Gwynedd Mercy seeks apology over clock issue

Posted: November 21, 2013

It's not about winning and losing for coach Sue Persichetti and the Gwynedd Mercy field hockey team.

It's about fairness.

What happened to the Monarchs in their PIAA state Class AA semifinal, a 3-1 loss to Wyoming Seminary on Nov. 12, wasn't fair, Persichetti says, and the second-year head coach is not backing down from the fight.

It all started when Wyoming Seminary was awarded a penalty stroke during the second half of the game, held at Emmaus High School, and scored to go up by 3-1.

According to several accounts, a game official who was aware that the clock hadn't been stopped immediately as the stroke was called indicated that time should be added before the restart. Instead of the clock reading 28 minutes, 27 seconds, the time when the stroke was called, it was reset to 21:33, a loss of almost seven minutes.

A Gwynedd Mercy team captain and Persichetti began pleading the Monarchs' case to officials. The crowd even started chanting, "Fix the clock. Fix the clock." The clock was never reset to the time when the stroke initially was called, and the game was played to completion.

In a statement issued last week, Persichetti demanded a new game, but one was not granted. Per PIAA rules, no results of a contest can be reversed and no game can be replayed because of a protest.

Now, officials at Gwynedd say they want three things from the PIAA: an apology, an acknowledgement that a timing error occurred, and a review of policies and procedures regarding the timing of games.

Before the game began, an Emmaus official told Persichetti that the scoreboard could malfunction during the cold weather. Persichetti was assured by the official that there was a backup timing device, but when she later questioned the malfunction, she was informed there was no backup clock.

Gwynedd Mercy athletic director Terri Fasano said her protests to officials about the timing issue were ignored. At one point, she said, a male official working in the Emmaus timekeeping booth told her to "shut up and go away."

Fasano could not identify the official by name. Emmaus athletic director Dennis Ramella said his regular timekeeper, Carl Smartchan, and boys' lacrosse coach Scott Ketcham were working the game, but he denied Fasano's claim.

"I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that statement was not made by anyone at Emmaus High School," Ramella said. He declined to discuss other details of the game.

In an e-mail, Wyoming Seminary coach Karen Klassner said she was never asked anything about clock management during the game. She declined to comment further.

Melissa Mertz, an associate executive director for the PIAA who is the organization's field hockey representative, said the PIAA is in the "information-gathering process" regarding the incident and hopes to have a report out by the end of the week.

Fasano wants Mertz and other PIAA officials to review video of the game posted on the National Federation of State High School Associations website. The video, which had its own inset clock, showed that seven minutes were removed from the game clock after the penalty stroke, which is supposed to stop the clock until it is reset.

Mertz said that in conjunction with athletic officials at Emmaus, processing reports from field officials who were at the game and looking at scorebooks, the PIAA is following up to "get a better idea of what happened."

Ramella, the Emmaus AD, said he met with staff on Tuesday to review the incident and has been asked to submit a report to the PIAA, though no timetable was given.

"If there was an issue, we certainly don't want it to happen again," Mertz said, adding that Fasano will get an official notice in writing once all the information has been compiled.

Robert Lombardi, executive director of the PIAA, said there was a "very large discrepancy" between what he has been told happened "on site and after" the semifinal.

He reiterated that the PIAA is getting reports, "not just conversations," from everyone involved in the game.

Persichetti said that PIAA officials "are supposed to do what is fair on behalf of a bunch of kids. I think they thought I would [go away quietly]. I've had moments where I've wanted to."

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