Nov. 10, 2009

By Amy Farnum

It could be quite a last hurrah for Bloomsburg head field hockey coach Jan Hutchinson and her senior class as the Huskies battle for their fourth straight national title at the Division II Championship on Nov. 13-15 in Easton, Mass.

Not only does the group of seven seniors (goalkeeper Caitlin Koczynski, forwards Maggey Bloskey, Breanne Tobin and Erin Hench, midfielder Chelsea Due and defenders Aubrey Carman and Kacy Friend) have a chance to become just the second class in Division II history to accomplish the feat of fourth consecutive titles, but the Huskies can also send the retiring Hutchinson out on a high note with her 16th national championship.

Despite losing seven starters and two All-Americans, including the Division II all-time leading scorer Jamie Vanartsdalen, from last season’s squad, Bloomsburg captured its second straight Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship and is the No. 1 seed in the North Region in the NCAA Tournament after compiling a 20-1 mark.

“I think over the course their four years (this senior class has) played with a lot of upperclassmen before them that set the standard and the tone and the desire for excellence,” said Hutchinson.  “I think they all reaped the benefit of that.  As seniors, certainly they all want to win and perpetuate the tradition and want to go out winning.  I’d love for them to accomplish this goal, but it’s tough to win (it all).”

Hutchinson should know how tough the feat is – she led Bloomsburg to four straight NCAA titles in 1996-99.

“We’ve definitely thought about it the whole season, especially it being our senior year – we’d like to go out on top,” said Bloskey.  “Now, it’s getting close and down to the wire and we’re getting excited about it.”

Bloskey said Hutchinson’s impending departure is also an incentive for the Huskies.  After winning 15 NCAA titles and 16 conference championships in the past 28 years, along with being the NCAA Division II softball all-time leader in victories, Hutchinson has announced her retirement for the end of the academic year.

“I never want to put any pressure on them to do anything more for me,” said Hutchinson.  “Since I let them know I was retiring, I think this last month of the season we’ve really been able to enjoy each other more.  They are more relaxed and more comfortable, and we’re maybe a little bit closer than other years at this point in time.  We’ve had a lot of road trips and are trying to have a lot of fun together.  There is something different about the fact that it is my last time.  It’s been very special for parents, players, coaches together – it’s made us all very tight.”

Hutchinson’s field hockey teams have posted winning records in 31 of her 32 seasons, compiling an overall mark of 589-75-20.  She is the winningest coach in NCAA field hockey history and the only one with more than 500 victories.

“It is kind of overwhelming when you look back at it,” said Hutchinson.  “I only ever approached one season or one game at a time, whether it was field hockey or softball.  It was always about this team at this time and doing our best.  We’ve been fortunate that we have been successful for so long.  I’m passionate about what I do and personally driven to succeed and maybe the kids have bought into that.   When I look back now, I don’t know how (it happened).”
“It’s definitely amazing,” said Bloskey.  “She’s had so many accomplishments.  I don’t know who will ever fill her spot.  We’re all really proud to be playing for a team that has such a great history and to be playing for this coach.  She’s a great coach.”

Hutchinson will not necessarily miss the accolades or the victories or the national titles, but the part of the job that is at the core of all those accomplishments – the people.

“The memories are made day in and day out on the field, on the road through championships,” said Hutchinson.  “Every team has so many special people and the fact that so many of them have stayed close and maintained a family of athletes and former athletes – that’s what is special.”

The Huskies (20-1) received a bye in the first round and will face Shippensburg (20-2) in the NCAA semifinals on Nov. 13.  Bloomsburg has already defeated the Lady Raiders twice earlier this season, including a 2-1 victory in the PSAC Championship game on Oct. 31.

“It’s difficult and difficult for the teams in the North as well because we don’t cross over,” said Hutchinson.  “We’re still playing each other sometimes for a third or fourth time to come up with a regional champion.  It’s a low-scoring game and anything can happen at any time.  It’s stressful for all teams involved.  We’ve had years where we lost to a team three times and come back and won the semifinals against them.”  

“It’s tough,” said Bloskey.  “The team knows how we play and you have to come up with new strategies and such.  It’s challenging to try to beat a team three times, but we look forward to it.”

Stonehill College will host the NCAA Division II Championship, beginning with a semifinal match-up between Bloomsburg and Shippensburg on Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. ET.  UMass-Lowell and Stonehill will follow at 5 p.m. ET. The winners will meet in the championship game on Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. ET.