Dec. 3, 2010

By Mark Bendics

LOUISVILLE, Ky. − For the first time in five years, there will be a new champion in Division II field hockey.

The Bloomsburg Huskies, winners of the past four and seven of the last eight NCAA titles, were beaten in the semifinals by Shippensburg. With the win, the Raiders are now in the finals for the first time in school history after losing in their five previous semifinal appearances. They will face Massachusetts-Lowell in the championship game at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Trager Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville as part of the Division II National Championships Festival.

We want it,” said Shippensburg sophomore Taylor Jones. We have never played (Massachusetts-Lowell) before, but they are undefeated so we know they are a really good team. We are going to have to play hard, but if we can play like we did (in the semifinals against Bloomsburg), I think well win.”

With its win Thursday, Shippensburg set a school record with its 21st victory against only one loss. The Raiders are led on offense by freshman forward Bre White, who has 42 points on 16 goals and 10 assists, and sophomore forward Kristina Taylor who has 40 points on 19 goals and two assists. Senior defender Kristen Brooks, winner of the Elite 88 Award, leads a defense that has allowed an average of less than a goal per game.

By contrast, their opponent - Massachusetts-Lowell - is in its sixth national championship game, but the River Hawks have won the title only once, in 2005. However, the River Hawks have had their season end in the championship game each of the last three years.

We are going to go out and have fun,” said River Hawks head coach Shannon Hlebichuk. We are 23-0, so regardless of the outcome we have had an amazing season, and I want them to remember the journey. Of course, we are going to do our best to bring home the gold.”

Massachusetts-Lowell, which beat Stonehill 5-1 in the semifinals Thursday, is led by Sammy Macy, who has 75 points on 30 goals and 15 assists; and Katie Enaire, who has 69 points on 30 goals and nine assists. Freshman goalie Melanie Hopkins has only allowed eight goals all season and has a 0.36 goals against average.

The Saturday weather forecast for Louisville includes snow, which could affect the game.

If the weather report is correct and we get some snow, the tougher team is going to be the one that has the advantage,” Hlebichuk said. The surface is fast and slick, so whoever has the most toughness on the ball and can finish their opportunities will win.”

Although there is not much familiarity between the two teams, there is definitely mutual respect.

Shannon (Hlebichuk) and I have talked about playing each other, but we havent yet so we really dont know much about them,” Shippensburg coach Bertie Landes said. They are a very good team, and an excellent passing team. We will have to be at our best on Saturday if we are going to beat them, but well be ready.”