Nov. 19, 2009

By Bob Birge
Special to

Saturday’s Division III national semifinal between top-ranked Messiah and No. 3 Ursinus is a rematch of the 2006 championship game.

Three years ago, Ursinus overcame a No. 8 seed – the lowest in the tournament – to capture its first – and only – field hockey crown with a 3-2 victory over Messiah.

Current Messiah goaltender Ashley Mowery started that game as a freshman and recorded seven saves.

Ursinus is making its fourth appearance in the final four under 11th-year coach Laura

Moliken, who won three national titles as a player at Division I Old Dominion from 1989-92.

THEY’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE – Three of last year’s final four participants – Messiah, Ursinus and Tufts – made it back to the national semifinals.

Bowdoin, last season’s other final four team, was replaced by Salisbury. The Sea Gulls have four national titles – most among this year’s final four clubs – but that is still five shy of the Division III record of nine held by the College of New Jersey.

Bowdoin, the defending two-time national champions, began the year ranked No. 1 in Division III, but the Polar Bears struggled through an up-and-down 10-6 season and did not even qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Their season ended in stunning fashion, as they surrendered the winning goal with just eight seconds remaining in a 2-1 loss to Trinity in the semifinals of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament.

ROAD TO SOUTH HADLEY – Messiah faced the toughest test to get to the final four, needing overtime to defeat Lebanon Valley, 3-2, in the quarterfinals last Sunday.

Salisbury posted a 3-2 regulation win over SUNY Cortland; Ursinus routed Trinity, 5-1, and Tufts handled Skidmore, 4-1.

Junior Julie Barton scored the game-winner 5 minutes, 31 seconds into overtime for Messiah, which posted its third victory of the season over Lebanon Valley College.

A week earlier, the Falcons defeated Lebanon, 2-1, in the Commonwealth Conference championship game to give coach Jan Trapp her 500th career victory.

STINGY DEFENSE – Tufts entered the NCAA tournament with the best defense in

Division III, allowing only 0.53 goals per game. The Jumbos yielded one goal in each of their two tournament wins.

Sophomore goalkeeper Marianna Zak came into postseason play leading the NCAA with a 0.52 goals-against average.

Although just a junior, Tamara Brown already has established a Tufts’ record for career points with 127.  Brown also is threatening to break the school’s single-season mark of 61 points that she set last year. She has 55 points on 21 goals and 13 assists.

THEY’RE All-STARS – Four players who will be participating in the semifinals were named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division III Senior All-Star Game.

They foursome includes Beverly Beladino and Lauren Correll of Salisbury, along with Mowery and Katie Hunt of Ursinus.

Correll scored her 78th career goal last week against SUNY Cortland, leaving her two away from the school record of 80, set by Jill Cressor from 1999-2002.

The NFHCA All-Star contest will be played Sunday at Mount Holyoke at 9:30 a.m.