The Field Hockey Program, 1952-2007
Since 1952, when field hockey became a varsity sport at Elizabethtown College, Blue Jay teams have had a proud tradition of excellence. Through 56 seasons of intercollegiate competition, Blue Jay teams have accumulated an overall record of 505-280-52.
Several teams have left their mark as part of the winning tradition. In 1961, coached by Jean Ann Rogers, the Blue Jays recorded a perfect 8-0 record and did not allow a single goal all season -- the only undefeated and unscored upon team in the history Elizabethtown athletics.
In 1975, under Coach Yvonne Kauffman, the Blue Jays won the Middle Atlantic Conference and Penn-Mar Conference championships en route to a 14-2-1 finish. Three seasons later, the Jays duplicated the dual title feat, with a 13-3 mark. Most recently, the 2006 team went 16-6 overall, made the program's first NCAA Division III tournament appearance since 1988 and earned the first NCAA tournament win since 1987.
A perennial contender in their conference, the Blue Jays have qualified for the conference playoffs in 14 of the last 25 seasons and five times since 2000. They captured eight Middle Atlantic Conference Southeast Section crowns prior to 1992. Elizabethtown advanced to the MAC championship five times, last appearing in the MAC title game in 1989, and last winning the crown in 1987.
Now as a member of the Commonwealth Conference, the winner of the postseason conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tourament. The Blue Jays made their debut in the first-ever Commonwealth Conference playoff tournament in the fall of 2000. In 2001, the Blue Jays went even further, advancing to the conference championship game before falling 2-1 in double overtime to nationally fifth-ranked Messiah. It was Etown's first conference title game appearance since 1989. Etown returned to the conference playoffs in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007, reaching the semifinals each time.
Elizabethtown has gained entry into nine NCAA Division III tournaments since the inception of Division III playoffs in 1981. At the first Division III tourney, the Blue Jays advanced to the Final Four at Westfield State (Mass.), placing fourth in the nation. Despite missing the NCAA tournament in 2000, the team concluded the season nationally ranked by both the NFHCA and Columbus Multimedia. The team missed an NCAA tournament bid by a single overtime goal in the conference championship game in 2001, and the 2002 and 2005 teams were nationally ranked by the NFHCA at the conclusion of the regular season. The 2006 team secured an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, earning the Blue Jays' first appearance in it since 1988. Etown also won a first-round game in 2006 for the Blue Jays' first tournament win since 1987.
Numerous student-athletes have excelled as players at Elizabethtown. Since Linda Eshelman was named the College's first All-American in 1962, the Blue Jay program has seen eight other players receive All-America recognition. Former Blue Jay forward Bonnie Bair amassed 173 career points between 1983 and 1986, placing her 10th all-time in NCAA Division II/III history. Elizabethtown's most recent All-American is Mel Slessinger '06, who received the honor from the National Field Hockey Coaches' Association in 2005.
Following the 2000 season, Mandi Ewing '01 became program's first-ever national First Team Academic All-American. Following the 2002 season, Mindy Nace '03 was named a Third Team Academic All-American and became the first Blue Jay field hockey player to earn an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
In 2000, the Blue Jays moved into their current home, Wolf Field, a state-of-the-art SofSportŪ artifical turf field, designed by Hummer Turfgrass Systems, Inc. Wolf Field was one of the first such fields in the country and is one of the top field hockey and lacrosse venues in Division III.
Evelyn Heath was the field hockey program's first head coach, guiding the team in the inaugural 1952 season and leading the Blue Jays to a 3-4 mark in 1953. Jane Ulmer coached the team in 1954, and Julia Risser took over in 1955. Risser led the Blue Jays to a 38-7-7 overall record from 1955 to 1960.
Jean Ann Rodgers-Finkbiner led the Blue Jays in 1961 and 1962, and under her Elizabethtown team was undefeated and unscored upon in 1961, running up an 8-0 record. Combined in both years, Etown went 12-2-2. Ruth Nearing guided Elizabethtown to an 18-15-3 overall record from 1963 to 1966.
Yvonne Kauffman guided the Blue Jays from 1967 to 1983 and from 1985 to 2000. For one season during Kauffman's sabattical in 1984, Leanne McFalls coached the team. During Kauffman's 33-season tenure, Elizabethtown went 346-175-36 overall, won three MAC championships, two Penn-Mar Conference championships, finished as the MAC runner-up three times, competed in the NCAA Division III tournament seven times and the AIAW (pre-NCAA) national tournament three times. The Blue Jays reached the NCAA Division III Final Four in 1981 and the AIAW Final Four in 1980. The 1984 team under McFalls went 15-4-2, made the NCAA Division III tournament field and was the MAC runner-up.
Stacy Rucci was named the program's eighth head coach in the spring of 2001, taking over from Kauffman. In the fall of 2001, Rucci guided the team to its first conference championship game appearance since 1989. Aimee Seward took the reins of the both the field hockey and women's lacrosse programs from 2002 to 2003 and led the field hockey team to a 10-6 overall finish in 2002. The Blue Jays were also nationally ranked for most of that season, and they reached the semifinals of the Commonwealth Conference playoffs.
Sharon Sweger became the team's 10th head coach in 2004, and she guided the Blue Jays to an end-of-season national ranking of 17th in 2005 before leading the team back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years in 2006. In just four seasons at Elizabethtown's helm, Sweger has earned the Commonwealth Conference's Coach of the Year award twice.