By Al Mattei


EWING, N.J. -- History was on full display as The College of New Jersey won the 1999 NCAA Division III field hockey championship with a 4-1 win over Amherst.

The result made history, as the 20-0 Lions won their ninth NCAA Division III championship, more than any other program.

It was one of the most gratifying championships for head coach Sharon Pfluger, whose teams had not made the Division III Final Four in 1997 and 1998. This two-year absence from the Final Four has, to the Lions and their fans, the equivalent of 40 years in the wilderness.

"This team needed to write its own history, because the last two years, they came off the field saying, 'We're making negative history,' '' Pfluger said. "I told them, 'No, dont even think that of yourself. Think positive, and you'll get what you want.' ''

Much of the championship effort came off the stick of top scorer Tiffany Trockenbrod, whose penalty stroke in the dying minutes gave her 37 on the season. The goal represented history; it broke Robin Schwartz's single-season mark of 36 set in 1986.

"This is all I've wanted, and more," said Trockenbrod, embracing the gold NCAA championship trophy like a long-lost puppy. "It's special, being the second team to go undefeated and winning the championship."

A scant 10 minutes earlier, the fans in the jam-packed Lions Stadium bleachers thought they might have seen Trockenbrod repeating a darker part of Lions' athletic history. With 15:35 showing on the clock, Trockenbrod's surgically repaired right knee buckled while chasing down a loose ball in the offensive left wing.

"(Trockenbrod) didn't practice all week, and she had the knee drained on Monday. We were trying to conserve her," Pfluger said. "In the end, when she went down, I thought she was out for the game."

The fans, which included some two dozen Lions all-Americans, were silent for some four minutes, mindful of other major injuries which had befallen Lions players in championship games.

Three times before in Pfluger's tenure as field hockey and lacrosse coach at Trenton State/The College of New Jersey, she had lost top players to injury during a championship final. But it was on the lacrosse side when game-ending injuries befell Jennifer Mazzucco (1995), Jill Shipley (1992), and Donna Pecoraro (1997).

And this time, Trockenbrod was able to re-enter the fray. She did so moments after teammate Jami Holtz was able to revisit a little history of her own. Holtz knocked in a strong cross from the right wing to give the Lions a 3-1 lead during Trockenbrod's absence. It was almost a carbon copy of the goal she scored to give the Lions the 1996 Division III title over Hartwick. Same end of the field, same play, same shot, same result.

"I wanted to see them happy at the end of the year, and that's our reward," Pfluger said. "They worked very hard and felt that this was three years in the making. It's a nice memory for them now."

As well as some history.

TCNJ 2 2


Amherst 0 1


Goals-- NJ: Jami Holtz 2, Tiffany Trockenbrod, Kerri Hunt; A: Alie Stechenberg. Assists -- NJ: Julie Pedrick, Megan McCall, Trockenbrod; A: Tyra Gettleman.

Shots-- NJ: 16; A: 4. Saves-- New Jersey: Jackie Conroy 2, defensive 1; Amherst: Beth Sensing 12.