Dominance on the sidelines
In 25 years, national championship marked by big-time coaches
In the now 25-year-old story of the NCAA Division II Field Hockey Championship. Pfieffer took home the trophy in the inaugural 1981 tournament, and in the years since, dynasties have risen and fallen and six different schools have been crowned champions.
In those 25 years, the most dominant has to be Bloomsburg.
While West Chester began the tournament with a chance to become the second school to win three consecutive national titles -- a quest that ended on Saturday when it was defeated by Millersville, Bloomsburg has already accomplished the feat three times, from 1996-99, 2002-04, and 2006-09.
|Goals, Game||4||Pfeiffer's Carol Whitehouse against Bentley on Nov. 21, 1981 and Bentley's Lindsey Harrington against Southern Connecticut State on Nov. 6, 2004|
|Goals, Tournament||4||Pfeiffer's Carol Whitehouse in 1981, Bentley's Lindsey Harrington in 2004, Bloomsburg's Maggey Bloskey in 2008 and UMass-Lowell's Sammy Macy in 2008.|
|Assists, Game||4||Bloomsburg's Kelly Platt against Lock Haven on Nov. 8, 1998.|
|Assists, Tournament||4||Bloomsburg's Kelly Platt in 2008.|
|Saves, Game||29||Indiana (Pa.)'s Jen Lawler on Nov. 3, 2000.|
Those Huskies teams were led by the winningest coach in the history of the NCAA – at any sport, and at any level.
Jan Hutchinson’s coaching career spanned 33 years, a period in which she accumulated a record 1,734 victories between field hockey and softball. Hutchinson led the Huskies’ women’s field hockey team to 17 conference titles and 16 national championships before retiring in 2010 and returning in 2013 as a volunteer assistant.
The Huskies had another solid campaign in 2013, but fell short of the championship tournament, falling to Shippensburg 1-0, on Nov. 8.
"I was extremely fortunate that I've always been blessed to have really good assistant coaches, and we were able to attract a lot of great student-athletes," Hutchinson said. "Many of them we were able to attract away from DI. And then once you achieve some success, success tends to breed success."
Hutchinson added that participating in Division II athletics has been a great experience for both herself and her student-athletes over the three-plus decades she has been a coach.
"Division II really has a good grip on what collegiate sports should be about in terms of the total athlete experience," she said. "I've never second-guessed my decision to stay in DII when I could have gone to DI. I think it's got a great philosophy and a great level of play in our sport."
The heir apparent to Hutchinson's title of the sport's most dominant coach appears to be West Chester head coach Amy Cohen.
Cohen assumed that role from Kathy Krannebitter, who had been the head coach of the Golden Rams since 1985, amassing a school-record 226 victories in her 26-year tenure with the program.
So what did Cohen do when she took the helm? She led the Golden Rams to their first Division II Field Hockey Championship. She followed that up by guiding West Chester to a second consecutive national title in 2012.
But Cohen says the credit belongs to Krannebitter for building a strong program for her to take over.
“I kind of stepped into a program in which the head coach had been here for 26 years and she had recruited wonderful student-athletes,” Cohen said. “So I was very fortunate to come in and have the opportunity to work with her players. The success and the foundation were here when I got here.”
Of Cohen, Hutchinson said she admires the West Chester coach's ability to take over a program and have immediate success.
"I think she's doing a phenomenal job at West Chester," Hutchinson said of Cohen. "She's a very good coach and a very good motivator. To come in and do that well so early speaks really well for her as a coach."
|DII FIELD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP|
|MALOOF: Shippensburg wins title in OT|
|MALOOF: Title game is big juncture for Shipp., LIU Post|
|RecapGallery Highlights Box Score|
|MALOOF: Bracket's top teams to compete for title|
|MALOOF: Shippensburg beats familiar foe|
|MALOOF: LIU Post savors semifinal win|
|Preview: New faces to vie for title|
|Brackets: Interactive | Printable|
|25th Anniversary: History marked by dominant coaches|
“I think the key to success is, honestly, just hard work,” she said. “And we have the recipe, I would say, for success and we’ve tried to follow that as closely as we possibly can after the first year, the second year, and also this year. But the different component each year is just the fact that you have to build a new team. So we focus a lot on teamwork and team-building each year in the offseason, and just making sure we’re recruiting players and bringing kids in that buy into the same philosophy of ‘hard work does truly pay off in the end.’”
Coach Cohen is a former collegiate field hockey player herself, and sees just how much the opportunity to compete as an athlete in college means to her players now.
“Just being an NCAA student-athlete is an amazing experience, regardless of whether you’re in Division I, II, or III,” Cohen said. “And watching the experience the kids have had here … The NCAA and these national championships have really drastically changed the lives of my players. I’m grateful to everyone who puts on these wonderful championships every year, and makes every single athlete’s experience in the tournament a special one.”
As her team prepared to defend its title for a second consecutive season, Cohen reflected on how fortunate she is to be able to take this thrilling ride into a championship tournament for a third time.
“This tournament, winning two national championships and just the entire NCAA process from the first quarter final games to making two [national semifinals], it really has been a dream come true, not just for myself, but for my players,” Cohen said.