What’s in a name? For Longwood field hockey, apparently quite a bit.
Ever since the program renamed its home field in memory of Dr. Elizabeth Burger Jackson on Oct. 29, 2016, the Lancers have paid tribute to a pioneer of not only their program but also Longwood athletics as a whole by playing some of their best field hockey in school history.
This year, with the one-year anniversary of the Elizabeth Burger Jackson Field dedication just passed, the Lancers are in the midst of their most successful season of the Division I era. Led by a defense that has hovered inside the top 10 of the NCAA’s goals against average leaderboard all season, Longwood amassed an 11-5 record in the regular season that is the program’s best winning percentage since the program began its transition to the Division I era 15 years ago.
Included in field hockey’s season résumé are separate winning streaks of five games and four games; both the Mid-American Conference’s No.2 scoring offense and its stingiest defense; a conference-leading five shutouts; and two of the conference’s top three leading goal scorers: junior Leonie Verstraete ’19, a psychology major from Utretcht, The Netherlands, and senior Edel Nyland ’18, a psychology major from Tipperary, Ireland.
The Lancers secured the No. 3 seed in the MAC Championship Tournament, earning a bid to the postseason for the second straight year. (Last year’s qualifying game, the first in program history, was on Oct. 29, the same day the Lancers’ home field was dedicated for Burger Jackson.)
The field hockey team’s success has been years in the making under 10th-year head coach Iain Byers, who has steadily elevated the program from a fifth-place MAC finish in 2014, to fourth place in 2015, third in 2016 and, in 2017, notched another top-three finish with a 4-2 conference record that is Longwood’s best since joining the MAC four years ago. The MAC Championship Tournament took place on Nov. 3-4 and featured the conference’s top four teams in the standings.