A slow start dropped the Shippensburg University field hockey team out of contention for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championships on Friday, falling to West Chester University, 1-0.
The Raiders were forced to battle back throughout most of the game, allowing the first goal in a game for just the fifth time this season. The Golden Rams kicked off the scoring after deflecting a shot in front of goaltender Ally Mooney off a penalty corner to give West Chester a lead it held onto for the rest of the game.
Penalty corners are an area SU has found success scoring on all season, but the Raiders struggled to maintain clean possessions to put effective scoring chances toward the net. Shippensburg finished the game with 12 corners.
After an early push by West Chester in the second half, the Raiders gained some traction and some breathing room, finally sustaining offensive pressure. SU forced the Golden Rams to make several crucial defensive saves to keep the game tipped in West Chester’s favor.
Shippensburg’s best chance came from a flurry in front of the West Chester goal, with a shot from senior Lauren Zengulis getting denied by a defender just before crossing the goal line. Zengulis finished tied with a team-high three shots.
Both teams traded chances throughout the remainder of the game, but neither team could crack the other’s defense. The Raiders had one final push at net on a partial breakaway after senior Mary Spisak out-muscled her defender, but the shot sailed just wide.
Shippensburg finished the game with 18 shots, tied with the Golden Rams, but was ultimately unable to beat West Chester goaltender Marissa Elizardo. Mooney made nine saves in the loss and broke up several key plays throughout the game to keep SU afloat.
For Shippensburg, Friday’s loss does not spell the end of the team’s season. The road to the NCAA National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, now runs through Stonehill College, the host school of SU’s 2016 national title.
Because of the Raiders’ success against in-conference opponents, Shippensburg grabbed the No. 3 seed in the nation to host No. 6 seed Stonehill for Saturday’s NCAA Quarterfinal matchup. A win on Saturday for SU would punch the team’s ticket for Louisville.
PSAC schools Millersville University and East Stroudsburg University both made the tournament, with Millersville taking the No. 5 seed and East Stroudsburg getting a first-round bye.
SU will face off against the top goal scorer in the nation, Kacie Smith, who recorded 40 goals and 17 assists for the Skyhawks this season, tying the Division II single-season record. Stonehill (13-6) enters the match on a three-game losing streak. The game begins at Robb Sports Complex Saturday at 1 p.m.