Here’s an atypical late-season college field hockey game: Stanford travels to the University of Richmond on Sunday morning at 11 a.m.
A St. Catherine graduate, Caroline Reinhart, plays for Stanford, but that’s not the reason for the strange showdown of schools some 3,000 miles apart. Still, “I know a few girls on the Richmond team, so it’ll be super exciting to see them,” said Reinhart, a senior offense.
While at St. Catherine’s, Reinhart hoped to attend college on the West Coast, and she focused on Stanford. “Not only do you get top academics, but you also get a great (athletics) program,” she said.
This unusual game was scheduled because of the relationship between Richmond coach Jamie Montgomery and Stanford coach Roz Ellis, and for the greater good of college field hockey, according to Montgomery.
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There are very few field hockey schools in the western half of the country and only three Division I schools in California play: Stanford, California and UC Davis. They belong to the America East Conference, which also includes Maine, Vermont, Albany, UMass Lowell, New Hampshire and Bryant.
Montgomery characterized Stanford, California and UC Davis as “traditionally vulnerable programs because their travel is so expensive, because the majority of field hockey is on the East Coast… At our coaches’ convention, it’s always in the program. How can we, as programs on the east coast, make sure we help our programs on the west coast and make sure they have home games, not all against each other all the time? »
James Madison is currently traveling the West Coast to Stanford (Thursday), UC Davis (Friday) and California (Sunday). According to Montgomery, the Spiders are exploring the possibility of playing at Stanford in future seasons. Coaches are trying to grow the game on the West Coast, according to Montgomery.
The presence of three West Coast schools in a league — even one based in New England — allows them to play for a conference championship and an automatic NCAA tournament bid, rather than competing as independents and wrestling to find opponents. The travel budgets of California schools belonging to the American East, however, must be strong and their players are often in the air.
“It’s really very difficult. We fly pretty much every week,” Reinhart said. “But we kind of adapted to doing a lot of homework during the flight. You get friends to send you their notes, and things like that. I think because we’ve gotten so used to having school online since COVID, the transition has been easier this year compared to previous years.
“But it’s a lot of flying, a lot of recovery needed to make sure our bodies are fine after the flights and ready for the games.”
Stanford went from Sept. 11 to Oct. 14 without a home game, playing in Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and Rhode Island. After Sunday’s game at UR, the Cardinal returns to Stanford, then heads east for regular-season games in Maine (October 28) and New Hampshire (October 30), and remains in New England for the America East Tournament (Nov. 2-6).