The title defense is on.
Shippensburg University’s field hockey team took its first step toward its pursuit of back-to-back national championships Saturday, demolishing the Skyhawks of Stonehill College in an NCAA Quarterfinal matchup, 6-1.
The Raiders put forth a total team effort in the win, with four different players cashing in to stamp the team’s ticket to the next round. Shippensburg came out with energy to start the game, and that jump kicked the Raiders’ offense into overdrive in the first half, garnering 12 penalty corners over the first 35 minutes.
Freshman Jazmin Petrantonio came out flying to start, putting the Raiders up early on a clean feed from Brooke Sheibley’s corner pass. Petrantonio’s goal came just six minutes into the contest and gave fans an early precursor of what was to come on the evening.
Barely a minute later, Stonehill’s Kacie Smith scored on a wicked shot into the corner of the net, breaking the single-season NCAA Division II goal-scoring record with her 41st of the season. Smith’s goal was the last that Stonehill managed to slip behind the Raider defense, with SU’s defense bullying the Skyhawks’ forwards in the defensive zone.
Just as she did last season, Shippensburg’s PSAC Field Hockey Athlete of the Year Emily Barnard stepped up on the biggest stage to bury Stonehill’s chances of moving on. Barnard began the onslaught picking a loose ball off the goal line and roofing it, giving the Raiders a lead they would not let go of for the rest of the game.
Barnard’s goal was paired with another by the senior, scoring a demoralizing goal against the Skyhawks, juggling the ball on her stick between several defenders and blasting a mid-air shot into the far corner. Barnard’s highlight-reel goal is her 20th of the season to lead the team.
“It was momentum I had coming in the circle, and Sheibs (Sheibley) fed me the ball [when] she saw me coming in hard,” Barnard said. “I think I touched it twice in the air [and thought] I’m swinging on it and honestly, I really didn’t think it was going to go in, but the next time I saw it, it was in the back of the net.”
Senior Lauren Zengulis added another on a delayed whistle before half to give the Raiders a commanding 4-1 lead. The Skyhawks were tasked with collecting themselves before the start of the second half and correcting the defensive mistakes that Shippensburg was capitalizing on, but the ball just kept rolling for the Raiders as the second half commenced.
SU’s Madison Scarr buried a Raider frenzy in front of the net just two minutes into the second frame, solidifying Shippensburg’s pressure. The Skyhawks struggled to maintain any sort of possession, with each attack being thwarted and immediately transitioned into offensive chances for Shippensburg.
The Raiders were particularly successful attacking Stonehill down the wings, punishing the Skyhawks’ defense in one-on-one situations. Barnard again made Stonehill pay late in the game, drawing a penalty stroke which Petrantonio sent upstairs for her second and final goal of the game.
“All week long we’ve been preparing, we knew exactly what we had to come out here and do and we had a game plan and stuck to it,” Barnard said.
Shippensburg finished with a staggering advantage in shots, outshooting the Skyhawks 37-8. Despite the one-sided scoreline, Stonehill goaltender Sara Freedman made 19 saves, including several point-blank bombs sent by Raider forwards.
For Shippensburg, every player in uniform contributed in the preparation for Saturday’s game, ultimately leading to SU moving on in the bracket.
“The biggest change coming into this week was our bench,” Barnard said. “They’re the best team we play against, and in practice during the week they really stepped it up and mimicked how Stonehill would play.”
The Raiders prepared throughout the week, and the results were crystal clear over the final 45 minutes of the game.
“Our No. 1 goal this week was staying true to our game plan, and all week we did it in practice and we wanted to be able to do it here when it matters,” head coach Tara Zollinger said. “We still feel like we have work to do.”
SU’s dominant victory should carry confidence into the team’s most important match of the season against a familiar opponent. The team now faces off against its top Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) rival over the past two seasons, East Stroudsburg University, in an NCAA semifinal showdown.
The Raiders split the season series, dropping an away game against the Warriors and earning a timely home win against ESU in the rematch. The match begins 10 a.m. Friday at Owsley B. Frazier Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky.