Field hockey loses in NJAC final but has a bye in the NCAA tournament

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The field hockey team defeated Stockton University 8-2 on Oct 9th. Photo/ Multimedia Editor Dyone Payne.

After a gut-wrenching defeat in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship game against the number one ranked team in the nation, The College of New Jersey, the Brown and Gold will remain encouraged and uplifted as they approach larger stage with brighter lights.  

With a qualifying overall record of 15-4 in a vastly competitive conference and reaching the conference final with a win over number ten ranked Kean University, the Profs deserved recognition from the NCAA committee and rightfully, they got it.  

Late on Sunday night, the Rowan Field Hockey program notched an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament, receiving a first-round bye and playing the winner between Centre College and the University of Lynchburg next Saturday, Nov. 16 at 2 p.m, in Salisbury, Maryland.  

Following last year’s Final Four appearance, the majority of the Profs have the experience and understand the process it takes to repeat another captivating run in the tournament.  

“We know what it is supposed to look like.  The good news is that we are not going in blind,” said head coach Michelle Andre.  “It’s about making sure that we have the right people in the right positions. Tweaking things here and there at this point in the season and focusing on our strengths.” 

As the Profs secured a tournament berth to compete for an NCAA Division III title, Andre shares with her players the significance of playing at the national stage and having a shot at the title. 

“[The opportunity] is unique because you are one of the 24 teams,” Andre said.  “It is special and unique, but I know these opportunities do not come along that often.  When they are here you have to take advantage of them.” 

Senior captain Casey Wagner encourages the team to remain focused as it is one of the most prestigious opportunities for a student-athlete. 

“Last year, winning the NJAC and getting in the NCAA tournament was so huge for us,” Wagner said. “Playing NCAA games is just a different experience, you are not just within your region, you are with top teams in the country.  It’s exciting.” 

An overly-excited Wagner cannot wait to meet her opponent on Saturday and seek a revenge tour, in hopes of getting a third chance of playing TCNJ in the Final Four.  

“I am extremely excited to be there, so anxious.  I want it to be now, today, I want to leave. I am really excited to leave on Saturday,” Wagner said.  “Both times we played TCNJ, we were extremely close to them and they’re the number one team in the country.  I think that is a huge accomplishment as it is… I would love to play them one more time in the Final Four.”   

With the team highlighted by four first-team All-conference players and the conference’s defensive player of the year, Andre believes the team will ascend to the opportunity when the time comes on Saturday afternoon.  

“The sky’s the limit. We do something new and different every day,” Andre said.  “That’s the fun thing about coaching this team. I still don’t think we have reached our peak yet.”

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