Rowan Athletics prepares for field hockey’s NCAA Division III Final Four

Richard Wackar Stadium will be the site of the NCAA Division III Final Four. Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. - Multimedia Editor / Lee Kotzen

Back in October of 2020, Rowan University announced that they were selected to be the host site of the 2024 NCAA Division III Field Hockey Final Four, a plan that, unknowingly at the time, would change. 

Last January, over a year later, the athletic department had a new announcement to make. Due to renovations taking place at the original 2022 Final Four site, Washington and Lee University, the two institutions switched years. 

Rowan is now hosting the 2022 NCAA Division III Field Hockey Final Four at Richard Wacker Stadium from Friday, Nov. 18, through Sunday, Nov. 20.

“Usually you get years,” Associate Athletic Director Penny Kempf said. “We were set for 2024 but then we found out ‘no, we’re going to do it.’ And I agreed to it and we agreed to it so now, it’s all hands on deck.” 

Kempf continues to be the driving force in setting up this opportunity, as she was the one who submitted Rowan’s application to the NCAA to host the event. In fact, upon learning they would be doing this two years earlier, Kempf went to each area of athletics to see if they could handle it with the shortened preparation time.

“I think this is why Penny [Kempf] is a wonderful leader and a wonderful person to put in charge of this because she can see the big picture,” Head Athletic Trainer Colleen Grugan said. “For her to come, her first question was like ‘do we have the staff, do we have the ability to do this’ and luckily we do.”

With everyone on board, the Rowan Athletic Department got to work. For Kempf, she had to start working on the logistics of not only the events that come along with having the Final Four on campus but also possibly hosting four out-of-area field hockey teams. 

“Somehow, by the grace of somebody, we got the Marriot here on campus. Which, you can never get in the Marriot, it’s always full,” Kempf said.  “Not only are we having this event here at our athletic facilities, we’re also having the banquets in the ballroom on Thursday night, they’re staying at the Marriott, they’re doing their community service here. So we get to showcase our whole campus.”

Along with the work Kempf was doing, departments like communications started their preparations, which Athletic Communications Multimedia Specialist Will Voight explains really sprouted this summer. 

“While everyone was away in August, we were sitting down having one of the first in-person meetings with the NCAA Championship committee, going over everything for November,” Voight said. “When you’re preparing for something on the national level, it’s a lot different than what we do on a typical day-to-day basis.”

Voight, who handles everything from the live streams to Rowan Athletics events to creating content for their social media, knows the biggest difference will be how the production element is handled.

“Production-wise, it’s a totally different ballgame,” Voight said. “For me, we’ll go out on a gameday, set everything up about two hours in advance, get everything up and running and we’re good to go. For the NCAA, they’ll be here three, four days in advance testing everything.”

Some of the other responsibilities of the communications department as a whole will be running the press conferences, being in charge of the stats crew and organizing media credentials for outlets and photographers. But for Associate Athletic Director for Communications Marie Wozniak, there is another big thing at the top of her priority list.

“Really for me, it’s about making sure who knows about it in advance, so that’s been my main goal. Not just the media but the general public so we can get some great fan support,” Wozniak said. “We’ve been sending out to field hockey clubs, high schools, so we’re going to keep following up with that and then another goal is to get it into local media… This is a great area for field hockey, so we’re hoping to get those people.”

The Rowan Field Hockey Head Coach Michelle Andre is even helping out in making sure the word is spread that the university is hosting.

“I mean there’s a ton of youth programs that I’ve already talked to, I mean I have my sisters and my nieces involved with stuff as well,” Coach Andre said. “So the word is out there and I think you’re going to see a pretty great turnout, especially for some of these younger players to see, that have the opportunity to watch some of the best teams in the country that weekend.”

With the event less than two weeks away, it’s almost time for the athletic department’s full attention to turn to the institution’s first time hosting an NCAA Final Four. And with their very own Profs being realistic contenders to be one of the four teams competing, the end of November is shaping up to be an exciting time for the athletic community. 

“Last year, I think for the first time in field hockey, Trinity [College] was in the Final Four and they hosted it and it was packed with Trinity students and it was a great environment,” Kempf said. “So I just envision if we’re in it, with the amount of students we have, I imagine it would just be an incredible venue for our athletes to play in.”

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