Nov. 15, 2009

National Championship Sidebar: 32 Years, 13 Titles, 1 Undying Legacy

National Championship Notebook: Past The Half-Century

By DAN HICKLING
Special to NCAA.com


EASTON, Mass -- It turns out that the No. 13 is anything but unlucky.

Whatever tarnish of superstition was clinging to that particular number for Bloomsburg University, it was wiped away cleanly on Sunday when the Huskies captured a record 13th NCAA Division II Field Hockey Championship. Bloomsburg beat UMass-Lowell, 3-2 at Stonehill College's W.B. Mason Stadium.

Sophomore Amanda Riley scored two goals, while another underclassman, freshman Alexis Weber also scored.

All of it served to give departing Bloomsburg coach Jan Hutchinson the best retirement gift she could ask for – a  fourth consecutive national title, the last three of which came at Lowell’s expense.

"It's the most amazing feeling on Earth," said goaltender Caitlin Koczynski, one of seven Huskies seniors who have known nothing but national championships. "Four. Some people dream of one. And we've got four."

Said Hutchinson, who had just coached the last field hockey game of her 32-year Bloomsburg career, "I was so glad to get to this game. This year."

Bloomsburg, which met with little resistance from Lowell in the past two finals, had all it could handle from the Riverhawks Sunday.

"I thought that today was what a National Championship game should be," said Lowell coach Shannon Hlebichuk, who led her team to a national title in 2005, the only interruption of the past eight years in Bloomsburg's current run of titles. "Two tough teams battling, right until the last second of the game. One team has to win, one team has to lose. Unfortunately, we were on the (losing) side."

Leading 3-1 late in the game, the Huskies' two-goal lead was sliced in half with 4 minutes, 36 seconds to play by Lowell’s Sammy Macy. And the Riverhawks were still desperately trying to set up for the tying goal when the final horn blared out.

"We started off well," Bloomsburg’s Hutchinson said. "We got a goal, and it was almost as though we breathed a sigh of relief and let off a little bit. Lowell tied it up, and I thought it was a battle the whole way to the end."

The Huskies took a 2-1 lead into halftime after the teams swapped goals within the first six minutes. Riley struck first, moments after she had been thwarted at the left post Lowell goalie Amy Carbon’s lunging save. Riley quickly jumped on her next opportunity, reversing her stick to knock in a seven-yard shot.

"Every time we have a corner," said Riley, "our goal is to execute it. Even if the play doesn't go right, we just have people backing it up and just trying to get it in as soon as we can. If I get the ball, I'm just looking to a post. It if ends up going in, it goes in."

The Riverhawks roared back with the tying goal two minutes later during a scramble in front of the Bloomsburg goal.

Liz Day had a short-range try that was stopped by Huskies defender Aubrey Carman.

However, the ball came out to Jaci Moulton who hammered home the equalizer from 10 yards.

"You don't dare leave her alone at the top of the circle," said Hutchinson.

Then, at 17:16, Weber put the Huskies ahead to stay with her seventh goal of the season.

It came as she got a step on a defender and cut to the left post, where she cashed in Ashley Miller's lead pass.

Riley gave Bloomsburg what appeared to be all the breathing room it needed, when, with 5:45 to play, she scored her second goal of the game and 27th of the season.

And good thing. The Riverhawks refused to fold, and climbed to within a goal again a minute later, when Macy scored her 25th, assisted by Moulton.

"It was definitely an intense game," said Macy, a junior. "Bloom girls are all from Pennsylvania, and they eat, sleep, breathe field hockey (from the time) they were born. We took it to them."

The Bloomsburg defense held up after that, and buttoned down yet another championship.

"It's just the perfect way to end four years," said Chelsea Due. "Four years of the best field hockey, with the best coach. With the best team. It's just the perfect way to ice the cake."

A cake you could stick 13 trophy-shaped candles on.