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Archive for April 19, 2017

Apr. 19, 2017 — Seeking new partners

Since the United States Field Hockey Association partnered with the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to host a national collegiate championship in 1975, the field hockey Final Four has been a movable feast. The tournament used to range from Princeton, N.J. to Chico, Calif., though more recently, the national semifinals and finals have settled into a somewhat predictable group of sites.

And the tournament has almost invariably been held on a college campus.

Yesterday’s announcement of more than 600 NCAA tournament sites in 84 sports may have made news because of the partial repeal of HB2 in the State of North Carolina, but deep in the agate for tournament sites was a two-year period for Division III field hockey that had a new and unusual name attached to it.

The name is Spooky Nook.

The Home of Hockey, which opened in 2013, has been the home training ground for the U.S. women’s national team for nine months out of the year as well as the site of maybe four collegiate games and a handful of international matches.

Aside from these and USFHA events, however, the two turfs at the Nook lay fallow. But beginning in the fall of 2018, the best of the non-scholarship NCAA field hockey teams will meet there to crown a champion.

It is the first time that the NCAA has hosted its championship at a facility operated by the national governing body of the sport. It’s also the first time a national field hockey championship has been played away from a college campus since the Division II festival in Pensacola, Fla., in 2006. That year, the field hockey championship was held at Ashton Brosnaham Park, a soccer and softball complex.

It’s an interesting development, one which does little to dispel the notion that history tends to repeat itself between the worlds of lacrosse and field hockey in the United States. Women’s lacrosse, this spring, is playing its NCAA Division I semifinals and final at a site not owned by a college or university: Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots football team.

The Division III tournament also has another interesting future home: in the fall of 2021, the site will be Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.

The people running Division II women’s lacrosse have a similar kind of geographic notion in bringing the tournament to unconventional sites. In 2019, the tournament will be held in Allendale, Mich., home of Grand Valley State University. And in the spring of 2020 and 2022, the tournament semifinals and final will be held in St. Charles, Mo., at Lindenwood University.

In comparison, the Division I women’s lacrosse committee seems to love holding its tournament in Maryland. After the previously announced 2018 tournament at Stony Brook University, the tournament will spend three out of the next four years at Homewood Field at Johns Hopkins University. The lone interruption is a short detour up Charles Street to Towson University for the spring of 2021.

The next five years in field hockey sees Louisville hosting the Division I and III tournament in 2017, but only the Division I Final Four returns for 2018, followed by appearances at Wake Forest, Old Dominion, and Michigan.

In Division II field hockey, Millersville also gets two future tournaments in 2019 and 2021, with Bloomsburg in 2020. But in 2018, the Division II tournament will be part of a Division II festival centered in Pittsburgh. While the host of the field hockey tournament will be Slippery Rock, it’s unknown whether the campus, a mere 55 miles due north of the Steel City, will be the site of competition.

The hosting opportunity for Slippery Rock is an enormous boost for a program which was on the chopping block 11 years ago.