At the completion of the 2011 field hockey season, Northern Lehigh head coach Jess Frew had an inkling that her team would be able to compete this season with the Colonial League and District 11 elite. With a number of potentially-strong players returning to the roster, there would be a solid nucleus of talent to build upon to make her team excel. What she didn't know was that a new turf field would help the program in plenty of other ways along that same path towards competing with other great teams on the 2012 schedule.
There is a new, artificially-surfaced athletic field on the campus of Northern Lehigh High School and the extra-curricular activities will be able to thrive in the present and future seasons, as they continue to hone their skills and adapt to their new home field. The Bulldog field hockey teams, boys' and girls' soccer, and football programs will all use the facility this season.
In the past, Northern Lehigh has had innumerable issues with the fields due to Mother Nature and the inability to have a satisfactory field to conduct games upon. When the rain came, the field suffered, causing issues throughout the 'Dawgs' scholastic schedules.
"At the end of the season last year, all the issues with football and the rainy season we had, a lot of the fields weren't up to snuff," Bulldog field hockey coach Jess Frew recalled. "Football suffered playing their games on their home field."
With the new field, not only will these past problems cease to exist, but the possibility of more night field hockey games can flourish, as well.
On another positive note, in the sport of field hockey in particular, a majority, if not all of the post-season games are held at facilities that possess all-weather fields. When it came time for programs like Northern Lehigh to participate, they not only lacked in practice and play experience on this type of surface, but they also weren't accustomed to the changes in the style of play that come along with it.
"If you look at the post-season, we were paying to go to Iron Lakes to get practice time on those types of fields," Frew mentioned. "So, it will definitely pay off for us in the post-seasons in years to come."
When talking about the differences in the style of play that occur on an artificial playing surface in field hockey, Frew related, "The major difference is that when a team has possession of the ball, it is a controlled environment. On a grass field, there are bounces that comes into play, or a lack of control," she said. "On turf, it's faster. Teams can 'one-time' their shots, you can know where the ball is going to go and the girls will need to make faster decisions and adjustments on the field."
Even though there are plenty of positives that come with the new surface, there is one slight downside everyone wants a piece of the new pie. All the afore-mentioned programs' varsity, JV, and middle school teams need practice time and game time on the field, causing scheduling conflicts that wreak havoc with field time for practices.
But even that has a positive outcome according to Few.
"During the preseason, we only get so much time on the field for practice," Frew admitted. "The good thing is that the girls look forward to the time that they do get to practice on it. The desire to be there (at practice), is increased, because they know they only get that certain amount of time to be on it."
The hope for Frew and her field hockey program is to become faster, and adapt to the changes of the turf field, which will make for a more competitive team
"Basically, the idea of the game is to play quickly," she admitted. "The field increases the speed of the ball, the girls, and the decisions that need to be made . If we can increase on all of those levels, then we can become a better team."