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Archive for May 2, 2007

May 2, 2007 — A pioneer steps down

Most of the roughly 1,940 scholastic field hockey teams in the United States have a championship to play for at the end of the year.

One notable exception, until recently, were a raft of small-enrollment high schools in the commonwealth of Virginia.

But for the efforts and pocketbook of Linda Lee, who recently announced her retirement from coaching at Warrenton Fauquier (Va.), there might not be a Class A/AA title game today.

Fauquier’s district was split in half in 1994 with the opening of a new high school, Bealeton Liberty (Va.). Fauquier’s field hockey team, which had made the state tournament through the Northwest Region the previous two seasons, was suddenly ineligible for the postseason simply because the school was too small.

There was no Class A or AA state tournament, because less than 50 percent of eligible schools had field hockey. That is chiefly because these smaller schools, until about 2000, played their girls’ high school basketball seasons in the fall, enervating the potential pool of athletes for field hockey.

Lee and Fauquier High School set up an unofficial state tournament for five years, completely at their own expense, to give small schools something to play for after their regular seasons.

But changes in girls’ basketball administration for A and AA schools allowed field hockey to grow in small Virginia schools by 2000, when the Virginia High School League held its first “Unclassified” state tournament, which, by 2002, became the Class A/AA state tournament.

While Lee’s won-loss record may not conjure up echoes of Nancy Fowlkes and Marsha Way in field hockey circles in the commonwealth, her impact has been felt from the edge of the Blue Ridge to the sprawling exurban regions of Northwestern Virginia.

That’s because she gave every VHSL school a chance to play for a championship. And it says here there’s no greater gift.