VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A hard-fought victory deserved a sweet ending, per LIU Post head coach Raenee Savin. So, her team headed toward the nearest Ben & Jerry’s following Friday’s triumph against Merrimack in the national semifinals.
The victory places LIU-Post (21-0) in Sunday’s national title game against Shippensburg. The championship game will be played at Old Dominion University’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex in Norfolk at 1:30 p.m.
“It’s the farthest our program has gone,” Savin said.
Familiarity was part of the mix in Friday’s first national semifinal, played at the USA Field Hockey National Training Center. The two schools finished one-two in final conference standings – LIU-Post first and Merrimack second – and LIU-Post won the single regular-season meeting 4-3 in double overtime.
“We knew it was just going to be one-goal game,” Savin said.
Her Pioneers produced the one goal, a shot from sophomore Keliann Margiotta at 64:15, assisted by Steph Mocerino.
“Steph Mocerino carried it down to top of the circle, with a crossing from right to left and then I scored on the outside post,” Margiotta said. That goal gave LIU-Post a team-record 91 goals in a season.
For Merrimack coach Anne Rounce, whose team was playing in its third consecutive national semifinal, the feeling was frustration. Although perennial post-season contenders, the Raiders (14-6) have yet to advance to the title game.
“It was a well-fought game,” Rounce said. “I think everybody knew going into the game that Post was a great team, and our experience – I think we were hoping it was going to be a factor [but] Post did a great job. They weren’t nervous.”
The job of protecting LIU Post’s one-goal lead fell to junior Lyn-Marie Wilson, who kept the ball off Merrimack sticks for the final minutes.
“We are very good at it,” Savin said of running out the game clock. “We give [Wilson] the ball and put her in the corner and it just frustrates the heck out of teams. Literally, for three minutes we gave her the ball and she kept it. The other team gets so frustrated they poke the ball away – we get it back and everybody knows she’s going to do it and they can’t take it away from her.”
Merrimack did silence LIU Post senior Carlee Dragon, the NE-10 Conference player of the year who has rewritten most of the Pioneers’ offensive records.
“We adjusted to kind of eliminate Dragon and Dragon didn’t kill us today,” Rounce said. “We made adjustments for them. We just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
This year’s Merrimack squad entered the season having lost four All-Americans and returning many talented but inexperienced freshmen. Rounce said she knew her revamped team had turned a corner after losing 5-1 at NE-10 Conference rival Adelphi on Sept. 14 then drubbing the same team 7-1 at home two weeks later on Sept. 28.
“I think that’s when teams realized, ‘Hey, they’re going to be OK,’” Rounce said. “We like the underdog role. It just didn’t work out for us today.”