University of Maine field hockey coach Josette Babineau and her players were disappointed they didn’t earn their first NCAA tournament trip despite setting the school record for wins.
The 19-4 Black Bears were beaten by Albany 2-0 in the America East championship game and didn’t receive an at-large berth to the NCAA tourney.
Ten conference tournament champs receive automatic berths and eight other teams receive at-large berths based on the Rating Percentage Index that factors in a team’s winning percentage, opponents’ winning percentage and the opponents’ opponents winning percentage.
Maine beat Stanford 2-1 in overtime in the America East semifinals, but the 13-6 Cardinal still finished above Maine in the RPI as Stanford was 13th and Maine finished 17th.
Liberty University, which is an independent, finished 15th and also failed to receive an at-large bid.
“If it was between Stanford and us, the [NCAA field hockey committee] could have figured things in like head-to-head and performance in recent games. But Liberty’s RPI was also higher than ours, so the committee would have had to skip over two teams to select us,” said Babineau.
Liberty and Stanford’s strength of schedules helped as they each played 11 games against team’s rated in the top 30 in RPI while Maine played only six.
Liberty wound up 12-6.
“The strength of schedule is part of it,” said Maine athletic director Karlton Creech. “Generally, committees go with the RPI unless there is a compelling reason not to.”
Babineau said what irritated her was that Maine remained 17th in the RPI and Stanford stayed at 13th after Maine had beaten Stanford.
“I was disappointed that our games with Stanford and Albany didn’t bump us up in the RPI,” she said.
Albany wound up sixth in the RPI.
Maine will look to upgrade its schedule and will host North Carolina next season. North Carolina is second in the RPI.
Former Messalonskee High School of Oakland star Kristy Bernatchez is a starting back for the Tar Heels and will be a senior next fall.
Babineau, junior center mid Sydney Veljacic and captain Nicole Sevey said the disappointment of not earning an NCAA berth won’t overshadow their accomplishments.
“We were very upset when we didn’t make it in, but we had an awesome year, a historic season, so we can’t be too upset,” said Veljacic. “We had a talented team, and we worked together really well. Our large freshman class really contributed, and everyone else really stepped up.”
Sevey said it was a special season with a great team atmosphere.
“We were disappointed not to get in the tournament, but we were very happy with how the year went,” she said.
Babineau said the publicity and the “tremendous amount of support” they received as well as having the championship game on ESPN3 are all “really good things for us” and should help with recruiting.
Maine will graduate five exceptional seniors (Sevey, Jessica Skillings, Katie Bingle, Marissa Shaw, Cassidy Svetek) but will return its top three scorers in Danielle Aviani (11 goals, 5 assists), Veljacic (12 & 2) and Libby Riedl (6 & 13) along with goalies Emma Cochran and Emily Corbett.