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Denise Maloof | | November 22, 2013

New faces to vie for DII title

Millersville field hockey

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The field is set, the trophy awaits and the 2013 NCAA Division II Field Hockey championship is at hand.

Four teams — Shippensburg, Merrimack, LIU-Post and Millersville — will vie for their first Division II title this weekend.

It’s a refreshing lineup that includes the tournament’s two top seeds, a surprise third seed and the anticipation of a new champion. Two-time and defending Division II champion West Chester saw its bid for a third consecutive title derailed in last Saturday’s quarterfinal loss at Millersville.

History marked by dominant coaches
So, mark your calendars for separate venues. Up first is the Virginia Beach Sportsplex and National Training Center in Virginia Beach, Va., which hosts Friday’s national semifinals.  The L.R. Hill Sports Complex in Norfolk, Va., hosts Sunday’s national title game.

Merrimack and LIU-Post square off in Friday’s first semifinal (12:30 p.m. ET) while Millersville meets Shippensburg in the second semifinal (3:30 p.m.).  Winners advance to Sunday’s final in Norfolk (1:15 p.m.).

Both LIU-Post and Shippensburg earned quarterfinal byes when the six-team NCAA field was announced Nov. 11.  LIU-Post (20-0) is the North Region’s top seed. Shippensburg (18-1) is the South Region’s top seed.

Merrimack (14-5) is the North Region’s third seed. The Warriors defeated second-seeded Stonehill 4-3 on the road in overtime last Saturday.

Millersville (19-2) is the South Region’s second seed; the Marauders beat third-seeded West Chester 1-0 in last Saturday’s other quarterfinal. Friday’s semifinal match with Shippensburg also marks their first national semifinal appearance.

Millersville does have one prior semifinal appearance as the 1985 Division runner-up to Trenton State. It also has more championship experience in the form of head coach Shelly Behrens, who was a goalkeeper on Old Dominion University’s 1984 national championship team. Old Dominion is in Norfolk; the Division II semifinals and final are hosted by the Central Collegiate Athletic Conference.

“For me, on a personal note, to be able to return back to my alma mater and toast in the championships with Old Dominion is special,” Behrens said. “We'll play anyone anywhere anytime. It happens to be Shippensburg, and we look forward to the opportunity to play them.”

The Millersville-Shippensburg national semifinal game is a clash of Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference rivals and current Division II field hockey powers.

Shippensburg and Millersville were ranked first and second, respectively, in the most recent National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll (Nov. 5), and Millersville beat Shippensburg 1-0 in the PSAC tournament title game on Nov. 9.

Earlier this season, roles reversed; Shippensburg beat Millersville 1-0 on Oct. 12.

But, expect another tough match Friday. The Shippensburg Raiders were the 2010 runners-up to national champion UMass-Lowell and have additional national semifinal appearances in 2003, ’05, ’09 and 2012.

Friday’s first semifinal between Merrimack and LIU-Post also features top-10-ranked teams.  LIU-Post is No. 3 in the Nov. 5 NFHCA poll; Merrimack is No. 7.  The Merrimack Raiders’ quarterfinal upset of Stonehill came in dramatic fashion, with senior Jessica Otis scoring on a penalty corner during the first overtime period.

“This is a special team and I couldn't be more proud of these girls,” Merrimack head coach Anne Rounce said post-game.

Her Raiders are making their third consecutive national semifinal appearance.

The undefeated LIU-Post Pioneers are the reigning Northeast-10 Conference champions.