Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

Many field hockey fans point to the Lock Haven-Bloomsburg battles in the NCAA Division II championship as either a model of consistency amongst two programs, or a sign of a lack of talent depth amongst the small number of U.S. colleges offering partial scholarships to their players.

But what happens when one or the other begins to lose their way? That's the question Bloomsburg must answer in 2001. The Huskies, having won four straight Division II titles heading into the 2000 season, did not earn a postseason berth -- not even in the ECAC tournament, the sport's equivalent of the NIT.

The Huskies have already been pitched off-track by what had to have been an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Division III Wesley, as well as a 2-1 loss to East Stroundsburg.

But Bloomsburg has enough time, and the talent, to make a serious Division II title run. Tara Fabian (Paxinos, Pa.), Nicole Hantranft (Oley, Pa.), and Shanna Fritz (Benton, Pa.) all represent serious offensive firepower; the team had outshot Wesley 42-7 in its 2-1 defeat, but managed to get more of their shots on cage in subsquent games.

For Pat Rudy, head coach at Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference rival Lock Haven, the challenge may be to not get too excited about the team's chance of repeating.

The team, already returning much of its lineup, has added players of All-America caliber like freshmen Laura Baranski (Collingswood, Pa.) and Kellie Kulina (Hummelstown, Pa.), as well as transfers Kimberly Siple (Oxford, Pa.) and Mandy Sullivan (Sipers, Pa.)

Lock Haven's main rival for the 2001 Division II title appears to be Bentley College, the NCAA runner-up in 1999 and 2000. The Falcons firepower in front is frightening; Alicia Cabrera (Lexington, Mass.), Kristyn Bates (Greenfield, Mass.), Allyson Bunce (East Dennis, Mass.), and Jenn Walker (Lyman, Maine) can all put the ball in the cage with great regularity.

The defense, however, could be the best in Division II, having not given up a goal in the first two weeks of the 2001 season.

Another team to keep in mind is ECAC runner-up East Stroudsburg. The Warriors have already beaten Bloomsburg this season, but lost 4-0 to Bentley.