NORFOLK, Va. – Sunday’s NCAA Division II field hockey national championship is a battle of the 2013 tournament’s top two seeds. It also matches two teams seeking a first NCAA title and all the potential significance of that accomplishment.
LIU Post (21-0) and Shippensburg (19-1) meet at 1:15 p.m. Sunday at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex in Norfolk, Va.Both earned byes into Friday’s national semifinals at the USA Field Hockey National Training Center in Virginia Beach. Both emerged victorious – LIU-Post beating Northeast 10 Conference rival Merrimack 1-0 and Shippensburg beating Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference rival Millersville 4-1.
So the matchup of top NCAA tournament seeds is set – LIU-Post first in the North Region and Shippensburg seeded first in the South Region.
With the national-semifinal hurdle cleared, both look to scale the ultimate bar.
“This is the first of two games you have to prepare for,” Shippensburg head coach Bertie Landes said of Friday’s victory. “You have the play the first game and then you play the second game... so many of our teams have been so close.”
“I felt it day one,” LIU-Post head coach Raenee Savin said of the possibility of her squad being title material. “I didn’t tell them that. But I know we had a great chemistry.”
Savin cites one secret weapon and one not-so-secret as contributors to this season’s title run. The secret weapon is ice cream after each victory. Chocolate is the flavor of choice; imagine the caloric splurge if the Pioneers win their first NCAA title.
“Most coaches put their teams on diets,” Savin said. “I bring mine ice cream.”
The not-so-secret weapon is newcomer Dani Crouse, the South African-native graduate student who fills a midfielder-defender role. Savin said Crouse’s experience and ability have strengthened LIU Post on both sides.
“She carries the ball up through the middle of the field, shoots, plays offense and defense,” Savin said. “She’s brought a lot of strength to us. She’s raised the bar.”
Sophomore Keliann Margiotta, who scored the Pioneers’ lone goal against Merrimack, knows Sunday’s title game will require everyone on the roster, plus, “heart, dedication, communication.”
“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Margiotta added, exactly the attitude Savin fosters.
“They don’t play for the accolades,” Savin said. “They don’t, that’s the amazing thing about this team. When they did earn post-season honors, they credited their teammates.”
Shippensburg enters Sunday’s national final with a similar attitude. Landes knows her team is special, too. When pressed for definition, she mentions her nine seniors.
“We don’t have a hierarchy,” she said. “They don’t care.”
The Raiders do care about their predecessors.
“We’re playing for everybody,” senior Bre White said. “All the alumni who came through and got so far and haven’t been able to get the win for Shippensburg.”
The matchup with LIU Post won’t be the first meeting for the teams. They were PSAC conference foes before LIU Post’s move to the NE-10 prior to this season.
“We’re familiar with their style of play,” Landes said. “It’s going to be a great, great game and we’re looking forward to it.”
Shippensburg has played in one NCAA Division II title game, losing to eventual 2010 champion Massachusetts-Lowell. This is LIU- Post’s first national championship game.
“If we go out on a good note and we play our best game, I’m going to feel good about my career,” Shippensburg’s White said.