The No. 4-ranked Shippensburg University field hockey team will be taking on Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) rival, the No. 1-ranked West Chester University, in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II tournament on Thursday at 2 p.m. in Pittsburgh.
Shippensburg has had a good amount of success in recent years, winning the Division II national title the past two seasons. The team will look to continue that stretch of success, but first it has to get past this year’s PSAC champions —the Golden Rams.
The Raiders have struggled against WCU in two matchups so far this season. West Chester has outscored SU in those two games 7–3. The last time these two teams met was just a few weeks ago in the PSAC Championship, and West Chester came out on top 3–1.
As the Raiders’ coach Tara Zollinger said earlier in the week, the team is going to need to make some changes if it is going to get past its rival.
One thing that will not change is that the SU offense will center on sophomore Jazmin Petrantonio. Petrantonio leads the team in both goals (24) and points (54) and has been a dominant force for the Raiders’ offense all season long. The sophomore was named the 2018 PSAC Athlete of the Year, but that is not the only award that she wants to earn this season.
The Raiders will need to have a big performance from some of the offense’s supporting cast as well. Freshman Jenna Sluymer — who had a big game in the NCAA quarterfinal win over Merrimack College — will need to continue to play well and be aggressive like she did against Merrimack when she totaled seven shots.
On the defensive side, the Raiders have not fared very well against WCU this season. They have given up an average of 3 1/2 goals per game this season when playing the Golden Rams. SU senior goalkeeper Ally Mooney headlines the Raider defense, and she will need to have a big day in net for the Raiders to advance to the NCAA finals.
West Chester has a good one-two punch on offense in the form of junior Katie Thompson (19 goals, eight assists, 46 points) and senior Kaitlin Hatch (14 goals, three assists, 31 points). The Raiders’ defense, which had a fantastic game against Merrimack, will have its hands full stopping a WCU offense that has scored an average of 3.37 goals per game this season.
Senior Mary McNeil, who was dominating opposing defenses all season long, led Merrimack’s offense. She had 17 goals, 15 assists and 49 points, but the Raiders figured out a way to shut her down. They played aggressively, specifically on offense. SU controlled the ball and time of possession, and limited Merrimack’s opportunities on the offensive end.
The Raiders have given up a healthy amount of shots in each of their two games this season against the Golden Rams. The recipe for success for the Raiders on Thursday afternoon lies in playing an aggressive offense and trying to limit the amount of good scoring opportunities that the dangerous West Chester offense will have.
The winner of Thursday afternoon’s game will take on the winner of East Stroudsburg University and Pace University in the NCAA Division II championship game on Saturday afternoon. You can follow all of the action here (theslateonline.com) and at SU’s athletic site — shipraiders.com.