The Shippensburg University field hockey team’s regular season has wrapped up, and now it is time to head into the playoffs. Gearing up for another run for the PSAC Championship, the Raiders will look to avenge last year’s loss in the finals to rival Bloomsburg University.
Locking up the top seed, SU was able to bypass the quarterfinals, resting up for a semifinal match between the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the East. That game saw visiting Millersville University edge Bloomosburg University by shutting out the Huskies 2-0, denying the Raiders a chance at redemption. It will now be MU vs. SU in the first semifinal game on Friday. We will preview the upcoming semifinal between these two squads.
SU, led by Hall of Fame head coach Bertie Landes, is looking for another trip to the PSAC Championship game. Last year’s team might have come up short, but this year is a different story. The squad, led by seven seniors, finished the regular season 17-1 with the lone loss coming against the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. SU has six girls who have started all 18 of the Raiders’ games this year.
Bre White, the leading scorer this year, is a force to reckon with. In her junior season, she has tallied 42 more points than the team has allowed all year (40). SU is such a well-balanced team that after White, the team has a plethora of options on offense. Seniors Taylor Jones, Sam Langone and Emily Kohlbus are all offensive weapons that Landes can count on, especially with their veteran leadership.
“The seniors are committed to the way we are playing, keep the fun in the game,” Landes said.
Landes has a great core of seniors, but her underclassmen are great at excelling in big moments. Juniors Katie Shoop, Taylor Bender and Lauren Taylor have managed to carry SU through many games both offensively and defensively.
Sophomores Ari Saytar, Lucinda Kauffman and Tori Ricker are also viable threats. Statistically even in offense, Saytar and Ricker are great young options on both ends. Kauffman and Saytar both have one defensive save to their credit, but have stepped up for SU when teams mount attacks. Freshman Shelby Anderson, who has seen action in half of the games, is another SU threat.
MU, coached by Shelly Behrens, comes off with a strong battle-tested team, but statistically they are not in the same league as SU.
MU has 36 goals on the year compared to SU’s 75, a point’s differential of almost 100 and SU dominates in total shots. On paper, a team that outscores you is not always the winner. There are defenses to worry about. SU is also the favorite on defense, holding opponents to under 20 goals and 50 points. MU does have some strong offensive players though. With both matchups this year being so close, 2-0 and 2-1 at MU, the Marauders know how to play tough and if it were decided on paper, we would not play the games.
“They are a tough team, fundamentally very sound, and we just have to pass the ball well,” Landes said about the upcoming matchup.
Senior Ashley Weber and sophomore Rachel Dickinson lead MU in offensive categories. Playing in all 19 of the Marauders’ games, these two have solidified the scoring opportunities that they can manage. Where neither girl has put up numbers like SU’s, the Raiders should take them seriously as they are always aggressively looking to score. No girl has over five goals on the season, but other than two 6-0 blowouts, MU plays teams very close using its defense and patience to run teams out until the end.
Sophomore Goalkeeper Lauren Sotzin has collected 96 saves on the season. To combat the lack of scoring, they have an excellent stick in the goal to keep games close enough to win.
Look for sophomore Katelyn Zapp and junior Samantha Ruane to create havoc on SU. Both players have offensive prowess and have played in every game this season with Zapp scoring five goals and Ruane adding four.
MU has won six of its last seven and eight of its last 10. They are riding a big momentum train after beating BU at the Huskies’ home field. SU knows all too well the effect that has on teams.
The Marauders’ only threats during their streaks were West Chester University and SU. Hoping to gain from those close games, MU needs to relish the winning spirit and as Behrens said after the BU game,
“We know what is in front of us and we just have to keep playing, we are a team that wants to step out on the field and compete.”
Stopping them is going to be a major factor for the Raiders.
Defensively, SU will need to provide the foundation so MU does not get an early lead. Seniors Kayla Harshman, Amanda Burridge and Jamie Levy are key cogs in SU’s defense. Harshman and Burridge each have three defensive saves to their credit with Levy providing a boost on each end. Levy and Harshman do so much that does not show up in the box score. In the last game against Millersville, the pair stopped countless MU attacks, slapping the ball the other way or chasing down players on breakaways.
Senior Ciarra Delost will be the x-factor in this game. She could get overlooked by the SU offensive blitzkrieg, but Delost does not need a cushion to help the Raiders win.
Delost has 62 saves and a .849 winning percentage when she is protecting the goal. You need to know you have someone who has your back when games start out rough, and Delost showed that against BU when she recorded her season high 10 saves against the Huskies. Also, a nine save game against IUP to protect SU from what would have been a crushing second loss. Delost will provide a brick wall in front of the goal cementing herself as one of the best goalkeepers in the PSAC this year.
They will need to continue this effort to beat MU for the third straight time. In an interview with Landes, she discussed what she expects going into the matchup.
When later commenting on the momentum shift Landes said, “I think just step up and be aggressive, we cannot just step back and watch them do things.”
In noting other expectations, Landes mentioned they do not have any other strategies, just execution is going to be the big issue. One thing she stressed was that they have to be ready to defend against the corners. MU scored both goals against BU off of corners. Looking at their stats, MU does have 182 corner shots, ranking up near SU, which has 194.
Looking ahead is also not in the mind of Landes who realizes that the focus is solely on MU and dealing with them on Friday.
“It is so important to not look past to West Chester,” Landes said. “Comparing them to Bloom, Millersville is the top team right now, and going to be a great opponent for us.”
SU needs to play Shippensburg field hockey, as Landes said. If it does that, it should have no trouble dealing with the aggressive attacks of MU and should be able to quiet the momentum. If SU can swing that into its favor, the Raiders will live to play on into Saturday. I see SU edging out the Marauders 2-1 on Friday in a hard fought game.