POTTSTOWN – The first week of the new year rang in a new elite indoor field hockey league based locally at the 422 SportsPlex.
The Junior Premier Indoor League (JPIL), which includes 12 of the top indoor squads in the nation, had its christening Saturday, Jan. 7, when the 78-game aggregate schedule – which runs through Saturday, Feb. 25 – got under way.
Xcalibur Field Hockey Club, which plays out of the SportsPlex, includes local standouts Heather Morris (Owen J. Roberts), Kate Ferrara (Hill School), Gabby Major (Spring-Ford) and Alyssa Chillano (Spring-Ford).
The other 11 teams in the league are East Coast of Hershey; FC United of Daren, Conn.; GotTaLoveIt Oranje of Millsboro, Del.; Hudson Valley of Putnam Valley, N.Y; Impact FHC of North Caldwell, N.J.; Jersey Intensity FHC of Monmouth Beach, N.J.; Key State FHC of Boiling Springs; Mystx United of Perkasie; Rising Sun FHC of Colora, Md.; South Jersey Edge FHC of Erial, N.J.; and Spark FHC of Severna Park, Md.
According to Owen J. Roberts field hockey coach Clarence Jennelle, who serves as a liaison of sorts between the 422 SportsPlex and the JPIL, the league is the brainchild of former Olympian Nigel Traverso and national team player Rachael Bloemker.
In 2010, the Pan American Hockey Federation approved the biannual Junior Pan Am Indoor Cup to begin in 2013. Subsequently, USA Field Hockey formed the Junior National Indoor team, currently in training for the Pan Am Indoor Cup. Traverso and Bloemker wanted to create a well-organized and competitive indoor league in which the top indoor clubs have the opportunity to compete against each other on a regular basis over the course of the indoor season.
With all indoor hockey events, including NIT qualifiers being held each weekend, the biggest challenge for the league was to secure a facility to host it, according to a press release from USA Field Hockey. The 422 SportsPlex, which has two the sport’s court surfaces of international regulation size, wound up being selected.
“Nigel went out and took a list of the top 16 teams from last year’s indoor national tournament and called each of them,” Jennelle said. “The first 12 teams to fill in a spot got to go in the league.”
“The idea was to get some of the best competition all at the same place. A lot of new clubs are popping up, and the playing pool is getting watered down. Players weren’t really getting anything out of it. The idea behind the league was to build something like that up so everybody can push as hard as they need to, and maybe make the indoor national team next year.”