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Oct. 5, 2015 — A cluster of collegiate milestones

A couple of years ago at this time, we were remarking about the number of high-school coaches who hit major coaching milestones all within days of each other.

This year, the cluster is amongst U.S. collegiate coaches. Two weeks ago, Nancy Stevens of the University of Connecticut won her 600th career field hockey game. Her coaching career goes back to the late 1970s when the AIAW sanctioned field hockey as a collegiate sport, and she was coaching at Franklin & Marshall.

She would go on from there to Northwestern University, then to Storrs in 1990. There were occasional struggles for the Connecticut program, including a 2001 season which saw her team go under .500 for the only time in her career.

The last two seasons have been memorable for Stevens and the Huskies, winning the last two NCAA Division I championships on the backs of skilled midfielders and an airtight defense.

It was last Friday when Sharon Pfluger of The College of New Jersey won her 1,000th coaching victory at Hillwood Lakes in an unparalleled career as both lacrosse and field hockey coach. For the record, the totals were 455 lacrosse wins and 545 field hockey victories, and a whopping 20 NCAA titles.

Given the time constraints and the specialization of today’s athlete, it is difficult to get players, much less coaches, to do both jobs at a university. But Pfluger is the last of a dying breed — mostly because she can’t bear to give up one in favor of the other. Indeed, when she stopped coaching in 1998 to focus on field hockey, it ate at her, even though alumna Jennifer Hart steered the Lions to an undefeated national championship season. She was back the next year.

A third milestone took place over the weekend as Missy Meharg of the University of Maryland who won her 500th game with a 6-2 win over Miami University of Ohio. On the sidelines yesterday was one of Meharg’s best players, Keli Smith, who is married to Miami head coach Inako Puzo.

Meharg, like Pfluger, was well-versed in both field hockey and lacrosse at college while at the University of Delaware. But Meharg’s lone national title as a player came in the spring sport, as the Blue Hens won the 1983 NCAA title. She’s more than made up for it by winning seven field hockey titles in the coaching box.

It’s been a season of great moments in the college game, and I think there are going to be more to come in the next few weeks.

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