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SOMETHING there is about field hockey that harks to an earlier age in sports, a cleaner, clearer time before the greenhouse effects of money, media, and all-around extravagance overheated athletics and killed off their innocence. You don't play this game for riches--there is no pro field-hockey league in the U.S.--or for fame--who can name a great attacker?--or even for local recognition. Usually, the bleachers by the pitch are like beaches in October, barren but for a hardy or eccentric few.
With field hockey, the game is the thing--and the record shows that the 2012 University of Mary Washington Eagles play it very, very well.
The Lady Eagles (20-1) will take their sport to a compatibly idyllic place--the Finger Lakes region of New York--this weekend to play in the final-four round of the NCAA Division III Championship in Geneva, N.Y. Mary Washington reached the field-hockey final in 1993, but it has never won the title. Now--well, it's got a fighting chance, and demonstrably a fighting spirit.
Down early in the Capital Athletic Conference final against Wesley and in last Sunday's NCAA quarterfinal versus Lynchburg, the well-conditioned Lady Eagles came back to win both matches. On Saturday, they will face the Montclair State University Red Hawks (21-1) of the New Jersey Athletic Conference. If UMW wins, its Sunday opponent for the Big Cup will be either the Tufts University Jumbos (17-2) or the Depauw Tigers (21-1).
Field hockey, played in this country almost exclusively by girls and young women, could be the face of Title IX, the federal law that gave Joe and Josephine College equal representation in college sports. Title IX allowed thousands of women to hone their competitiveness, improve their physical fitness, develop camaraderie, and have a lot of good clean fun--sort of what college athletics were once thought to accomplish.
So good luck to the Lady Eagles in their wonderfully anachronistic quest in Geneva. College-sports graft, hoopla, and all that? Eighteen young women in kilts can beat that with a stick.