Nov. 19, 2009

By Roger van der Horst
Special to

It was drizzling off and on Thursday in Winston-Salem, N.C., site of the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championships. The forecast calls for clear, warm weather Friday for the semifinals and a 70 percent chance of rain Sunday for the finals.

The four coaches, however, were unanimous in discounting the weather as a factor.

PARKING SHUTTLE: Fans attending the semifinal games at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Friday will not be able to park at Wake Forest's Kentner Field. There's free parking at the nearby football stadium, BB&T Field, with complimentary shuttle service to the games. There's no parking on campus for the games.

For the final at noon Sunday, to be televised live by CBS College Sports Network, there will be designated free parking areas across from Kentner Field.

DIFFERENCE WILL BE IN THE DETAILS: Tjerk van Herwaarden, the Dutchman who serves as No. 1 Maryland's technical director, says the best four teams have made to the semifinals, perhaps even the best in several years.

"I was hoping these four teams would all be there," he said of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Princeton. "They play a very high-paced, high technical level of hockey. These games should all be very close, I think. The smallest of details are going to make a difference."

LEADING OFFENSE: North Carolina coach Karen Shelton says Maryland's front three of Katie O'Donnell, Nicole Muracco and Alexis Pappas "are better than anybody's." O'Donnell and Pappas are first and third in the nation in assists per game, and Muracco is fourth in goals.

PRETTY PRINCETON: Princeton, the lone remaining non-ACC school, is described as a "pretty" passing team by sophomore midfielder Katie Reinprecht. "We connect a lot, and it's a lot of finesse play. But we're pretty fast going down the sidelines, and we're pretty ruthless when we get there. I mean, Kat [Kathleen] Sharkey, if you've ever seen her dribble in the circle and shoot, it's pretty amazing. We're very threatening. We're definitely a fun team to watch."

CAVALIER CHAOS: By comparison, Virginia's Lauren Elstein, a senior forward, said the Cavs call their style of play "organized chaos."

"There's a method to it, but it's not quite as pretty or 'flow-y' as some other styles of hockey. It's a lot of fun for us to play. We definitely have to be fit," Elstein said.

To succeed, "it takes a lot of trust and faith in each other," she added. "Sometimes you have to do certain runs just for the sake of helping your teammates. If every single person doesn't do it, then it breaks down, so we have to trust each other to do our jobs."