Three Big Ten Teams Earn Berths In 2003 NCAA Field Hockey Championship
Nov. 12, 2003
The Big Ten has qualified three teams for the NCAA Field Hockey Championship for a third straight season for the first time in League annals, as Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State will represent the Conference in the 2003 NCAA Championship. The Big Ten has earned three or more bids in back-to-back seasons only one other time when a League-record four squads were picked in 1994 after three programs qualified in 1993. The Big Ten has now sent at least three teams to the NCAA Championship in four of the last five seasons (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003). With a pair of wins this weekend, four teams will advance to the national semifinals to be held November 21 and 23 in Amherst, Massachusetts, on the campus of the University of Massachusetts.
The Spartans were awarded the right to host the opening two rounds of the NCAA Championship for the first time in program history after claiming a share of the Big Ten Championship and a second straight Conference Tournament crown. MSU, which advanced to the national semifinals last season in only its second NCAA Championship appearance, will be challenged by two programs currently ranked among the top six in the country -- No. 4 seed North Carolina and Big Ten co-Champion Michigan. Penn State is the third League outfit to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship field, as the Nittany Lions will open play on Saturday in College Park, Maryland.
Michigan State, ranked fifth in the final STX/NFHCA National Coaches Poll, will open against Louisville on Saturday, November 15 at the MSU Field Hockey Complex. The Spartans are making their third straight appearance in the NCAA Championship and only their third in school history. MSU, which has never lost in the first round, has been knocked out by the eventual national champion in each of its first two postseason berths. The Spartans were derailed in 2001 in the second round by the in-state rival Wolverines while the 2002 squad advanced to the round of four before falling to Wake Forest. Michigan State will face Louisville for the second time this season, as MSU edged the Cardinals, 3-2, on September 12. The Spartans enter postseason action with a six-game winning streak and only four defeats on the year, all to teams ranked among the top six in the country in top-seeded Wake Forest, second-seeded Duke, North Carolina and Michigan.
The Wolverines, rated sixth nationally, earned their fifth consecutive berth in the NCAA Championship, the only bids in school annals. Michigan leads all Conference programs with an 8-3 overall record in the postseason event but was knocked off in the first round by Princeton in 2002, the first opening-round defeat in program history. UM's first-round foe is No. 4 seed North Carolina, which handed the Wolverines a 4-0 defeat in the 2003 season opener in Ann Arbor. The two teams have met once in postseason play, as Michigan defeated the Tar Heels, 5-2, in a first-round matchup on the way to the 2001 national title.
Penn State, ranked seventh in the country, will be making its 21st appearance in the NCAA Championship and 11th in 12 years since joining the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions will face Princeton, ranked 10th nationally, for the second time this season as PSU edged the Tigers, 3-2, on September 14. The two squads have met five times in postseason play, with Penn State holding a 3-2 advantage, including a 3-2 victory in the second round in 2002. That victory propelled the Nittany Lions to the round of four, as they advanced to the national title game for the first time in school history before falling to Wake Forest.
The Big Ten has won two national titles in field hockey, as Iowa claimed the League's first national crown in 1986 and Michigan ended a 14-year drought with the 2001 national championship.
NCAA Championship Pairings
Saturday, November 15 -- First Round -- East Lansing, MI