Marsha Way, the athletic director and field hockey coach at St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, looked out her office window last Monday and saw a flock of sea gulls on the Alexandria school's rain-drenched playing field. The scene summed up a local field hockey season that because of rain has been filled with an unprecedented number of postponements.

"It's unbelievable how many games we've had to reschedule," said Way, whose fourth-ranked team has had to postpone three games since the season began five week ago.

According to the National Weather Service, average rainfall for September is 3.31 inches. However, rainfall for the past month was 10.27 inches, making it the fourth-wettest September ever.

Nearly every team has been affected by the wet weather. In Virginia, the AAA Northern Region tournament, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 24, might have to be moved back if there are more rainouts. Anne Arundel and Howard county officials say they've fared well because many of their games are played on artificial turf. Montgomery County has had many rainouts, but officials do not anticipate any problems starting their playoffs on time.

Many teams have been forced to schedule three games in as many days.

"It's going to be a zoo for everybody," said McLean Coach Demby Banbury, whose team has had three postponements. "And it's hard to get the kids motivated. Because you get up for a game then get canceled. And you get up for it again, and it gets canceled again."

Although other fall sports have been impacted by the weather, many field hockey coaches say their sport has been hit hardest. They point to the fact that field hockey is played close to the ground and uses a small but heavy ball, making a smooth surface a near necessity.

National Cathedral, of the Independent School League, did not play its first official game until Sept. 24, more than a month after its first practice. Chantilly started its season Sept. 3, then didn't play its second game until three weeks later.

Last Monday, fifth-ranked Georgetown Visitation had to cancel a game against seventh-ranked Whitman--which would have been a rare matchup between top public and private schools.

Duke Beattie, the Montgomery County Public Schools athletic coordinator, said rescheduling games in his area is made more difficult because field hockey teams compete with football and boys and girls soccer teams for field time.

Complicating the situation is a lack of officials. Laura Beaver, who assigns the 16 officials in the Northern Region through the Metropolitan Field Hockey Association, said she has had to veto makeup dates that had been arranged by coaches. Now, the region will have six games every day until Oct. 22. "This is the worst I've ever seen it," she said.