Dec. 3, 2010

Courtesy of Dan Pickle

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It might not have been wrapped, but it was the best birthday gift Shippensburg field hockey coach Bertie Landes has ever received.

The gift came in the form of a 1-0 semifinal victory over Bloomsburg on Thursday in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Field Hockey Championship.

"We knew coming into the season that we were going to be young because we lost seven seniors from last year's team," said Shippensburg sophomore Ashley Taylor, who led the team in a resounding rendition of "Happy Birthday" after the game. "However, during the preseason we got together and decided that we were going to do this for Coach. We are like her children and she would do anything for us."

It is the first time in program history that Shippensburg has advanced to the national championship game, ending a streak of five losses in five previous NCAA semifinal appearances. The Raiders set a school record with their 21st win and will face the Massachusetts-Lowell at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday in the national championship game.

Shippensburg out-cornered the Huskies 10-1 in a scoreless first half, but the Raiders made sure they wouldn't waste another one. In the first penalty corner of the second half, Emily Kohlbus sent the ball in to Taylor, who played it to left to Taylor Jones, who fired a shot that was tipped in by Sam Langone for the game's only goal.

"Our game plan was just to pass the ball and play as a team," said Landes. "In the first half we got away from it, but we still had some opportunities. In the second half, we really played together and it was just great to see."

Although Shippensburg outshot Bloomsburg 9-1 in the first half, only one of the shots was on goal and the Huskies managed to control most of the possession. In the second half, Shippensburg managed only one shot - the one that counted - but was able to establish more possession.

"At halftime, Coach talked to us about we still have a new half and that it was still a zero-zero game," said Jones. "The first half is in the past and we need to go out and play aggressively. Don't let them beat us to the ball, be aggressive and just go to goal."

Bloomsburg, winner of four straight national titles, ended the season with a 19-3 record.

"It was a great game," said Bloomsburg head coach Nikki Rhoads. "Shippensburg played a phenomenal game. We played pretty well, but it wasn't one of our best games. You need to give credit to Ship. They finished and we didn't."