University of Maine's Libby Riedl (right) takes a shot past Providence's Maura Ingraham during their season opener field hockey game in 2016. Credit: Ashley L. Conti | BDN

America East will return to an all-eastern alignment in field hockey beginning with the 2019-2020 season and will gain a new associate member in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference power Monmouth University of West Long Branch, New Jersey.

The 2018 season will be the fourth and final one with the University of California, the University of California-Davis, the University of the Pacific and Stanford University as associate members.

They left the NorPac Conference in 2015 to form a western division in America East while the University of Maine, Albany, New Hampshire, Vermont and UMass Lowell comprised the east division. Only intradivision games counted toward teams’ league record and no conference games involved an eastern team and a western school.

Four teams from each division qualified for the tournament which was held at a predetermined site which alternated between California and the Northeast. There were crossover matchups in the first round with the top seed from the east meeting the fourth seed from the west and so on.

The winner earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for which conferences are required to have at least six members to earn an automatic qualifier.

Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, will host the 2018 America East tourney.

Beginning in 2019, Monmouth will be the sixth team in the conference and four teams will qualify for the league tournament to be held at the home field of the top seed.

UMaine coach Josette Babineau said the arrangement between the eastern and western schools was a good idea but she also likes the new direction.

“They had a need and we had a need. It worked out OK,” Babineau said. “In the end, it was a hard commitment for all the schools to make. We didn’t play them during the regular season, only in the playoffs. It increased the caliber of our playoff games, but I don’t know how practical it was as a long-term solution. The travel (for the tournament) wasn’t easy.”

She added that it wasn’t fair that one team from the east division failed to qualify even though the fifth-place team may have had a better record than the fourth-place team in the west.

Babineau likes adding Monmouth, which has won four straight MAAC regular season titles with a 20-3 regular-season league record overall.

UMaine duo nominated for award

UMaine softball right fielder Erika Leonard and soccer defender Kendra Ridley have been nominated for the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

They are among a record 581 female athletes nominated for the award by their coaches.

Athletes have to demonstrate outstanding academic and athletic achievement, be of outstanding character, and a contributor and leader within their community.

Both graduated with nursing degrees.

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