The Shippensburg University field hockey team split a pair of Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) games last week, losing to East Stroudsburg University 2-1 and defeating Mansfield University 2-1.
Against East Stroudsburg, the Raiders (5-4, 2-1 PSAC) struggled to get anything going for much of the game. A costly turnover deep in the SU zone within the first two minutes of the game led to an easy goal for ESU’s Celeste Veenstra.
East Stroudsburg (10-1, 3-0 PSAC) further jumped on the Raiders, scoring another goal less than five minutes later to make it a 2-0 game.
The Raiders’ performance in the first half, specifically the first quarter, could not have been worse. They were outshot 12-0 (9-0 in the first quarter) and had given up two goals. East Stroudsburg, ranked No. 4 in the nation, is not a team against which they could afford to fall behind and still win the game.
It was not until the fourth quarter that the Raiders’ offense began to gain some momentum. Six of the team’s seven shots came in that quarter. In the 51st minute, sophomore Valen Alonso netted her second goal of the season to make the game closer, 2-1.
After the game, head coach Tara Zollinger highlighted the difference between the first three quarters and the fourth quarter.
“We started to compete and actually play the hockey we know how to play,” Zollinger said. “I think for the first three quarters, we were back on our heels a lot. We didn’t go to the ball and we didn’t have our intangibles.”
Despite the team’s struggles throughout most of the game, they still had a chance in the game’s final minute to tie the game. With under 10 seconds remaining, junior Jazmin Petrantonio connected with Alonso on a pass that went the full length of the field. Alonso had to get past one East Stroudsburg defender, but was unable to do so and her shot missed the net.
Going into Saturday’s game against Mansfield (7-3, 1-1 PSAC), the Raiders knew they had to rebound with a good performance, and that is what they did.
Junior Emily Stauffer got the scoring going early, within the first minute of the game, with her third goal of the season. She deflected a shot by Petrantonio into the right side of the goal.
Later in the first quarter, Petrantonio netted goal No. 13 on the season off of a penalty stroke to make the game 2-0.
Coming out of halftime, Mansfield quickly made it a one-goal game. Dana Evans scored her 14th goal of the season off a scramble in front of the net.
Despite outshooting Mansfield 15-8 through the first three quarters, Mansfield still was only down one goal. However, the Shippensburg offense clicked into a high gear in the fourth quarter, never allowing Mansfield to get even one shot off in the entire quarter.
The Raiders effectively put together a rebound performance against Mansfield, outshooting them 29-8 (21-6 in shots on goal) and putting together a full, 60-minute effort.
After the team’s loss to East Stroudsburg earlier in the week, coach Zollinger had some choice words about the team’s play up to that point this season.
“Our biggest thing is we need to compete for a whole 60 minutes,” Zollinger said. “You can’t choose when you want to compete. If you choose when you want to compete, the opponent is going to take advantage of that. I think our biggest thing is we need to decide who we want to be and what we want to become: A team that competes or a team that doesn’t.”
The Raiders have a championship pedigree, winning the NCAA Division II National Championship each of the past three seasons. They have mostly the same team as last season (the lone exception was the graduation of goalkeeper Ally Mooney) and know that they have the talent to be one of the best teams in the country.
However, they have not consistently played like it this season.
The Raiders are 0-4 against the other nationally ranked teams they have played and have lost to each of them by one goal.
Up next for the Raiders is a challenging stretch where they play three nationally ranked teams (Millersville University on the road on Tuesday, Kutztown University at home on Saturday and West Chester University on the road on Oct. 16). They will have a chance to right the ship and gain some momentum heading into the end of the season.