he was planted to the right of the cage, about 15 feet out, on a sharp angle.  Islanders went up 2-0. Shortly after, number 10 Teague Marcano scored for a third goal, making it 3-0 Islanders.    Not game over, though.  All things can  change in field hockey, within just a few minutes.

In the fourth quarter at 9:33 remaining, dc/WFHA stared scoring.  Number 7 Gio Gordon, scored from the left side of the cage in traffic, putting the team finally on the board.  3-1 Islanders.

In a scoring sequence reminiscent of the Islanders last pool game with Atlanta FHC (a story for another day), barely a minute later, dc/WFHA scored again with a shot by number 11, Gregor Schueler bringing the score to 3-2 Islanders.  It was a one-point game suddenly and time created its own pressures with 7 minutes remaining in the game. Time went with play back and forth, corners without conversions, and plenty of opportunities for both sides.  They were truly well matched and become abundantly clear why both teams wished to face each other in this game.  The match up was, as Gus had so aptly described it, a physics match of skill v skill. 

The Islanders claimed another title as time expired, closing out their tournament undefeated, but having delivered with the dc/WFHA team a game worthy of the sport and a championship.  


Jim Beaver, Flat Tail Photography

A special congratulations to those selected as Golden Stick Winners and to the All Tournament Team.

Golden Stick Winner, Men: Ronon Taggert, Lonestar FHC

Golden Stick Winner, Women: Allie Lokey, Islanders FHC

USFHL All Tournament Team, Men:

Ben Martin, Minutemen

Chris Comisky, Philly Premier

Graeme Jackson, dcDragons

Marcello Tronci, Rye/West Chester

Reginald Le Marie, Atlanta FHC

Ronan Taggart, Lonestar FHC

Stephane Smith, Islanders FHC

Val Debouche, Greenwich/PTFH

USFHL All Tournament Team, Women:

Allie Lokey, Islanders FHC

Ally Fuller, Running of Empty

Brittany Knouse, Olympic Club

Channy Cornell, Lonestar FHC

Elizabeth Hitti, Atlanta FHC

Grace Wilson, Washington FHA

Hannah Caplan, Steelstyx

Katie Grant, Strikers

Katie Schneider, Atlanta FHC

Kelly Marks, Strikers

Kendall Ballard, dcDragons

Maleah Hess, Lonestar FHC

Nichole Tolli, Islanders FHC

Rachel Huang, Washington FHA

Ruthie Busienei, Santa Monica

Taylor West-McCormich, Delaware FHA

Victoria Jover, Miami Surf

About the USFHL

The philosophy of USFHL is to support and develop local adult field hockey in the US.  We seek to bring all of the US communities together in various ways, for example, competing in Nationals. 

USFHL Nationals are designed to encourage a competition of the best teams from all over the US.  Not the best all-stars -  flying in internationals or people from elsewhere in the US is not permitted.   Teams are local in nature and compete year round.

We put a spotlight on adult clubs and their success, focusing  increasing local club participation.  

We have formed an advisory board made up of leaders from the competitive communities to advise and drive decisions.  We are a National league where adult competitive communities throughout the US compete to be National Champions.  USFHL is organized under one Advisory Board made up of reps from each local community who enforce the rules and regulations.