Nov. 20, 2009

Messiah's Emily Sauder

Photo Courtesy of Messiah

D-III Semifinals Preview
D-III Semifinals Notebook: They've Been Here Before

By Amy Farnum

Every coach talks about how important senior leadership is for team success, but Messiah College head field hockey coach Jan Trapp has witnessed one of the finest examples of its’ influence this year as the Falcons have put together a 21-0 season and are making the program’s 13th trip to the NCAA semifinals.

Four years go Trapp had recruited 21 players – at the time Messiah also had a junior varsity squad – but 11 of that group made the varsity team, and had an immediate impact for the Falcons.

“There were six or seven freshmen starting and they had no clue what they were doing, but they were playing really good hockey,” said Trapp.  “We made it to the final game their freshman year.”

Messiah lost to Ursinus, 3-2, in the 2006 NCAA Championship game, but that group of freshmen continued to experience success throughout their careers.  As sophomores, the group advanced to the regional finals, falling to TCNJ in overtime.  Last year, they once again reached the NCAA semifinals before a loss to Tufts to end the season.

“Now, they are seniors and all eight came to me before the season and wanted to all be captains,” said Trapp.  “I thought, ‘oh my goodness, that could be really rough with eight girls.’  They said, ‘we can do it.’  I said okay and they have done a great job.”

“We got together right after the season last year and the eight of us started talking,” said senior defender Mary Hoover.  “We really wanted to look at what was going to be best for the team and what kind of leadership we would need.  Whether it would be best to have two or three captains take charge, and have the other seniors just be leaders, but as we were talking it just wasn’t coming apparent what two or three it would be.  

“We each had qualities that we thought would benefit the team and thought would be great for leadership.  We thought we could make eight work – we just had to be aware of what are strengths are so we could use each of them together as a unit.”

Despite her apprehension about the arrangement, Trapp commends the senior class for their efforts with team bonding and making the coaching staff’s job much easier.

“I really feel that one of the big successes of a team is the leadership, and these girls have been phenomenal leaders,” said Trapp.

“I think we do a pretty good job of sharing the responsibilities and we all have a different role,” said senior midfielder Emily Sauder.  “If there is a disagreement, we usually take a vote and go with the majority and we are all on board with that decision.”

One of those decisions was not talking about the NCAA Tournament until it was time for the postseason.
“As seniors, we decided not to mention anything about the NCAA Championship until the playoffs,” said Sauder.  “We realized how important it was to climb up the ladder and make to the playoffs.   We had to meet individual goals to meet the ultimate goal.”

“We were really focusing on our journey this season and relationships with each other and our field hockey fundamentals so we weren’t so game-focused or oriented towards the end of the season,” said Hoover.  “We wanted to enjoy the time we get to spend together.”

An undefeated regular season and the program’s 16th Commonwealth Conference championship were just two of the accomplishments this season – Trapp also become just third coach in collegiate field hockey history to reach 500 career victories during the Falcons win over Lebanon Valley College in the league finals.

“It was great to reach it with this particular group, but we really tried to downplay it because I don’t think any the girls even knew it was coming,” said Trapp.  “That’s kind of the way we wanted because the focus is on the girls.”

“It couldn’t have been more perfect that her 500th win occurred on the day we won our conference championship,” said Sauder.

This weekend, Trapp will be looking to add a more elusive achievement to her resume – a national championship.  She has led six teams to the NCAA title game, but never taken home the trophy.

However, first the Falcons will have to get past Ursinus in the NCAA semifinals on Nov. 21 at 11 a.m. ET, in South Hadley, Mass.  It will be a rematch of Messiah’s 4-3 win against Ursinus on Sept. 5.

“When we played them the first time, it wasn’t easy – it was a tough game,” said Trapp.  “We played them in the second game of the season and their game is going to be different and our game is going to be different.  It might be like facing a new opponent.”

Salisbury and Tufts will meet in the second semifinal at 2 p.m. ET. The winners will battle for the NCAA Division III Championship on Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. ET.