Male star leads field hockey team. Is he an unfair edge?

Wyoming Seminary in Forty Fort, Pa., is a traditional field hockey powerhouse, so it's no surprise that it's back in contention for a state title, with a berth in the state championship game on the line Wednesday afternoon in Seminary's faceoff with Crestwood (Pa.) High (the semifinal against Crestwood was originally scheduled for Tuesday afternoon but was postponed by bad weather). What is surprising is how Seminary is advancing through the playoffs, on the back of a male player who is singlehandedly dominating all Seminary's opponents.

That player is Cornelius Tietze, a junior and German native who joined the Seminary field hockey team this season and has played as the squad's lone male player ... and the only boy on the field in practically all of 24-2 Seminary's games, for that matter. In his last two outings, Tietze led his team to a 4-3 victory over District 3-AA runner-up Donegal with three goals and an assist, and a 4-2 win against Villa Maria, a game in which he again scored three goals.

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The game story of Wyoming Seminary's victory against Villa Maria makes it clear just how dominant the German can be. The junior scored the game's first goal, then helped Seminary rebound after it allowed two goals with both a lone-man breakaway goal and the game-winning score just minutes later.

Tietze's dominance has sparked renewed questions of the fairness in allowing a male athlete to play in a sport traditionally played in America by girls alone. Last week, asked that question and received a largely rancorous attack against male participation, with the exception of the two posters who actually were field hockey players. Those posters -- one a female player and the other a male player -- defended his participation, saying that the only people who really cared were the field hockey parents, not the athletes themselves.

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Of course, that may change if Tietze leads Wyoming Seminary to the fourth state title in the past 10 seasons. For her part, the coach of Seminary's most recent vanquished foe left little doubt about who made the biggest difference in her team's final game of the season.

"He's just so quick. That's the quickest kid we've seen all year," Villa Maria coach Maureen Polley told "We worked hard and knew what we had to do and we did a good job on him for awhile but then his athleticism just took over."

That sounds like a picture perfect rationalization of how boys playing in a female sport can have a significant competitive advantage. Whether that is eventually determined fair or unfair to all involved -- including Tietze himself -- remains to be seen. The one thing that does remain certain is that the debate he's helped stir up won't end any time soon.

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