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Archive for March 25, 2021

March 25, 2021 — In amongst the moving pieces, one interesting bit

Between now and early May, the worlds of domestic field hockey and lacrosse intersect as never before.

You have seven states (and maybe the District of Columbia) playing scholastic field hockey, alongside all three NCAA Divisions, although only Division I will have a national championship tournament.

Women’s lacrosse has all three divisions going apace, with national finals set for Salem, Va. in Divisions II and III, while Division I will be in Towson, Md. At the same time, girls’ high-school lacrosse has already started in many locales, although some places, chiefly in the Northeast U.S., are delaying their start until April, with Massachusetts scheduling the end of its season in July.

Now, when it comes to field hockey and women’s lacrosse, there used to be a lot of overlap between the two sports — players, coaches, and even uniforms. Until about 1990, you could line up team photos of the field hockey and girls’/women’s lacrosse team at the same school, college, or university and see the same players, same coaches, the same kilts or pinafores. The only differences would be shinguards for field hockey and the sticks used by the teams.

Of course, this is to be expected, as both games are of the stick-and-ball variety which involve a five-ounce ball — albeit one is rubber and one is plastic. Tactics and training are relatively similar, with each coach and player having to mind some archaic rules which were drawn up some 100 years ago.

Today, however, it is rare to see crossover in the two athletic pursuits. Coaches and players are demanding — and getting — specialized uniforms for each sport. No longer do you see the field hockey coach of the lacrosse team serving as assistant to the field hockey team. And the crossover between teams is much less than it used to be. For all of the success that, for example, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) had in both sports in 2019, there was little to no crossover between the two sides, despite the fact that the upper-school population is just north of 325 students.

But one figure has had her foot in both coaching boxes for the last three and a half decades. Sharon Pfluger, the Hall of Fame coach of The College of New Jersey, has experienced 71 Opening Days, and has had more than 1,100 wins in both field hockey and women’s lacrosse.

Only this spring, she’s only coaching one of them. The College of New Jersey is not playing field hockey this fall, and only five members of the New Jersey Athletic Conference are playing during an abbreviated spring season, which is not culminating in a national championship in Division III.

On the other hand, the Division III powers-that-be are planning on holding a women’s lacrosse national championship event this spring in Salem, Va., alongside their Division II sisters. As such, you can’t blame TCNJ for going full-bore to play women’s lacrosse this spring, as a national championship awaits.