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La Jolla High’s field hockey falls short in historic match

In what organizers are calling “a historic moment in men’s field hockey in the United States,” El Capitan beat La Jolla High, 3-0, Friday in what is believed to be the first ever boys’ high school field hockey club match in the U.S.

The contest at Muirlands Middle School was the first in a three-game series between the two clubs.

USA Field Hockey Men’s National Team Head Coach Nick Conway initiated the games as a pilot project for a boys’ field hockey development program scheduled to start in 2011. He is coaching the La Jolla High School team, while Sandy Martinez, mother of former USA U21 Men’s National Team member Manny Martinez, coaches the El Capitan side. The teams consist exclusively of students from each of the two San Diego-area schools.

“We’ve been trying to create a program that will facilitate the growth of men’s hockey within the youth ranks,” said Conway. “Sandy’s been developing boys’ field hockey for some time.”

To further that goal, Conway and Martinez identified the two schools as a good opportunity to implement their development program. Conway’s wife, Paula, is a teacher and field hockey coach at La Jolla High School and that provided an intriguing and convenient option for a second school.

“La Jolla was very supportive of USA Field Hockey providing an opportunity like this to their student body,” said Conway.

While field hockey is viewed mainly as a girl’s sport, Conway appealed to some of the male athletes at La Jolla to participate.

“Very simply, we went into their physical education class, threw a few sticks on the ground, and asked what boys wanted to play,” said Conway. “Of course, there was some novelty in that initial time frame; we had so many boys that we didn’t have enough sticks. As things progress, and as you announce you want to form a team and practice every day, you lose some players, but you retain a core group who want to play and enjoy competition.”

The teams began playing seven weeks ago, at least four days a week during their PE classes.

“It became clear we could get two teams to participate,” said Conway. “The guys are keen and ready to play.”

The second game of the three-game series will be held at El Capitan High School June 17 at 7 p.m. The final game will be held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista during the Men’s Junior National Championship on July 10.

The series has been possible through the significant support of Asics, who provided uniforms, and Dita Field Hockey, who provided sticks for the teams.