By Tim Tolokan
Three NCAA National Championships in a five-year span and five consecutive trips to the Division I Field Hockey “Final Four” highlight record-setting success for Hall of Fame Head Coach Nancy Stevens and the UConn Women’s Field Hockey program.
Coach Stevens has enjoyed a remarkable 28-year tenure as UConn Field Hockey coach. The past five years, however, are unmatched nationally by any other program and also showcases the four decade success story that is UConn Women’s Field Hockey.
Nancy Stevens is an iconic figure in the field hockey world, having played a major role in a national championship run as a college star (1975 AIAW title at West Chester University) and during the past 39 years having built a coaching resume that positions Coach Stevens as the winningest coach in collegiate field hockey history.
In 2007, Coach Stevens was inducted into the NFHCA Hall of Fame and in 2016 she joined her 1975 West Chester University National Championship team when USA Field Hockey enshrined the entire squad into its Hall of Fame.
From 2013 through the recent 2017 NCAA Field Hockey season, UConn and Nancy Stevens have been the very best among all collegiate peers, winning three of the past five national championships (2013, 2014, 2017), and reaching the “Final Four” five years in succession.
Since the 2013 fall season of field hockey, the UConn women’s program under Coach Stevens’ direction, has an overall record of 108-10. That includes a “perfect” 23-0 record during the most recent national championship season of 2017.
In that same five-year period (2013-17), the other two nationally-elite programs with the next best records are North Carolina (96-24) and Maryland (94-22).
In winning its third national title in the past five seasons, UConn placed five of its star athletes on the 2017 Field Hockey All-America teams.
Three-time First Team All-American Charlotte Veitner completed her stunning college career by being named Most Valuable Player at the 2017 Final Four. She also was honored as winner of the Honda Award for Field Hockey, recognizing her as the nation’s top player. In 92 career matches, she scored 120 goals and added 63 assists and was part of two NCAA Championships teams (2014, 2017).
Senior goalie Nina Klein concluded her UConn career as a First Team All-American and with bookend national titles to her career in 2014 and 2017. Nina started every match through four seasons, concluding her career with an all-time record 87 victories, including 37 shutouts, and just six losses.
The third First Team All-American was Casey Umstead, another four-year regular and two-time national champ.
UConn’s three NCAA Championships since 2013 and five trips to the Final Four mirrors the overall head coaching record for Nancy Stevens where she stands No. 1 all-time in career coaching wins at 662-181-24 (77.7%).
Nancy Stevens was 28-14-4 in two years at Franklin & Marshall (1979-80), including coaching the AIAW Division III National Runner-Up in 1979. In nine seasons (1981-89) at Northwestern University, Coach Stevens was 152-35-12, with three National Semifinal appearances at the Final Four.
In her 28 seasons at UConn, Nancy Stevens has an overall record of 482-132-8 (78.1%). In addition to three NCAA Division I National Championships, she has led UConn to the Final Four 10 times, including the past five years in succession.
UConn has dominated regular season and tournament competition in the Big East Conference, winning the regular season title 17 times in 22 seasons since 1996 and adding 17 Big East Tournament crowns.
Interestingly, in addition to its current Final Four trip streak of five-in-a-row, UConn also made a five-years-in-a-row run to the “Final Four” during the initial five years of college field hockey for women under the banner of the NCAA (1981-85). UConn hosted and won the first-ever NCAA Field Hockey title in 1981 (in Memorial Stadium in Storrs) and added a second NCAA title in 1985.
The back-to-back NCAA Championships years of 2013 and 2014 produced an overall record of 41-7, and earned for the University of Connecticut its third and fourth NCAA Field Hockey titles. After each of those seasons, Coach Stevens was honored as the National Coach of the Year.
After the 2017 season, the NFHCA altered its post-season awards format and replaced the National Coach of the Year Award with a new award, honoring the National Coaching Staff of the Year.
The UConn Field Hockey coaching staff of Head Coach Nancy Stevens, Associate Head Coach Paul Caddy, and Assistant Coach Cheri Schulz have been named the 2017 National Collegiate Field Hockey Coaching Staff of the Year.
That honor is richly deserved because coaching staff continuity has been hugely important to the on-going annual success of Connecticut Women’s Field Hockey. The revised award was endorsed on the national level by Nancy Stevens who spoke of her staff as “the whole is greater than the sum of our parts.”
Prior to the start of the 2001 season, Nancy Stevens introduced two new assistants to the UConn coaching staff and for the past 17 years there has been a totally consistent coaching message at UConn---from head Coach Stevens, to Associate Head Coach Caddy to Assistant Coach Schulz.
“There is a profound synergy with our staff,” says Nancy Stevens. “Our individual strengths complement each other and for the past 17 years we have proven that continuity in a coaching staff is an important component to overall success.”
“Paul uses his coaching expertise and tactical creativity in guiding the individual techniques of our team members and he also serves as the point person in our recruitment of international players. Cheri was an All-American collegiate goalie and I wanted to commit to a fulltime goal keeper coach. She directs that all-important defensive effort and is also heavily involved in our recruiting efforts.”
The team of Stevens/Caddy/Schulz are 318-67 since 2001 (82.6%). A total of 51 All-America selections have been named in that span along with the three NCAA titles.
UConn has been to NCAA Tournament competition each of the past 16 seasons, including earning a Final Four berth in eight of those years.
After winning national championships in 2013 and 2014, the 2015 team, which entered NCAA play unbeaten, lost in the national semifinals to eventual national champ Syracuse, finishing the year 22-1 and sporting the highest single-season scoring margin in NCAA history (4.91 per game).
The 2016 Husky squad again advanced to the national semifinals, losing to North Carolina, and ending the year 22-2 overall.
In 2017, UConn started fast and raced untouched to the finish line, posting a spotless 23-0 overall record, winning the regular season and tournament titles in the Big East, and claiming the NCAA National Championship. Following the victory to claim the national crown, Coach Stevens told her team, “you now walk through history together.”
At the beginning of the 2017 season, Coach Stevens also was quoted, putting a statement on the board that said, “You Are Enough.” Indeed, the collective members of UConn Field Hockey were more than enough to be perfect for the entire season.
And during a five-decade coaching career that continues to produce excellence, the winningest coach (UConn’s Nancy Stevens) just keeps on winning games and championships.
A FINAL THOUGHT: Did You Know???
Nancy Stevens and Geno Auriemma are both graduates of West Chester University in Pennsylvania---and those two Hall of Fame UConn coaches are UNBEATEN in 14 separate NCAA National Championship games.
Geno is a spotless 11-0 when he reaches the NCAA National Championship game in Women’s Basketball (1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016).
Nancy is a spotless 3-0 when she reaches the NCAA National Championship game in Women’s Field Hockey (2013, 2014, 2017).
Not too shabby---14-0 in NCAA title games for two all-time greats in their respective sports---and both have been coaching at UConn for a combined total of 61 years.
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