ABC News On Campus reporter Matt Gelb blogs:
This weekend, the first Division I NCAA champion of the season will be decided in Louisville, Ky.
That’s where the NCAA D-I field hockey championship is being held, starting tonight, with Maryland and Iowa squaring off and Syracuse taking on Wake Forest.
All four of the top seeds advanced to the Final Four — and for Syracuse, it’s the furthest the program has ever gone.
Entering the season, Syracuse had never been ranked higher than No. 9. This year, the Orange won the most games (22-1) of any team in Division I, led by second-year head coach Ange Bradley, who came from Richmond and brought a stricter training regimen and installed a powerful offensive unit.
Syracuse has never had a women’s team win a national championship.
“Our kids are so young and so new at all this,” Bradley said Thursday at a press conference. “Some of them think they are just at a tournament and there are varied responses. We really focus on what’s next, taking it one day at a time, and not making anything bigger than the 2008 Syracuse field hockey team.”
Wake Forest (21-3), a stark contrast, has made the Final Four nine years in a row. The last six national champions have come from the Atlantic Coast Conference (Wake Forest, 2002-04; Maryland, 2005-06, North Carolina, 2007).
Iowa (18-4) and Maryland (20-2), traditional field hockey powers, are very familiar with each other, having played each other four times in the Final Four with a national championship bid on the line. All of those games were decided by one goal.
The championship game is Sunday.
“I don’t want it to be our last. I want it to be the first of many,” Bradley said. “That’s what our team is preparing to do, set a standard for all other Syracuse teams to follow.”