Millersville tops Shippensburg for PSAC title, bid to NCAA tournament
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. -- Millersville's preseason mantra was "Find a Way." The second-ranked Marauders did just that Saturday by handing No. 1 Shippensburg its first loss of the season by a 1-0 score and capturing the program's first PSAC championship since 1986.
Junior Rachel Dickinson scored on a penalty stroke with 23:41 left in the game, and a gutsy defensive effort led by tournament most outstanding player Lauren Sotzin made the 1-0 lead stand. Millersville, which improved to 18-2, set a school record for wins in a season, and won the PSAC title for the third time. Shippensburg (18-1) stood as the No. 1-ranked team from nearly the start of the season to the finish, but Millersville dealt the Raiders their first loss at home since the 2011 NCAA quarterfinals and goalkeeper Carenna Neely's first loss 28 career decisions.
Sotzin's 10th shutout of the season set a school record, which was set by Angela Lutz in 1992. Millersville has now defeated Shippensburg in each of the last two PSAC tournaments -- both by shutout.
I'm going to need a couple of days for this to sink in," sixth-year head coach Shelly Behrens said. "I'm so proud of our kids. I'm so proud of what they were able to do this season -- sticking together and believing in each other. What a great day for Millersville field hockey."
One day after West Chester posted 16 shots to Millersville's six, Shippensburg recorded 19 shots to Millersville's five. The only number that mattered, though, was the one in Millersville's scoring column and the zero in Shippensburg's. Sotzin, who recorded 20 saves in the two postseason games, stopped 10 against the Raiders, and the defense in front of her blocked numerous others to keep Millersville in winning position. Megan Donlan picked up a defensive save in the first half by blocking a sure Shippensburg goal just in front of the goal line.
"I give all the credit to our kids," Behrens said. "Maybe when things aren't going our way, they just had a great reaction to what's happening; believing and fighting for one another. They've done that all season. They really did find a way today."
Other than Dickinson's stroke, only Lauren Gerhart and Alicia Youtz recorded shots for Millersville, but the team made the most of its opportunities. Just more than nine minutes into the second half, Millersville drew a penalty corner. A shot from Gerhart was saved by Neely but during the ensuing scramble for possession Millersville was awarded a penalty stroke. Dickinson stepped in with the score knotted at 0-0 and buried the ball into the lower left corner of the cage for her seventh goal of the season.
"We knew [Neely] was giving up some rebounds and we thought we could make something happen by just putting the ball on goal," Behrens said. "I told Rachel before the game that if a stroke is called 'it''s yours, take it and stick it.' That's what she did. It was a great penalty stroke."
Clutching a 1-0 lead, Millersville withstood a relentless Shippensburg attack during the final 20 minutes. The Raiders fired 13 shots after Millersville's score, and Sotzin denied all six placed on goal. Shippensburg's final rush came with four minutes to go on a penalty corner and shot from Lucinda Kauffman, but it was blocked by a defender. Millersville pushed the ball forward into its offensive zone and secured the win by maintaining possession for more than a minute.
"[Saturday] they were definite, they attacked it and believed they could beat a very good team," Behrens said. "Shippensburg is a very good team."