Hearing your name called as a national champion must have a nice ring to it.
The Shippensburg University Field Hockey team received its NCAA Division II national championship rings Saturday, celebrating the team’s second national title in SU history. A title is always something to be celebrated, but this ceremony carried much more emotional weight than the first.
Head coach Bertie Landes and the team surprised former player and coach Amanda Strous’ parents with a championship ring of their own.
“It really touches our hearts that they thought of Amanda and giving her, and giving the family, a ring and believing that she was the 12th man on the field,” Strous’ mother, Crystal Strous, said. “It was such an honor for them to play for her legacy.”
As the seas parted for halftime of the women’s basketball game, the SU field hockey players took the court one-by-one to receive their rings.
The much-anticipated event comes after the team beat Long Island University-Post, 2–1, in the NCAA Division II finals in November. The Raiders finished the season 20–3 with a nation-high 14 shutouts. The win capped off a story-book ending to a tragic start to the season.
“We got so close together and had the common goal of winning this for ourselves, for coach, for Shippensburg and especially for Strous. And to do that with such an amazing team is incredible,” senior defender Suzanne Muller said.
For most players, the rings are the first major title they have won as collegiate athletes. But for the senior class, this ceremony ends an incredible two-time national championship run.
“It’s actually a dream come true for any athlete. And that my senior class got to do that is really special,” Muller said.
As the season pushed on, it was evident this squad had another gear.
“The last three weeks of the season, this team was so committed, and so focused, and you just had a sense that we were going to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish,” Landes said.
Landes and the team said they felt Strous’ presence every time they took the field. That extra motivation helped push the team to the top of the NCAA mountain.
“Her life meant so much to us, and her legacy is so important to our program,” Landes said. “I think each of the young ladies understand what it means to leave a legacy.”
The ceremony also brought an end to one of the most storied careers in SU field hockey history. Coach Bertie Landes — who is already a member of the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame — decided that last season’s title run would be her last at the helm of the SU field hockey team.
Landes announced her retirement in December, drawing an end to a 35-year coaching career in Division II. She sails off into the sunset with two national championship rings, 489 wins and a 2016 NCAA Division II coach of the year title.
For Landes, the road to her final championship ceremony was paved with talented teams, wonderful people and a tremendous dedication to the game of field hockey. She will finish her career standing atop the NCAA with the rest of the players and coaches of the 2016 team.
“It’s just been an amazing journey,” Landes said.
With the events that transpired this season, these players have completed that legacy with perhaps the most memorable season in SU field hockey history.
Players and coaches come and go, but legacies will always remain.