espnW: Harrow Cup
Consider it pulled off. This past weekend’s Harrow Cup was nothing short of a success.
The weekend had it all. Smiles. Laughter. Nerves. Determined eyes. Ruthless grins. Long, exhausted sighs. Heated conversations. Nasty collisions. Diving goals. Cheering parents. Crying babies. Heroic saves. Big wins. Tough losses. Enthused chatter about everything from pressing strategy and subbing rotations to best practices for explaining turf burns, bruises and tan lines to coworkers Monday morning.
The success of the Harrow Cup wasn’t in dollar signs; it was in the simple yet inspiring sense of joy pulsing through the air as so many women took to the field again to profess and share their unending love of field hockey.
With shoulders back, and heads held high, teams donned their uniforms proudly, seemingly undaunted by the fierce and physically demanding challenge of playing four 70-minute games in two days. Separated into two pools of four, each team played a round robin Saturday and Sunday morning followed by a crossover classification match Sunday afternoon.
In Pool A, which featured the Tembos, Dynasty, Tomahawks and Vipers, newly minted national team member Jamie Montgomery (Wake Forest) led her wise and talented Tomahawks securely to the top spot despite a valiant effort by the Cup’s leading goal scorer Liz Sanders (James Madison) and her Vipers. On the other side, in Pool B, the solid, well-balanced Mambas, led by new mom Sarah Dawson (Iowa), managed to make their way into final, narrowly edging the feisty Titans, Boomers and Ninjas.
The highly anticipated $10,000 Harrow Cup showdown pitted Montgomery’s Tomahawks against Dawson’s Mambas. Dawson’s defense, led by Kelly Driscoll (Old Dominion), Meghan Dawson (North Carolina) and Teryn Brill (North Carolina) denied Katie Grant (Duke) and the Tomahawks’ early onslaught at goal. The Mambas’ resilient defense morphed into a potent attack that delivered a 6-1 victory and a $10,000 check. Meghan Dawson’s gutsy performance in defense earned her the Harrow Cup’s MVP.
While Meghan Dawson and the Mambas walked away with the Harrow Cup championship and the ultimate prize, they weren’t the only winners on the weekend. The biggest winner was the game itself. The Harrow Cup reaffirmed in so many hearts, most of all my own, the power of that youthful -- yet ageless -- passion for the limitless possibility of play. Perhaps there was nothing more inspiring over the weekend than the children running around with sticks in their hands, and smiles on their faces saying, “Look at me, one day I’m gonna be just like mom.”
The Harrow Cup made that happen. I think I’d call that a success.
How the h-e-double-hockey-sticks are we going to pull this off?
That was the thought running through my mind last November after my first conversation with Alli Tanner (field hockey brand manager at Harrow Sports and my former teammate at the University of North Carolina) about creating a revolutionizing postcollegiate field hockey tournament that would not just get women back in the game for a weekend of competition, but inspire them to stay in the game for good.
We had eight months, $10,000 and a ridiculously lofty vision. Field hockey had no standard for postcollegiate play; players had no expectation to continue playing after college. Most of them simply lost touch with the game; many no longer owned hockey sticks.
Cue up Thanksgiving 2012, when the spark to change that trend ignited. A bunch of passionate, not-so-old-yet-unfortunately-not-so-young field hockey folk gathered around the dinner table with Mark Hayden, CEO of Harrow Sports, and his 15-year-old daughter, Maica, at the 2012 National Field Hockey Festival. Food, wine and frivolous field hockey chatter flowed. Intrigued by our experiences, Mark asked what the game needed in order to grow in the United States. Unanimously, we agreed: more and better opportunities for everyone to play.
The next morning, Mark informed us that he wanted to host a $10,000 winner-take-all, postcollegiate hockey tournament. “We’ll call it the Harrow Cup,” he said. His team of Harrow Hockey workers whooped and swooped and high-fived. “This is awesome,” I thought. A week later, the magnitude of what we had taken on sunk in. Here was this huge void in our sport, and we were like, “What the heck, let’s cannonball right into the middle of it and see what happens.”
Initially, I wondered whether there would even be enough interest to field four good teams. Boy, was I wrong. From the outset, response to the Harrow Cup, and its mission, was great. The brightest minds and biggest hearts engaged themselves in the postcollegiate cause. Umpires volunteered, USA Field Hockey showed support and players came out in droves. In February, more than 300 athletes from 99 different universities, ranging in age from 22 to 40, entered the Harrow Cup player pool. In March, 144 athletes from that group were drafted into eight teams. Highlighting those teams are former All-Americans, national champions, Olympians, and collegiate, club and high school coaches.
This weekend, the Vipers, Tembos, Boomers, Dynasty, Titans, Mambas, Ninjas and Tomahawks will compete for the inaugural Harrow Cup and its $10,000 cash prize. Competition begins Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Temple University's Geasey Field.
Come support these inspiring women as they showcase their talent, courage and competitiveness. Witness for yourself what's possible when you empower passionate people and let them cannonball into the unknown. The Harrow Cup isn't just making a splash, it’s changing the game.