Preview: Field hockey NCAA Semifinals
Shippensburg University will clash with the Marauders of Millersville University, Friday, for one final time this season.
After dropping the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship to Millersville, SU roared back with a do or die victory against an East Stroudsburg University squad that has plagued the team all season.
The Raiders now find themselves in the final four, with just two games standing in the way of SU’s second national title. Millersville played the Raiders tight in both games, with SU emerging victorious in the regular season matchup.
A trend that could carry into Friday’s game lies in the Marauders’ ability to box out and limit the Raiders’ scoring chances in tight. In both games, the Raiders managed just one shot, but both shots slipped through the wickets of the Marauders’ goaltender.
Shippensburg’s first game against Millersville ended in a shutout, something goalie Ally Mooney has become accustomed to. In the PSAC Championship match, a goal in the opening minutes of the game had SU brimming with confidence, but the team fell into a defensive shell in the second half, giving up the lead and eventually the game.
Coming into Friday’s game, Shippensburg has amassed 47 goals this season, compared to Millersville’s 43. On paper, SU holds a slight advantage, but the offenses are fairly even in firepower. Shippensburg outscores opponents by an average of 1.64 goals per game against Millersville’s 1.38.
Defensively, Shippensburg has also been nearly identical to Millersville, limiting opponents to 10 goals compared to Millersville’s 13. The real separation exists in Shippensburg’s two-time All-PSAC honoree goaltender, Ally Mooney.
Mooney leads the nation in nearly every major goaltending category, including goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts. Mooney has been a difference maker for the Raiders game in and game out all season, and SU will need one more solid performance from the sophomore goaltender to reach the NCAA Division II Finals.
Shippensburg’s league-leading save percentage at .903 ranks 22 spots above Millersville’s at .764 percent. Shippensburg posted a Division II best 13 shutouts this season, two more than its PSAC rival.
While Shippensburg wins the numbers game, this matchup between these two universities has some history. In 2013, Millersville triumphed over the Raiders in the PSAC Championships but lost to Shippensburg in the NCAA Division II National Championship Semifinals. The Raiders then went on to the finals, beating potential opponent Long Island University Post, 2–1 in overtime.
Friday presents a chance for the Raiders to repeat history. “There are so many similarities,” senior Suzanne Muller said. “We did it in 2013, we can do this again this year.”
Friday’s game feels different for the Raiders, though. As if there is a chapter left unfinished. SU must win out to capture its second field hockey national championship in school history.
“We just have to always have confidence, believe in each other and keep the positivity up,” senior Cassie Rawa said.
“Communication is definitely the key tomorrow,” Muller said.
Friday’s game will begin at 2 p.m. at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. The championship match will be played between the winners of Friday’s games and is set for Sunday.