NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Saint Francis has accepted an invitation to become an affiliate member of the Atlantic 10 Conference in the sport of field hockey, athletic director Bob Krimmel announced Thursday. The new affiliation is effective immediately.

The Red Flash become the league's eighth field hockey member, and the fourth based in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Saint Francis was 1-1 against A-10 competition last season, winning a 3-1 contest at Lock Haven and dropping a 1-0 decision at La Salle.

"It is a very special day for the Saint Francis Red Flash family as we join the Atlantic 10 Conference as an affiliate member in field hockey," Krimmel said. "I wish to express my thanks to commissioner Bernadette McGlade and senior associate commissioner Debbie Richardson for their guidance through the process and support of our request for affiliate membership."

"We are also appreciative of the support provided by the Atlantic 10 Conference institutions who sponsor Field Hockey and their presidents for approving our request. This is a fantastic opportunity for our student-athletes as we join outstanding academic institutions in a very prestigious Division I athletic conference."

Massachusetts and Richmond have traded the Atlantic 10 field hockey title for the past four years, with each teams winning two. The A-10 has won each of its NCAA play-in games in the past three years, as well.

"We are pleased to add Saint Francis as an affiliate member in field hockey," McGlade said. "Their addition brings in a strong program that fits well within our footprint and they will be an asset and will further enhance A-10 field hockey."

The Red Flash compiled its best season to date in 2012, rolling to a 12-6 record and winning a share of the Northeast Conference regular-season championship. Saint Francis returns 16 letterwinners and eight starters from that squad, including NEC Defensive Player of the Year Carissa Makea and NEC Rookie of the Year Selena Adamshick.

"This is an exciting step for our program, one that would not have been possible without the support of our administration and the effort of our student-athletes," said head coach Stacey Bean, who enters her sixth year at SFU in 2013.

"The Atlantic 10 is a conference that gives our student-athletes the opportunity to continue their pursuit of excellence academically and athletically. We're looking forward to forming some new rivalries on the field and stepping up to the challenges of competing in the Atlantic 10."

Bean – who was named the 2012 NEC Coach of the Year – is no stranger to her team's new home, having coached Rhode Island from 2002-06. She earned A-10 Coach of the Year honors in 2006.

"Our field hockey program has made great strides under the direction of Coach Bean and I know she shares my excitement in this new challenge for our student athletes," Krimmel said. "We look forward to this new home for our program and to welcoming the Atlantic 10 field hockey programs and their fans to our campus and to building new relationships as we visit their respective campuses."