The Shippensburg University field hockey team followed in the 2013 championship team’s footsteps, knocking off top-seeded Millersville University in the NCAA Division II Semifinals, 1–0.
With the win, the Raiders will vie for the NCAA Division II title for the third time in school history.
However, this year is special for SU. After the offseason death of former player and coach Amanda Strous, the 2016 Raiders have carried their hearts on their sleeves.
“We’re a team of destiny,” head coach Bertie Landes said. “We’re trying to leave a legacy of our number 22, Amanda Strous. Her love of life — her love of laughter and field hockey has been with us every step of the way.”
SU’s emotion going into Friday’s game was palpable, and it seemed to help propel the team past the PSAC Champions.
Shippensburg’s much-anticipated matchup with Millersville was just as one would expect. There was tight checking, high pressure and individual battles throughout SU’s final rendezvous with its Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) rival.
The Marauders came out soaring, storming down the wings and swinging dangerous crosses into the Shippensburg crease. Less than 10 minutes into the game, two-time All-PSAC honoree Ally Mooney made a game-breaking save to keep Millersville off the scoreboard. Shippensburg braved the storm, and eventually turned the tides of momentum against the Marauders.
After surviving three corners in the first 15 minutes, SU’s Emily Barnard broke free from the Millersville defense. She created a scoring chance on her own, but Millersville goalie, Samantha Rumler, blocked away Barnard’s drive across the goal.
SU’s possession game began to take over, pushing back the Marauder’s attack.
“There was a point where we finally got it down to our offensive 25 [yard line],” midfielder Brooke Sheibly said. “I think as soon as we got it down there, we took a deep breath and said, we can do this.”
Long drives up field forced Millersville back on its heels for the first time in the game. The Marauders closed out the half with a 4–1 lead against the Raiders in penalty corners.
SU was able to flip the script in the second half. The Raider’s surge carried into the second frame, where Barnard created a chance. She took a shot off of an early penalty corner, forcing Millersville’s Rumler to make a diving save. Rumler’s save did not alleviate the pressure, as she scissor kicked the ball where both teams swarmed. Millersville’s last line of defense stood tall, blocking the Raider’s chances to prevent a sure goal.
The majority of the second half was a chess match. Both teams looked for lanes to advance the ball, but to no avail. Barnard pestered Millersville’s defense all game, but a series of penalty corners turned pressure into success.
Freshman Hannah Selassie slid her way through three defenders, eventually earning the team 1-of-5 second-half penalty corners. The ball then trickled out to Sheibley, who sent a rocket through the circle. The ball bounced around, but eventually skittered to the far post, where Barnard was able to smack the ball home with just five minutes remaining.
“Every time [Sheibley] gets the ball, she goes right with it hard,” Barnard said. “I always know it’s going to be a low, opposite-side pass. So, I’ve got to sit there and be patient and be ready for it.”
Barnard’s late goal proved to be the last opportunity between the teams. The Raiders out-possessed Millersville to stop any last-minute hope of a comeback. The final horn blared, and the bench cleared to celebrate on the field. For the second time in three years, SU beat a Millersville team in the NCAA Semifinals, after dropping the PSAC Championships to them.
SU now looks to its final match this Sunday at Stonehill College. The Raiders will face Long Island University Post.
“I think we’ve really been unified in those traits that Strous had as she walked along beside us,” Landes said. “It’s not about field hockey; it’s about individual lives and personalities. They’ll not remember the scores, but they will remember what we did as a team together, and this is a team that truly is together.”