University of Maine field hockey coach Josette Babineau, left, and senior Riley Field discuss the team’s experience at Kent State during a media conference in Orono on Monday. Their field hockey game Saturday was halted before the start of the second overtime because they were told the field needed to be cleared for fireworks before a Kent State football game. Photo taken from University of Maine video

At first, Riley Field thought it was a joke when a Kent State administrator came onto the field and told the University of Maine and Temple field hockey teams that their game Saturday couldn’t continue.

Three days later, her feelings are much clearer. She and her Black Bear teammates are disappointed and disillusioned that their game with Temple wasn’t allowed to finish.

“First and foremost, it’s offensive and upsetting to think that just because of your gender, your sport is looked at as less,” she said Monday at a press conference in Orono. “We work just as hard as any men’s team; I believe that. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I think that, we get an opportunity when we’re recruited to be on a team at a higher level. Once we commit to show up, that gives me the right to a locker-room training room, the weight room … and to finish a game is 100 percent a right.”

Maine Coach Josette Babineau said the NCAA contacted her via email for more information before deciding on how to determine the outcome of the game.

Maine and Temple were playing a neutral-site game – something college teams often do to offset travel costs, getting two games at an away site rather then one – at Kent State on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. The teams were scoreless through regulation and one overtime. Before the second overtime could begin, the teams were told they could not continue. Kent State had a home football game starting at noon in the nearby stadium and the field would be used in a pregame fireworks ceremony.

Maine’s field hockey Twitter account went to work almost immediately: “Well that’s a new one,” it stated. “Today’s game @KentState has been declared a “no contest” after Kent State administration came onto the field prior to the second overtime half and called off the game to allow the noontime Kent football game to begin on time.”

Field, a senior midfielder from Sidney and Messalonskee High, posted a video of the fireworks on Twitter, stating, “these are the fireworks we were kicked off the field hockey field for … which was behind the stadium.”

Twitter reaction was swift. While most of it was supportive of the two teams – even Jay Bilas, the ESPN basketball announcer, chipped in, asking the NCAA to step in – Field said she also received some negative responses. “We’ve gotten a lot of support and a lot of controversy,” she said. “Some people are coming out and saying horrible things. It shows people still believe women’s sports don’t mean as much as men’s sports. It’s crazy.”

The National Field Hockey Coaches Association said in a statement Monday that the stoppage sent a bad message.

“The optics and the messaging to every field hockey program and to every field hockey player are that while they matter, they don’t matter more than pregame football festivities,” it said. “We see this as a terrible message being communicated to female student-athletes in this year of 2019.”

When the schools agreed to play at Kent State, they were told the game needed to end by 10:30 a.m. That didn’t lessen the reaction.

Temple Athletic Director Dr. Patrick Kraft said in a release, “The circumstances that prevented the completion of our field hockey contest against Maine on Saturday are simply unacceptable and our student athletes and coaches deserved better.”

In a release Monday, Maine Athletic Director Ken Ralph said while the teams knew as far back as May that the field wasn’t available after 10:30 a.m., “it is also clear that there is a full executed contract authorizing a 9 a.m. start. Once you allow a game to commence, you are obligated to allow the game to continue to conclusion.”

Had the game continued and still been scoreless after the second overtime, the teams would have gone to penalty strokes to determine the winner.

Maine played Kent State on Sunday, losing 2-1. Babineau said she didn’t blame the Kent State field hockey team or players. In fact, she added, the teams had an emotional meeting after the game.”Even though Kent State was not involved with the game, they were embarrassed,” she said.

Kent State is scheduled to play at Maine next year in a similar setting with Hofstra joining them.

Tyson McHatten, Maine’s senior associate director of athletes for external operations and communications, said it’s not known if the school will try to recoup the approximately $15,000 it cost the team to travel to Ohio.

While there has been a discussion to finish the game, Babineau said “if they could call it a tie at this time that would be the best outcome.”

Field said she would have a hard time completing the game. “Coming back to play Temple would leave a sour taste,” she said. “It would almost be more embarrassing.”

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