Athlete’s Corner: Field hockey player Emma Kircher shares her daily routines and plans for another successful season.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with sophomore athlete Emma Kircher. Kircher plays defense for the women’s field hockey team and also ran track up until this past season. 

Unfortunately, a fractured back has put her track career on hold, at least for the time being. When asked about short term goals over the next few months she said, “My top goal is having a full recovery and playing at 100% with no pain.”

So far, Kircher’s athletic career has been highlighted by making the MAC Championships for track. She also has made academic honor roll and played in every game for field hockey. Not only has she played but has also been one of the top scorers on the team. 

When asked about what makes her a great athlete, Kircher said, “I stay positive, I am very encouraging to my teammates and a good communicator on the field. I put extra work into practices and outside of practice.”

Outside of field hockey, Kircher’s other interests include hanging out with friends and watching sports, whether it be local sports, Eastern teams or professional. Recently, she has especially been following the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s lacrosse team. She is involved in the kinesiology club and the Nest club and is also team chaplain.

Kircher is majoring in exercise science in pre-athletic training. With early morning practices, classes, lifts, physical therapy for her back and work, it takes a lot of discipline to manage and stay on top of everything. She emphasized working ahead on assignments for classes, going to the library to get work done and keeping a planner to stay organized. 

Eventually, Kircher plans to use a fifth year of eligibility as she will be continuing her education with two years of graduate school. During her second year, she would like to have a coaching role on the field hockey team. 

As far as the future for Kircher, one thing is for sure. With her work ethic and devotion to academics and sports, she will be successful in whatever she puts her mind to.

Swiatek Makes History: Iga Swiatek becomes the first Polish woman to achieve the number one singles ranking.

Iga Swiatek first became popular when she won the 2020 French Open as a teenager. She was unseeded at the tournament and did not drop a set en route to winning her first grand slam title. After winning a major, Swiatek cooled off for quite some time, but after an incredible start to 2022, the drought seems to be over.

Swiatek came into the year with little confidence after not performing well at the majors last year. However, throughout the tournament, she found her rhythm as she made the semifinals of the Australian Open. 

Starting in Doha, Swiatek began to play unbelievably well and started a 17-match win streak. Since then, her ranking has been rising with each tournament. Swiatek started the year ranked ninth in the world. Now, after compiling a record of 26–3 on the year, she has reached number one for the first time in her career. 

What makes this so significant is not only the personal achievement of becoming world number one at the age of 20 but also that Swiatek is the first tennis player from Poland to ever hold the top spot. 

It became official when Ash Barty from Australia surprised everyone when she retired from tennis at the age of 25 earlier this year. Barty had just won the Australian Open and said that she had to step away from the sport because she could not push her body anymore. With Barty’s retirement and being taken out of the ranking system, it meant that Swiatek would automatically become world number one.

Swiatek had just won Indian Wells to send her to number two in the rankings. She had started with a few tight matches at the beginning of the tournament. Ultimately, she found her form and ended in dominant fashion, beating Maria Sakkari 6–4, 6–1 in the final. 

Swiatek’s amazing performances continued in Miami. She did not drop a set the whole tournament and destroyed Naomi Osaka 6–4, 6–0 in the final. This was huge for Swiatek because it showed that she truly was the woman to beat and she deserved to be number one in the world. 

It has been an incredible year so far for the Polish number one, and she has won all three of the Masters 1000 level events on the women’s tour, becoming the first lady to ever accomplish this. Swiatek will hope firsts like this continue throughout the year as she heads to the clay season, which is her preferred surface. 

Sources: WTA Tennis

The 2022 Masters at Augusta National: Scottie Scheffler wins the green jacket at the PGA Tour’s biggest event of the year.

The Masters is the PGA Tour’s biggest major tournament of the year, and every spring, invited golfers test themselves against the gorgeous Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Ga.

This year’s Masters champion was Scottie Scheffler, a 25-year-old from Ridgeway, N.J. and an alum of the University of Texas. Scheffler entered the tournament with the number one World Golf ranking and the number one FedEx Cup ranking.

Scheffler was hot coming into the tournament, and he kept this energy throughout the four rounds. He led by five strokes going into the third round, which ended up being a chilly day in Augusta, Ga. Scheffler powered through Saturday, along with Cam Smith, Shane Lowry and Charl Schwartzel, to gain a secure spot on the leaderboard going into Sunday.

On Sunday, Rory McIlroy made a surprising run for the jacket, finishing with a total four-round score of seven under par. Collin Morikawa, who was his playing partner, finished the tournament at four under par. The two chipped in a pair of sand bunker shots on the 18th hole to cap their final rounds.

Scheffler’s green jacket win comes as his fourth PGA Tour victory in about three months. He won the Waste Management Phoenix Open on February 13, the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 6 and the Dell Technologies Match Play on March 27. He has also not missed a tournament cut line since October 2021.

Scheffler was praised for his poise, strength and ability to overcome the adverse weather throughout the four rounds at Augusta National. In interviews after his win, he was vulnerable and disclosed that he was especially anxious going into Sunday’s round.

“I cried like a baby this morning. I was so stressed out. I didn’t know what to do. I was sitting there telling [my wife] Meredith, ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this…’” Scheffler said. Alas, Scheffler was ready, and he took the golf world by storm with his dominating finish on Sunday.

Despite the many successful golfers in the field, like surging Scottie Scheffler, Cam Smith and perhaps even Jon Rahm or Dustin Johnson, the talk of the week was Tiger Woods’s return to golf.

Woods has been slowly making his way back onto the golf course after sustaining severe leg injuries in a single vehicle car accident in February 2021. (See “Tiger’s Hopeful Return” on The Waltonian’s website.) Doctors were even considering amputating his right leg, so the recovery was a hefty one.

Woods surprised everyone when he teed it up at the Masters. He played well in the first round and managed to make the cut after the second round. Tiger struggled the last two rounds, but afterward, he still expressed his gratitude and progress.

“Even a month ago, I didn’t know if I could pull this off,” he said. “I think it was a positive, and I’ve got some work to do and [I’m] looking forward to it.”

Sources: ESPN, Golfweek, Golf Channel, Golf Digest, Masters, PGA Tour

NBA Playoffs Are Here: A student provides insight on must-see playoff matchups and who is dealing with the most pressure.

The NBA Playoffs are finally here after the great showing teams in the play-in tournament gave viewers. In the play-in tournament, the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks cemented their spot for the playoffs. Here are matchups that viewers should watch.

One matchup to view is the second seed Memphis Grizzlies against the seventh seed Timberwolves. This series has two of the most popular teams in the NBA, with both having talented young players that have taken the league by storm. With the Timberwolves, who have Karl Anthony-Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell alongside a formidable roster led by trash talker Patrick Beverley. On the other side of the court, the Grizzlies have a young and gritty team led by All-Star point guard Ja Morant who has made a jump to become one of the best players in the NBA.

Another must-watch matchup is the second seed Boston Celtics against the seventh seed Brooklyn Nets. This series has a lot of traction; the Nets’ star point guard Kyrie Irving makes his return to face his former team. Boston fans and Irving have a heated relationship with Irving leaving the Celtics and even stepping on their logo in front of fans. Expect nothing but boos from the Celtics crowd once Irving touches the floor and the ball. This Celtics team flipped the switch going on an unstoppable run from being the tenth seed to having homecourt as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. With their star players in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the team relies on the production of these two and defense. While the Nets’s Irving and superstar forward, Kevin Durant, can produce numbers, Patty Mills, Seth Curry, Bruce Brown Jr. and Andre Drummond will need to help their stars to win this series. 

Other than matchups, both players and teams have an enormous amount of pressure on them. The Philadelphia 76ers’ recently acquired star shooting guard James Harden has the biggest target on his back. With his constant struggles throughout this season, drama from being traded from his previous team (the Nets), his antics off the court with partying before crucial games and disappearing, Harden’s role in the playoffs is unpredictable. If his performance is not spectacular and the 76ers don’t make it far in the playoffs, expect Harden’s reputation to take even more of a hit.

One team to look at are the Utah Jazz, as they are close to losing their star guard Donovan Mitchell if the team doesn’t help him make it far in the playoffs. Since his early years, Mitchell has found success with the team; while having success, the team has failed in their last two playoff appearances. The Jazz has a deep roster known for their defense and three-point shooting; however, the team lacks another scorer who can create their shot to help Mitchell. Losing a 3–1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the 2020 Playoffs during the NBA Bubble and losing in six games against an injured Los Angeles Clippers team in 2021, Mitchell might find himself walking away from the franchise, as analysts have speculated.

With the 2022 NBA Playoffs underway, be sure to check out the schedule on ESPN and keep up with the latest news around other series.

Sources: ESPN

Chelsea Future Unknown: Roman Abramovich will likely sell Chelsea after the events happening in Ukraine.

On February 24, Russia began its invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine. As nations began to place sanctions on Russian President, Vladimir Putin, eyes turned to the Russian 1%. On March 2, Chelsea FC owner and Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, made a shocking statement saying that he has passed “stewardship and care” of his English Premier League team to the trustees of the club’s foundation. Abramovich made no statement on handing over ownership of the club. Then, sanctions began to be placed on Russian oligarchs all around the world, prompting Abramovich to put Chelsea up for sale for over $3 billion. Before Abramovich could pull a sale off, the U.K government seized control of the club with sanctions being placed on the Russian.

While this move by the UK government has been politically accepted by the majority of the world, many Chelsea fans are sad to see Abramovich (and his money) leave. Roman Abramovich took ownership of the top-tier English Premier League team in 2003, and has now been its owner for almost 20 years. Under Abramovich’s leadership, Chelsea has won a plethora of awards. Chelsea’s men’s team have won 21 out of their 34 trophies under Abramovich: five EPL titles, two Champions League titles, one Club World Cup title, two Europa League titles, five FA Cup titles, three League Cup titles, one Super Cup title and two Community Shield titles. Chelsea’s women’s team have won all 11 of their trophies under the Russian: five EPL titles, three FA cup titles, two League Cup titles and one Community Shield title. Chelsea’s youth academy team have won nine out of their 11 trophies under Abramovich: seven FA Youth Cup titles, 2 UEFA Youth League titles. All of that is to say that Roman Abramovich has given Chelsea some of the most lucrative seasons of football the Premier League has ever seen.

Roman Abramovich has remained very cooperative throughout the process. When he initially set his club up for sale, Abramovich declared that he had ordered the creation of a charitable foundation where all of the net proceeds of the sale would be placed; the foundation was to be for “the benefit of all the victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.” Furthermore, Abramovich has been present in the negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian parties. 

The future of Chelsea FC is indefinitely unknown. Any interested buyers would need to meet with the U.K government to gain approval to approach the club. Currently, the popular rumors are circulating Todd Boehly (part owner of the L.A Dodgers), Sir Martin Broughton (an English businessman) and the Ricketts family (owners of the Chicago Cubs).

In this difficult time for Chelsea, the club and players have been strained. Multiple sponsors of the club have hinted at pulling investments out of the club, the U.K government has halted any player transfers from being negotiated and the club is not allowed to sell any tickets to their home games apart from the ones already sold. Though the club is in a time of unease, Chelsea’s manager, Thomas Tuchel, has remained as optimistic as one can, stating that as long as the team have enough shirts to wear and gas in the buses, they will simply keep competing.

Sources: Chelsea FC, Washington Post, ESPN, The Guardian, The Independent, AP News

Fritz Wins Indian Wells: Taylor Fritz overcame a hampered Rafael Nadal 6-3 7-6 (5) in the Indian Wells final.

Nobody was expecting Taylor Fritz to win his first Masters 1000 tournament, especially when his opponent was Rafael Nadal. Nadal up until the final had a perfect 20-0 record on the year, had won three titles and won a historic 21st Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open.

Nothing seemed to suggest that Fritz would stop Nadal from getting to 21-0 and a record tying 37th Masters 1000 title. Things looked even worse for Fritz as footage emerged hours before the final of him collapsing and barely being able to stand during practice. The doctors advised Fritz to forfeit the match but Fritz refused to give up the opportunity to play the biggest match of his life. 

Many, including myself, were expecting a routine win from Nadal. The first game proved that it would be anything but. From the very beginning, it was clear that something was not right with Nadal. In his previous round against Carlos Alcaraz, Nadal had called the trainer to work on his ribs and back. It did not seem major at the time, but obviously the pain was still bothering the Spaniard. 

Fritz, sensing that Nadal’s movements were compromised, used his powerful forehand and angling backhands off the court to build a 5-1 lead in the first set. He was able to close out the first set 6-3. 

Nadal called for the trainer and apparently was worked on in the locker room and given pain killers for his injury. The medicine seemed to kick in and Nadal got his first lead when he broke Fritz for 2-1 in the second set. 

Fritz immediately dug in to get the break back and kept his nose in front for the rest of the set. Leading 5-4, Fritz had a match point that Nadal saved. Nadal ended up leveling the set and having two break chances of his own in the next game. Fritz again was able to shake off the unforced errors and dig out of the game for 6-5. 

Eventually the set went to a tiebreak and the score stayed close in the beginning. It was Nadal that had a chance to set up two set points but he missed an uncharacteristic swinging volley. Fritz settled down and won the next two points to seal the victory at 7-6 (5) for his biggest title and became the first American since Andre Agassi to win the event. 

For Nadal it was very disappointing because injuries have plagued his whole career and it was tough to see him hampered again in an important match. An MRI later revealed that Nadal had a cracked rib and will miss four to six weeks. 

For Fritz it was a proud moment as he did well to hold his nerve in the big moments and become the first young American to break through at a big event. Hopefully, for Fritz he will be able to continue playing well and continue to make it deep in tournaments like Indian Wells.

Giroux Says Goodbye to Philly: The Flyer’s long-time captain Claude Giroux is traded to the Florida Panthers.

As the NHL trades continue to happen throughout the league and players’ contracts approach expiration, some surprising moves are being made. One of these trades that has shocked not only Philadelphia fans, but hockey fans in general, is Flyers captain Claude Giroux being dished off to the Florida Panthers.

Giroux was one of the best players to wear a Flyers uniform, and although the team had little playoff success in his 15 years, he still was a leader and fan-favorite.

Giroux has 291 career goals and 609 career assists with Philadelphia. 18 of those goals and 24 of those assists have come this season. Giroux also recently joined Bobby Clarke as the only two players to have played 1,000 NHL games exclusively with the Flyers.

So what does this mean for Giroux, the Flyers and the Panthers? The Panthers will surely benefit from Giroux’s arrival. They are an already dominating team, leading the entire Eastern Conference with a 42–14–6 record. 

Joining captain Aleksander Barkov and forward Jonathan Huberdeau, Giroux will help the already hot-streaking Panthers to retain their Eastern Conference power. The Panthers hope to use the quickness, agility and grittiness of Giroux along with that of Ben Chiarot and Robert Hagg to continue their success.

It’s true that bringing in new players as the season nears the playoffs can throw off team chemistry. It also is true that Giroux, only having played with one team his whole career, might have a hard time adjusting, having to communicate and cooperate with new teammates.

However, Panthers coach Andrew Brunette is hopeful. He understands that players need time to adjust but that won’t stop the team from playing and practicing at the top of their game. “There’s a little bit of an easing process that we have here with [the new guys],” he said.

Giroux also sounds hopeful that he will mesh with his new teammates. “The guys are fast. We’re having fun out there,” Giroux said. If fun really matters in sports, then Giroux and his new Florida teammates should have no problem coming to terms with each others’ playing styles.

The Flyers, although facing a pretty large organizational dilemma, will look to add depth to their roster with Owen Tippett, a young forward from Peterborough, Ontario. He joins Flyers stars Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny as they try to turn around their less-than-ideal season.

Sources: ESPN, NHL

March Madness Heating Up: Men’s and women’s tournament update as March Madness comes to a close.

March Madness has been a great tournament so far for both the men and women’s tournament. Throughout the tournament there have been a fair share of upsets and thrilling games. At this point only the National Championship game is left for the women, while the men are at the Final Four stage of the tournament. 

For the men, the first upset of the tournament came when the Kentucky Wildcats lost to the St. Peter’s Peacocks by a score of 85-79 in overtime. Most people, including myself were shocked to see the Wildcats bail out of the tournament so early. Credit goes to the Peacocks, as they stayed composed throughout the game and played well in overtime to complete the upset. 

The Peacocks proved that their win against the Wildcats was not a fluke as they followed up the upset with a 70-60 win over the Murray State Racers. In the Sweet 16 they performed another upset against the Purdue Boilermakers, winning by a narrow margin of 67-64. Their dream run ended when they came up against the North Carolina Tar Heels, losing 49-69. The Peacocks made NCAA history, becoming the first 15 seeded team to make the Elite Eight. 

Another upset, though not as big, came when the Arkansas Razorbacks beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Sweet 16. The score ended up being 74-68, and in my opinion, was one of the better games of the tournament so far. Gonzaga was not the first number one seed to fall but the Baylor Bears losing to North Carolina was not as surprising. Auburn and Arizona were other high seeds to be upset early. 

The Final Four are set for the men and the remaining teams are North Carolina, Duke, Villanova and Kansas. Out of the remaining, Duke and Kansas are favored to win. 

The women’s tournament has had fewer upsets and surprises, in terms of seeded teams. However, a lot of the games have been very close and coming down to the final seconds. 

The Creighton Bluejays were the lowest seeded team to make a deep run in the tournament. The tenth seeded Bluejays overcame Colorado, second seeded Iowa and Iowa State to make the Elite Eight. The game against Iowa specifically was a nail biter and came down to the final seconds as they edged out a 64-62 win. They were the lowest seeded team to reach this point of the tournament but the run ended when South Carolina defeated them 80-50. 

Another great game in the women’s tournament was in the Sweet 16 when North Carolina State and Notre Dame played. North Carolina State had an incredible come back in the game, as they were able to rally in the fourth quarter to defeat Notre Dame 66-63.

The UConn Huskies are a team that have been in a lot of tight games so far. Three out of their five games have been decided by five points or less. 

Their opponent in the National Championship will be the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks have for the most part dominated all of their games, with only one win being less than a double digit victory. The Gamecocks will be favored against the Huskies, but with how the Huskies games have been going, one could expect the Championship game to be a tight affair.

Sources: NCAA, ESPN

Brady’s Back, and Maybe He’ll Stay: Tom Brady has decided to return for another season in Tampa Bay.

Well, that didn’t last long.

Legendary NFL quarterback Tom Brady plans to come out of his very short-lived retirement to play at least one more season in Tampa Bay.

On March 13, Brady posted to Twitter, announcing his unretirement. “These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now,” his tweet said.

The day before, Brady attended a Premier League football game, where Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United defeated the Tottenham Hotspur 3–2. Ronaldo scored a hat trick.

Who knows why Brady decided to come back. Perhaps watching a great footballer in action—who, at 37 years old, is up in age for soccer players—gave him that final push of motivation to continue to play.

Maybe he didn’t need the motivation. Brady constantly seems physically and mentally ready to take on any challenge, especially in football. His strict diet and fitness program keep him healthy at a level that is almost absurd for men—let alone athletes—his age.

Maybe Brady was bored. Maybe he genuinely didn’t know what to do with himself. Maybe owning two clothing brands, running a fitness company and touching up his golf game were not enough to keep him busy. Maybe Brady has a visceral need for football.

After playing and practicing football non-stop and training in the football mindset, it must be brutal to step away. Brady is attached to not only his team but to the sport of football as a whole. It has become a necessity, like food or water—an inseparable aspect of his life that he can’t just quit cold turkey.

And Brady isn’t a quitter by any means. Despite winning 7 Super Bowl rings, he simply cannot stop competing. He always seems to want more. His drive and his determination, perhaps, are the biggest factors of his success.

As Brady returns for his 23rd season in the NFL, he might just win another Super Bowl. Maybe this season won’t even be his last. Maybe he won’t stop until he wins again.

Sources: Andrew Beaton and Josh Gay, The Wall Street Journal

PGA’s 2022 Players Championship: A look at the unusuality of this year’s tournament at TPC Sawgrass.

Off and on weather delays and play suspensions clouded the field of professional golfers in this year’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Play was halted several times over the four rounds in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., as heavy rainfall peppered the course.

The first round, scheduled for Thursday, March 10, concluded on Friday, March 11. On that same Friday, players were required to start their second round right after finishing their first round. 

Darkness shadowed the latter holes of some golfers’ second rounds, and they had to be finished up Saturday morning. This shift warranted a Monday final round, rather than a traditional Sunday.

Despite the unconventional finish and variant conditions, some unexpected players in the field, especially champion Cameron Smith, showed exceptional ability to overcome adversity on the golf course.

Cameron Smith showed the way during his final round and birdied his first four holes. He went on to one-putt 13 of the 18 holes in that same round. Of these one-putts, eight of them came in his last nine holes. Smith was on fire.

Not only did the Australian hit these putts, he was consistent in where he made them: the dead center of the cup. Smith read and understood the speed and slope of the difficult TPC Sawgrass greens, leading him to victory on Monday.

Anirban Lahiri, Joel Dahmen, Francesco Molinari and Viktor Hovland were some of the notable competitors that made their mark over the weekend. Big names such as Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Speith and Tony Finau all missed the cut.

Another highlight, as with every tournament at TPC Sawgrass, is Number 17. This course is home to the famous par-3 the “Island Green.” 

Over the length of the tournament, more than 65 balls were hit into the water off the edge of this difficult green. (Brooks Koepka has hit 10 balls into the 17th green’s water and has played this hole at 20-over-par during his career.) Players including Koepka watched ball after ball fall into the water after being set off track by heavy gusts of wind. Just bad luck.

Given the unpredictable conditions, brutal winds and longer-than-normal week at the 2022 Players Championship, golfers are glad to have a rest. Cameron Smith announced that he would not be playing in the Dell Technologies Match Play event in Austin, Texas to take a bit of a break and have some extended time with family.

Sources: Golf Channel, Golf Digest