After taking a look at the 2010-2011 OUA field hockey schedule, Varsity Blues fourth-year centre midfielder Hannah Tighe immediately saw that her team wouldn’t be taking to the turf at Varsity Stadium at all this season.
“We were super upset. We’re a very successful team at this university. For us not to have any home games seemed like a slap in the face,” said fifth-year goalie Samantha Lyzun.
The OUA has more field hockey teams than any other conference in the country.
In order to make sure that the tradition of playing the regular season out as double round robin is maintained, the seven Ontario teams and McGill partake in weekend-long tournaments.
The original schedule, which came out on April 22 had U of T paired with Waterloo to host the first weekend in October. Waterloo was set for Saturday, October 2 and U of T for Sunday, October 3.
Problematically, not all varsity field hockey teams are as lucky as U of T’s, which is to say that they aren’t all fully funded. To keep costs down to allow teams like Carleton and McGill to stay in the league, it was decided that the weekend games should be played in a single location.
Because the field at Varsity Stadium is also used by the lacrosse, soccer and football teams, October 2 was already booked, and the games scheduled for the weekend were moved to Waterloo.
In the past, U of T was one of the only schools with a field that could be used to play field hockey.
The list of schools capable of hosting has since grown to include McGill, Guelph, York, Western, Carleton, Queens, and Waterloo as they now all have access to field-based turfs previously unavailable.
“It’s almost like it was our turn to take a year not to,” said Ali. “It’s not that we don’t want to play at home. We have a great field to play at home.”
That being said, there are disadvantages to being on the road the whole season.
“It’s extra planning in terms of travel time,” said Assistant Coach Shankar Premakanthan. “It’s nice to have a weekend where you get to host. It’s easier on the girls. Traveling can take its toll on the girls as the season wears on.”
Besides the wear and tear on the players which will come from the extra travel, the team won’t be able to bring out fans to watch them in action.
“Whenever we go around the pavilion or AC people ask how we’re doing. It’s unfortunate we can’t tell them to come out to a game,” said Tighe.
U of T traditionally holds an invitational field hockey tournament at the beginning of September, but it didn’t go forward this year.
“There weren’t enough teams that wanted to play,” said Beth Ali, the director of intercollegiate and high performance sport at U of T, and the former program manager and head coach of field hockey. “Some schools could come on Labour Day and some could come the weekend after.”
The tournament typically fluctuates between the two weekends, and this year the six to eight schools that usually participate were divided as to when was most convenient.
“It gets people out to watch. We don’t get very many people otherwise,” said Tighe.
“It’s disappointing we can’t have the support from our friends and family around town,” added Lyzun.
The team will, however, still have the chance to take to the turf in Toronto at least once this season.
York University will be hosting the 2010-2011 OUA field hockey championships at The Hanger this weekend, which is located near their home campus at Downsview.
“This is the first year in quite a while that they’ve had access to a field,” explained Ali.
The misunderstanding has left both the players and the administration feeling uneasy.
“It’s especially disconcerting because we are a winning team. It would be cool to get support from the university,” said Tighe.
“U of T is a field hockey school. We have a strong commitment to it. It disturbs me when that commitment is questioned,” said Ali.