After legal battle, Cal field hockey finds success at renovated field

Lianne Frick/Staff

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In the past few months, UC Berkeley has added a number of new details and facilities to Underhill Field, finishing most of a long-uncompleted settlement with the Cal women’s field hockey team.

While uncompleted, the settlement left the school open to litigation. Some smaller details are still being worked out, but both the campus and the attorney for a group of former Cal field hockey players agree that the additions bring the long-running legal saga to an end.

Although Underhill was converted from a Rec Sports field into a field hockey space for the 2016 season, it lacked full-size stands or team rooms. People would attempt to use it while the field hockey team was practicing.

The team’s concerns are now mostly resolved, but the campus’s are not. After a federal investigation into the campus’s handling of its field hockey program, UC Berkeley agreed in March to federal Title IX monitoring by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or OCR. A representative from OCR visited campus this year as a part of the agreement.

There are now team rooms at Underhill Field, as well as full stands and team benches. The fence circumscribing the field is now draped in a wind screen with the “Cal Field Hockey” logo, which the team says was a big morale boost.

“It was apparent on that Friday when the team arrived for our first match (with the wind screens),” head coach Shellie Onstead said. “There was a completely different feeling in the group.”

The team’s performance has rebounded, too. After a 5-13 finish last season, the Bears have started this year 7-3 and are on a six-game winning streak. While the team is still struggling against blue-blood programs, Onstead said the completed field was a fresh start.

Players say the new equipment makes the field feel like a legitimate home. Katrina Carter, a redshirt sophomore from Gilroy, said the field is something the team can call its own, after years of using temporary fields — or having no field at all.

“This is our home now. This is our field,” Carter said.

The team played at Maxwell Family Field until 2013, when it was converted into a football practice field without a plan for a new field hockey space. For two seasons, the field hockey team played all of its home games at off-campus fields, while practicing on fields such as the Stanford University field to the converted roof of the Upper Hearst parking garage on campus.

Yvie Lock, a freshman midfielder from Winchester, U.K., said the new field has changed the atmosphere of the team.

“The facilities here are incredible,” Lock said. “It’s a real, proper program.”

Austin Weinstein covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @austwein.

A previous version of this article may have implied that the field’s wind screens had been completed by the first match of the season.