The Breakdown A recap of the 2018 Penn Monto/NFHCA National Coaches Polls.

Photo credit: Mark Palczewski

As we lead up to the 2019 field hockey season and the soon-to-be-released Penn Monto/NFHCA National Coaches Preseason Polls, the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) decided to take a look back at the 2018 season to see how things started, but more importantly, how they ended.

Division I

From the Top

The University of North Carolina claimed first place in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll for nine weeks in a row last year. In the preseason poll and in week one, the Tar Heels sat at No. 2, just behind the University of Connecticut Huskies. The eventual NCAA Division I National Champion Tar Heels also claimed the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles and capped their year with a perfect season at 23-0.

Final Four Foes

The University of Maryland, Princeton University, and Wake Forest University joined the Tar Heels in the 2018 semifinal round of the NCAA Championship Tournament — where did they all start the 2018 season? Well, the Terps ranked No. 4 in the preseason poll, the Princeton Tigers were at No. 10, and the Demon Deacons started the year at No. 14.

Biggest Climb

Rutgers University and the University of Iowa both climbed 13 spots in the poll over the course of the season. The Hawkeyes high-water mark was at No. 7 in week seven, after a win over then-No. 6 Penn State University.

The Scarlet Knights were unranked in preseason, then charged their way up the poll — they carried No. 17 next to their name for three weeks, eventually breaking into the top 10 after victories over Iowa and American University in their final regular-season contests.

Division II

From the Top

West Chester University sat at the No. 1 spot in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division II National Coaches Poll for seven of 11 weeks. The Golden Rams shared the No. 1 spot with Shippensburg University, who held the title three times.

These two top-ranked teams met three times in the 2018 season. West Chester bested Shippensburg during the regular season, winning 4-2, and in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship game, winning 3-1. When they met again in the NCAA semifinals, Shippensburg overtook West Chester 4-0 and went on to win the 2018 NCAA National Championship.

Final Four Foes

East Stroudsburg University and Pace University also earned a place in the NCAA semifinals. ESU was the only team to stay within the top three for the entire season, they started and finished the year at No. 2, with a 16-5 record, and as NCAA National Championship runners-up.

Biggest Climb

Pace — also a Final Four contender – started unranked in preseason then moved into the No. 10 spot in the first week. The Setters made the biggest climb of all 2018 Division II teams, moving eight spots from No. 10 to No. 2. Pace claimed the Northeast-10 Conference's regular-season title and finished the season ranked at No. 5 in the Coaches Poll.

Photo credit: Bob Shank/ESU Athletics

Division III

From the Top

In 2018, Middlebury College held the dominant spot in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division III National Coaches Poll for eight weeks until Messiah College eclipsed them to take the No. 1 spot for the final two weeks of the poll.

Messiah and Middlebury posted nearly identical records — each only dropping one contest in the 2018 season. Middlebury’s lone loss came from Williams College in their final regular-season game of the year. After that, the Panthers went on to win seven straight games, including a New England Small College Athletic Conference Championship and the 2018 NCAA Division III National Championship — the program’s fourth.

Final Four Foes

Of Middlebury’s fellow 2018 NCAA Final Four contenders — Tufts University, Rowan University, and Johns Hopkins University — only Tufts was ranked in the preseason poll. The Jumbos started at No. 8, but quickly shot up to No. 3 where they remained for five weeks before finishing at No. 4.

Johns Hopkins and Rowan debuted on the poll in week one at No. 17 and No. 15, respectively. Hopkins had a breakout year under second-year head coach, Jane Wells — the Blue Jays finished 19-3, earning a Centennial Conference Championship, and a program-first appearance in the NCAA semifinals.

The New Jersey Athletic Conference Champions, Rowan, moved steadily up the poll, climbing each week until they settled at the No. 3 spot in week seven. Until meeting Middlebury in the NCAA semifinals, the Profs were undefeated, posting 22 victories in a row and claiming their program’s record for wins in a single season.

Biggest Climb

Vassar College — claiming Liberty League regular-season and tournament titles for the first time in program history — made the biggest move in the 2018 polls, climbing 15 spots from No. 20 in week one to No. 5 in week nine.

Be sure to follow all of the NCAA field hockey action on the Field Turf Division I, Division II, and Division III Collegiate Scoreboards and keep an eye on the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I, Division II, and Division III National Coaches Polls throughout the season.

The Division I and Division III preseason polls will be released next Tuesday, August 17. Division II preseason poll will be released on Tuesday, September 3.

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