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Archive for February 11, 2021

Feb. 11, 2021 — And so, it restarts

Tomorrow afternoon, weather permitting, in the ancestral home of field hockey in America, two umpires will take bring a plastic ball and drop it on the center spot of Howarth Field at Temple University. A whistle will blow, after which composite sticks and turf shoes will whisk with that squishing noise common on wet artificial turf (although with the predicted temperatures around 28 tomorrow, it’s likely you’ll only hear the squish of leftover slush).

And so, the restart of the 2020-21 NCAA Division I field hockey season will begin, and it will be a 10-week sprint for the 71 teams choosing to play field hockey this spring (the Ivy League having opted out). The teams will be playing for a chance to be selected for the national championship tournament, one which will now have nine Automatic Qualifiers and three At-Large bids.

There is, however, a notable change in how we thought that the fall and the spring seasons would interweave. The Atlantic Coast Conference played a single round-robin schedule, then contested a league tournament, won by the University of North Carolina. But UNC will have a further challenge: the win only gave a bye for UNC to play a game after the spring season ends against the team with the best record in the ACC. The winner of that first-half vs. second-half game will get the AQ berth.

The 71 teams playing field hockey this spring have seasons of varying length. North Carolina, for example, is playing just six games. Temple is playing 17. Stunningly, America East and the Patriot League have chosen only to play one league match against each team, meaning that they’ll have only five to seven matches to make their case to the NCAA Tournament Committee.

So, let’s have at it!