By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

The 2000 NCAA Division III field hockey final will be remembered as one which was a close a contest as at least one U.S. presidential election. The candidates, William Smith (N.Y.) and Springfield (Mass.) were dead even in corners (14) and shots on the face of the goal cage (five).

But the 1-0 win for William Smith should leave American field hockey pundits and observers as speechless as those in the American political scene after the 2000 election fiasco.

The reason is because of the lone goal, scored in the 60th minute of play.

On the play, junior Nicky Livingston blasted a ball that, to the eyes of most neutral observers, went in off the leg of teammate Sheila McKevitt.

The umpire, standing less than six yards from the play, indicated as much, and the William Smith front seven prepared for the ensuing 16-yard free hit without complaining about the disallowed goal.

The trailing umpire, however, initiated a consultation after a 50-yard run from the other side of the field. After a few seconds, a goal signal was made.

"I couldn't see it, but my goalie said that it went off (William Smith), and there had been no question about it," said Springfield head coach Dottie Potter Zenaty.

"I thought it was a real clean deflection," said William Smith head coach Sally Scatton. "I talked to the player who deflected it (sophomore Erin Weir was credited with the goal), and and I can understand how they can think it was off a foot because of the way she deflected it: it happens that quickly."

Zenaty has seen it all in 31 years of coaching at Springfield. She has seen a national championship tournament held, in all places, the state of Washington. She has seen the sanctioning go from the AIAW to the NCAA, and has seen the NCAA go from one to three divisions.

But Zenaty also knows that in the byzantine world of field hockey, there may be bizarre goals and umpiring decisions. However, there are no recounts, no revotes, no replays, no reconsidering. Perhaps this explains her calm demeanor after the game.

"What are you going to do?" Zenaty said. "Unfortunately, in games like soccer and field hockey, goals are rare. That's the way it goes, but I really respect their program. They played well."

The game's lone goal was scored against the run of play in the second half. Springfield, as it had done agsinst Rowan (N.J.) in the semifinal, had placed tremendous second-half pressure on the Herons' cage.

The Pride earned five corners early in the second half, but could not get a clean stick stop for strikers Abby Perham and Caroline Black.

"I took a timeout and asked what was wrong," Zenaty said. "They said that (the insertion pass) was coming out smooth, but was hopping at the end."

Also befuddling the Springfield corner plays was the Herons' corner defense team.

"They scored (in the semifinals) on a real strong corner," Scatton said. "Bridget Lynch, our flyer, had a great weekend, and Nicky was great as the off-ball trailer. She's able to cover a lot of field."

Oddly enough, it was William Smith with the attack pressure in the first half, and Springfield trying to answer against the run of play. The Herons' attackers got the necesasary plays in the attacking third, as Lauren VonBereghy and Sage Lansing were allowed room in the circle. Livingston helped sustain the William Smith possessions by turning back numerous Springfield upfield thrusts.

In three decades, Springfield had never advanced to a national championship game -- sanctioned or otherwise -- until 2000.

"She has put in 31 years, and I don't know how she does what she does," Perham said. "I'm so happy that I got to play for her for four years. She has a lot of heart."

The debate about this outcome will certainly continue for some time.

"You do hope for something clean, so there's no question," Zenaty said. "It's kind of a downer for the kids, but that's the way it goes."

 Springfield  0  0


William Smith  0  1


First half -- No scoring.

Second half -- 1. William Smith, Weir (Livingston) 60th.

Shots -- Springfield 5, William Smith 5.

Saves -- Springfield: Sena 2, defensive 2; William Smith, MacVean 5. 1