To help the sport grow, field hockey committee recommends expanding the playoff field

Field hockey generic

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

AURORA — In an effort to help the growth of the sport, the field hockey committee is recommended an expansion of the state tournament from eight teams to 12.

"The point is to keep more teams engaged throughout the season," said CHSAA assistant commissioner Justin Saylor, who oversees the sport. "Looking back at historical data, the same eight programs have traditionally been in the tournament and we wanted to expand it to increase the opportunity for more teams to not only qualify for the tournament, but to potentially win a playoff game, because they'll be playing like competition."

Under the recommendation, the top six seeds would receive byes while the next six seeds compete in play-in brackets. In one play-in bracket, the No. 9 and No. 12 seed would play, with the winner facing the No. 8 seed. The winner of that game would then face the No. 1 seed.

In the other first-round play-in bracket, the No. 10 and No. 11 seed would play, with the winner facing the No. 7 seed. The winner of that would then face the No. 2 seed.

"Additional time practicing can only help some of our programs," Saylor said. "I think the fact that teams will be fighting for a spot in the playoffs for the majority of the season will help those programs."

Here is an example of what the bracket would look like:

Coinciding with this change, the field hockey committee's hope is to add at least two more programs prior to the start of the next season. The sport currently has 15 varsity teams.

"As we look to expand field hockey in the state, we want to get ahead and start looking at ways to promote that growth with an expanded playoff format," Saylor said.

One possibility is another program within Douglas County School District. Mountain Vista had more than 80 players last season.

"There's an obvious need for a second program, and we're hoping to add that for the next cycle," Saylor said.

Additionally, another program within Denver Public Schools is a possibility. The district's only program at Denver East routinely has more than 100 players.

"We're hoping that with the popularity of field hockey in that district there will be room for another program in Denver Public Schools," Saylor said.

The committee is also recommending a change to the seeding criteria for the state tournament, using a combined data approach with RPI, Coaches Poll and MaxPreps rankings. The bracket field will still captured by RPI, which is mandated by the Board of Directors.

"We're fortunate to have multiple data points available to us, and it just makes sense to be able to utilize those to get a more accurate field seeded for the tournament," Saylor said.

Finally, field hockey added nine new officials this year. The sport had 16 returning officials, so it was a major increase.