The Shippensburg University field hockey team finished the year on top once again last season, knocking off LIU-Post for a second-straight season to win back-to-back national championships for the first time in school history.
On Saturday, at halftime of the Shippensburg University women’s basketball game, the team was honored with a ring ceremony at Heiges Field House. The team finished the 2017 season with a 17-4 record, including a 4-1 victory over the Pioneers in the national championship game.
The Raiders were introduced in alphabetical order before receiving a small gift after being greeted by Shippensburg University President Laurie Carter; Roger Serr, vice president of student affairs; and Jeff Michaels, director of athletics.
While the Raiders’ 2017 championship rings are still being produced, each player received a Ring Pop in place of the championship ring at the ceremony.
The ceremony was just one part of “Play With Hart” Day at SU, replacing the women’s basketball team’s annual “Play 4 Kay” game to generate money for Four Diamonds for SU field hockey player Megan Hart, as she is currently battling leukemia.
“It’s just really awesome to look up and see a sea of orange,” SU field hockey coach Tara Zollinger said. “When we came in, the SU men’s and women’s basketball teams were wearing their orange ‘Hart Strong’ shirts for warmups. To be able to give that support to Meg is really special. We’re all behind her in this battle for her to beat leukemia.”
The SU women’s basketball team held a silent auction during its game against Mansfield University, with the proceeds going to Four Diamonds. A table was also set up at which fans could make donations for Megan’s recovery.
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams wore orange T-shirts with the phrase “HART STRONG” on them in honor of Hart. The phrase has been the mantra for the Hart family and the SU field hockey team in supporting Hart in her road to recovery.
For the team, winning back-to-back championships has been an incredible feat. The team has three championships in the past five years. For the SU senior class that includes forward Mary Spisak, going out with a second-straight title was a dream come true.
“It’s like a fairy tale ending for sure,” Spisak said. “I got to do it with my best friends and it was just an amazing opportunity. I couldn’t ask for a better ending to this chapter of my career.”
After winning the championship, Zollinger became the first coach in NCAA history to win a national championship in any sport in their first season.
“We always talk about what an amazing opportunity it is to represent this university and to be honored here today for bringing the trophy back to Shippensburg is really special,” Zollinger said. “We’re so grateful for both the women’s and men’s basketball teams to couple that with the ‘Hart Strong’ motto and for them to be raising money to go for the Four Diamonds foundation and the support that Ship athletics has was really showing today. We’re so thankful for them.”
During the ring ceremony, Hart was awarded the 2018 Jane Goss Perseverance Award for courageously battling leukemia as she hopes to return to SU next year. Her parents, Michelle and Bryan, were in attendance to accept the award on her behalf.
The family thanked the SU community for its continued support and love for Megan through every step of her recovery.
“The support from the university and the student athletes has been amazing,” Bryan Hart said. “There hasn’t been a day that has gone by where we haven’t received support from the football team, the baseball team, the basketball teams and the swim team. We don’t know a lot of the ladies and young men who have shown their support but every day we’ve felt that support and we want to thank them for that support.”
Hart has received close to 1,000 cards since being hospitalized in September and has received cards from 78 different college field hockey teams. Hart even received a signed jersey from USA Field Hockey.
Her mother Michelle reflected on what the Jane Goss Perseverance Award will mean to Megan.
“Megan is so determined,” Michelle Hart said. “This award I’m sure will mean the world to her. She is going to feel so honored to be chosen for this. Her determination prior to receiving this was off the charts.
“I’m sure her determination to get back on the field as she has said all along to be better and stronger than before will continue just to show people you can get back to where you were, no matter the obstacles.”