Women began playing field hockey in England around 1880. In 1901, Constance M.K. Appleby introduced the game in America to a group of women in summer school at Harvard University. Through the efforts of Appleby, the game was introduced to other Eastern women's colleges. In 1921 a team from England visited the United States and gave clinics in several East Coast cities. Three members of the team stayed for several weeks and introduced field hockey as far west as the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin. The popularity of the game spread rapidly from there.
It is not clear when the first field hockey was played at Caldwell College, but records indicate that it was at least as early as 1911. Most likely, Rose Krieger, from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, who taught at Caldwell from 1909-1912, introduced the sport. In 1929 a cornfield was leveled to make a hockey field. From the 1920's to the 1950's sports days were offered by various Kentucky schools, including Centre, that invited field hockey teams to play a round-robin schedule. In 1960 field hockey became one of the first intercollegiate sports for women at Centre. That first season included games against the only other Kentucky colleges that had teams, the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University. Centre could not host any home games between 1960 and 1964 because there didn't exist an acceptable playing field. This was remedied when the college acquired the old Danville high school property, and its football field, as part of the sale of the women's campus to the Danville School Board. The football field, running north-south, provided a good playing field. However, part of the field was used for the construction of the Norton Center in 1973. The field was reoriented east-west, with rubble from the construction used to fill in part of field, causing a problem with settling ground and protruding rocks. The record for the first 25 years of the team was 51-118-16, respectable considering the playing field situation, the lack of experienced players, and the fact that Centre continued to play, along with smaller colleges, the larger public universities.
The first decades of field hockey saw a revolving door of part-time coaches. From 1960-1988 there were nine different field hockey coaches, all of whom also coached another sport. From 1988-1995, all the coaches were part-time, with other full-time jobs and frequently living outside Danville. The lack of continuity showed, as the field hockey team had only one winning season between 1984 and 1996. Adding to the team's problems was that it played in several different conferences. During most of this period the team competed in the Kentucky Women's Intercollegiate Conference and the Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. In 1988, teams in Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky formed a conference exclusively for field hockey. Soon, however, the Micigan colleges dropped field hockey, and the conference became the Kentucky-Indiana-Tennessee Conference (KIT). Several Kentucky colleges dropped the sport at about this same time, so that the conference membership soon included an assortment of NCAA Division II, Division III, and NAIA colleges. By 2000 the conference included Bellarmine College, Centre College, DePauw University, Hanover College, Transylvania University, and the University of the South. The last KIT tournament was held in 2003. Today, Centre competes in the NCAA Division Great Lakes Region and the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC).
In the 1990's the team was rejuvenated under coaches Kelly Kiernan and Kim Bush, both former collegiate field hockey players. When Centre joined the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), the University of the South was the only other conference member to sponsor a field hockey team. In 1999 the SCAC board of directors approved the inclusion of field hockey as an emerging sport, and to sponsor a conference invitational tournament.
Throughout its history, the field hockey team has struggled with small budgets, poor facilities, part-time coaches, the small pool of experienced high school players from which to draw (few Kentucky high schools outside of Louisville have field hockey teams), and the limited number of Kentucky and SCAC colleges fielding teams. Despite these adversities, the team has perservered. In 1971 the team was runner up to the Univesity of Kentucky in the Kentucky Women's Intercollegiate Conference. The 1998 team finished third in the SCAC and fifth in the region, and that same year Catherine Jones was named an NCAA Academic All-American. The 1990's saw a rejuvenation of the field hockey program under coaches Kelly Kiernan and Kim Buch. Improvement on the field began in 1994, and by 1998 was in good enough condition that Centre was able to host it's first KIT tournament. In 2003 goalkeeper Liz Lowe was named first team regional All-American in 2003, and a record ten players were named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division III Academic All-America team. In 2004 Centre hosted the inaugural SCAC field hockey championship. The team now plays on a new grass field designed for field hockey, the completion of Sutcliffe Hall provides all athletic teams, and students, with a state-of-the-art fitness facility, and the College is host for a summer field hockey camp for middle and high school players.
Source: Baird, Kitty Rogers. Women Athletes Blazing a Trail: a History of Women's Participation in Sport at a Small Liberal Arts College. (Centre College, 2001)