How NCAA field hockey works
The GIST: If soccer and ice hockey had a baby, it would probably look like field hockey (or, as many collegiate players call it, fockey). This women-only fall sport will start kicking (gr)ass in just a few weeks, and the NCAA’s 82 Division I (DI), 36 DII, and 166 DIII squads have never been more ready.
How it works: The NCAA has a handy guide to the game’s rules, but the, ahem, gist is: Two teams of 11 players (goalie included) battle for four 15-minute quarters to net the most goals from within the shooting circle — a semicircle around the opposing team’s goal. Players can only touch the ball with one side of their sticks, or it’s turned over to the other team.
- The penalty system uses both soccer’s colored cards and ice hockey’s power plays. Games can end in a draw or advance to overtimes and shootouts, depending on conference protocols and whether it’s a regular-season or tournament game.
The powerhouses: These days, UNC’s wiping the floor and leaving no crumbs. They’ve won a record 10 nattys, including four of the last five, all under legendary head coach Karen Shelton. Last season, the Tar Heels snatched the poll’s top spot from 2021 champ Northwestern in late September and never relinquished it, beating ’em in November’s title game, too.
- That said, UNC’s sailing into uncharted territory. The just-retired Shelton, who led the Heels since their first NCAA fockey ’ship in 1981, has passed the dynasty to 22-year-old new grad Erin Matson. It’s giving True Jackson, VP.
- The other powers? Old Dominion with nine titles and Maryland with eight, though they haven’t won since 2000 and 2011, respectively. The tides have since turned toward the Midwest, with up-and-comers like Northwestern and Penn State dominating the ranks.