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Liberty Field Hockey to Join NorPac
Liberty Athletics has announced that the Liberty field hockey program will accept membership in the Northern Pacific Field Hockey Conference (NorPac), becoming effective July 1, 2012. The NorPac, which began conference championship play in 1998, is a NCAA Division I single-sport conference which consists of East and West subdivisions. The program will join the conference after competing as an independent during its inaugural season.
"We are very blessed to have found a home for our new field hockey program in the NorPac," commented Liberty Director of Athletics Jeff Barber. "This is an up-and-coming conference and we look forward to competing with the institutions that are members of this league."
Liberty becomes the fifth member in the East Division, joining Appalachian State, Davidson, Longwood and Radford—all teams who are on the Lady Flames' schedule for the 2011 season. Meanwhile, the West Division is comprised of California, Pacific, Stanford and UC Davis. NorPac members Stanford and California both currently hold national rankings, coming in at No. 9 and No. 12, respectively, in the most recent Kookaburra/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) poll. California, Pacific and Stanford are each original members of the conference.
"Liberty University has demonstrated a commitment to excellence by providing their inaugural program with the resources to succeed in the future, both on a conference and national level." stated NorPac Commissioner Carla Konet. "Their well-planned development and rapid growth has been impressive and we anticipate that they will become a very competitive member of our conference."
Upon membership in the conference, Liberty will have a home/away conference schedule in the East Division, the ability for student-athlete recognition through in-season and post-season awards, as well as opportunities to qualify for the conference and NCAA postseason championships. All benefits are immediately available for the 2012 season.
"We are looking forward to calling the NorPac Conference our home next season," stated Liberty head coach Jodi Murphy. "It means a great deal to our new program that the NorPac would look favorably upon us. I have great respect for the coaches and teams that compete within the NorPac. I truly believe it is a progressive conference moving in a dynamic fashion up the RPI rankings. With the help of our athletics department and their commitment to field hockey, we will be in a position to make a positive impact on the conference in the next few years."
Teams in each subdivision play a double round robin conference schedule, culminating with the conference tournament. Currently, all eight members of the conference are able to participate in the tournament and are guaranteed two games. With Liberty becoming the fifth member in the East Division, the tournament format will remain the same, but only the top four of five teams in the East Division will qualify for the tournament. The bracket will then be formed with first round division crossover games.
Stanford won the 2010 NorPac Tournament Championship, which was hosted by Davidson, defeating California, 2-0. Stanford, ranked No. 19, then went on to defeat No. 18 Massachusetts in the NCAA play-in game. With Stanford advancing, a NorPac member has now competed in the NCAA tournament in nine of the last 11 seasons. In the NCAA First Round, the Cardinal fell to eventual NCAA runner-up No. 2 North Carolina, 3-1.
The 2011 NorPac Tournament Championship will be hosted by Stanford, Nov. 3-5. The NorPac champion will then host the Atlantic 10 champion for the NCAA play-in game. This results from the NCAA RPI ranking the NorPac eighth out of 11 conferences at the end of the 2010 season.