NORFOLK, Va. – Traditionally this season, LIU Post head coach Raenee Savin has treated her players to ice cream after each victory.
She may have done it Sunday, after the Pioneers lost the NCAA Division III national title to Shippensburg 2-1 in overtime.
But no matter how they may have assuaged the loss, chances are that it was done in a positive manner. Defender-midfielder Dani Crouse and forward Keliann Margiotta spoke positively of a return visit to the national semifinals during the post-game press conference.
Six freshman and four sophomores are among next year’s returnees, including goalkeeper Meredith Stocklin, who will be a sophomore. One big loss is senior Carlee Dragon, who leaves LIU Post with her name atop most of the program’s offensive records.
“We have good players coming in,” said Margiotta, one of those sophomores.
Crouse returns for what will be her sophomore year of eligibility. A South African native and a LIU Post graduate student, she scored the Pioneers’ only goal Sunday.
“We took each game one at a time,” Crouse of this season’s run to the title game. “I mean, we are tried and focused each time we have different game structure, different tactic each game. Great coaching decisions and you start talking that everyday – we’re doing what we’re told and hammering the wing.”
Sunday’s game marked a critical juncture for both LIU Post and Shippensburg. Neither had won a Division II title; LIU Post was making its first semifinal appearance while Shippensburg was making its second title-game appearance.
Someone had to break through, and it was head coach Bertie Landes’ Raiders, who play in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and whose trademark appears to be relentlessness.
“This group of kids was really dedicated from the spring,” said Landes, who completed her 15th year at Shippensburg on Sunday.
“They were talking PSAC championship and national championship, and the one unique thing about this team is that they always wanted to get better. Every practice every game – ‘How can we get better? What can we do? What do we need to do to reach that next level?’
“And they weren’t going to be denied.”
That extreme team dedication was a factor in overtime.
“Overtime is all about possession of the ball and we faltered a little bit on defensive opportunities,” Landes said. “Our forte is passing. Our team wants to make their teammates look good and that’s one of our strengths, and we eliminate other teams through passing.”
Senior forward Bre White did the eliminating on Sunday. Her penalty-stroke goal at 75:31 not only dismissed the Pioneers, it gave her program and her head coach a first NCAA Division II title.
“We are a team like no team ever, and I just love all my teammates,” White said. “And it just means so much to me, my teammates and my coach – and this is all for her.”