NCAA field hockey: Nearly a dozen top 25 matchups to start the season this weekend
The field hockey world sure knows how to get the college season off to a strong start. There will be nearly a dozen top 25 matchups this weekend as the 2017 college field hockey season officially begins. For some teams, they will have not one but two games against top 25 teams. The opening weekend of the season will give some field hockey teams an opportunity to see how they stack up against the best in the country.
Friday, August 25th
No. 4 UConn vs. No. 13 Stanford: The defending Big East champions are favorites to repeat once again and will be looking to return to the Final Four for a fifth straight year, hoping to claim its first NCAA title since 2014. But it will not be an easy match for the Huskies to open the season, as Stanford is the highest-ranked Pac 12 team and is expected to contend for the conference title. The Cardinal is still looking for its first Final Four trip in school history.
No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 23 Old Dominion: One of the heavyweights from the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have the second-most NCAA Tournament appearances of all-time. However, Penn State has yet to win a national title despite dominating its conference. The Nittany Lions are looking to make their first Final Four appearance in 10 years, which resulted in one of their two defeats in the championship game. But getting the season off to a strong start means taking down the school with the most national championships: Old Dominion. The Lady Monarchs, who have yet to return to the Final Four since 2011, have not hoisted the trophy since 2000 when they captured their ninth in school history. But Friday’s battle between two of the most legendary field hockey programs should not disappoint.
Saturday August 26th
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Michigan: The preseason No. 1 team in the land and runner-up in the previous two national title games has one goal in mind: winning its seventh title in school history and first since 2009. The Tar Heels have had a stranglehold over the ACC for the last decade, having won 10 straight conference titles. But in order to make it to a ninth straight Final Four and all-time best 34th NCAA Tournament appearance, North Carolina will have to take down the Wolverines, who are expected to contend for the Big Ten title this year. The Wolverines will be looking to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2003 and capture their first title since 2001.
No. 13 Stanford vs. No. 14 Northwestern: After getting the Big East favorites to open the season, the aforementioned Cardinal return to the field on Saturday to take on Northwestern. The Wildcats are among a crowded field of teams expected to contend for the Big Ten title, which is something Northwestern has not won in three years. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2014, and the Wildcats have not played in a Final Four since 1994.
No. 15 Wake Forest vs. No. 17 Iowa: Two solid teams from deep conferences will also face off on Saturday when the Demon Deacons and Hawkeyes collide. After missing the tournament last year, Wake Forest will be looking to return this year and play in its first Final Four since 2008. While the Demon Deacons have not won a national title since their 2002-2004 three-peat, Iowa has not won it all since 1986. The Hawkeyes have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2012 and, like Wake Forest, have not reached a Final Four since 2008. It has also been since 2008 when Iowa won its last Big Ten title, so Saturday’s game will be a good matchup between two teams looking to regain national prominence.
No. 19 James Madison vs. No. 25 Liberty: Another field hockey team looking to return to national prominence is the Dukes of James Madison, who are hoping to get back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. The Dukes have not played in a Final Four since 1995 and have not won a national title since 1994. Their opponent on Saturday, Liberty, is looking to return to the tournament for the first time since 2014.
Sunday August 27th
No. 3 Delaware vs. No. 9 Louisville: Playing in their second Final Four in school history, the Blue Hens of Delaware defeated North Carolina to win the national championship last year. The four-time defending conference champions are back and ready to defend both their conference and national titles. But awaiting them to start the season are the Louisville Cardinals. This year’s national championship game will be held in Louisville, and the Cardinals have every intention of making their first Final Four appearance on their home turf. The Cardinals have not won a conference title since joining the ACC, but they’re hoping to contend for the ACC crown and return to the tournament for a fourth straight year.
No. 5 Syracuse vs. No. 25 Pacific: The Orange are looking to make their 10th straight NCAA Tournament appearance this year, with hopes of returning to the Final Four and winning it all after doing so two years ago. On the other hand, Pacific is a less familiar name in the field hockey world. The Tigers are looking to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004.
No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 10 Virginia: Field hockey fans are once again treated to another Big Ten/ACC matchup when the aforementioned Nittany Lions and Cavaliers square off on Sunday. Like Penn State, Virginia has yet to win a national championship despite four Final Four appearances and 21 NCAA Tournament appearances. The Cavaliers have not advanced to the Final Four since 2010.
No. 12 Boston College vs. No. 18 Albany: After missing the NCAA Tournament last season following their first and only Final Four appearance in 2014, the Great Danes’ journey back will start against the Boston College Eagles. That’s right; another team expected to contend for the ACC title. However, despite four straight tournament appearances, the Eagles have yet to advance to the Final Four in school history.
No. 21 American vs. No. 23 Old Dominion: After facing Penn State, Old Dominion will then get the opportunity to face American on Sunday. After a two-year hiatus, the Eagles returned to the NCAA Tournament last year. While the Lady Monarchs have won the most national titles in NCAA history, American has yet to even make a Final Four.