NORFOLK, Va. – It was heartbreak and exultation all at once Sunday in the NCAA Division II national title game.
A shot by Shippensburg’s Bre White evaded LIU Post goalkeeper Meredith Stocklin in overtime, propelling the Raiders not only to their first national championship in field hockey, but their first in any sport.“You always dream of a national championship and you see everyone celebrating in other sports and it’s unreal,” Shippensburg head coach Bertie Landes said.
“It’s like the best thing ever,” White said. “I’m just so proud of my team.”
Sunday’s Division II title match – played at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex in Norfolk, Va., before a crowd of 1,477 – was the first since 2005 to be decided by overtime.
Both teams were playing for their first national championship. Shippensburg (20-1), the 2010 Division II runner-up, was making its second title-game appearance. LIU-Post (21-1) made its title-game debut.
The Pioneers could only rue what might have been as the Raiders celebrated. Sunday’s loss was the first this season for LIU Post.
“I’m so proud of everything of this team has accomplished,” head coach Raenee Savid said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to make it. I had a great group of girls and they deserved to be here.”
An early goal by Shippensburg’s Taylor Bender at 11:07 looked as if it had staying power. LIU Post didn’t break through offensively until Dani Crouse’s unassisted score at 67:04. Both teams hung on defensively to send the game to overtime, and both recorded a shot in the extra session – Bender again at 67L55 and LIU Post’s Keliann Margiotta at 69:00.
“I don’t know why we wanted to keep it so interesting,” Shippensburg defender Katie Shoop said. “I had a million heart attacks today. We let that one in [Crouse’s goal], but we had to start fresh at 1-1 and we did it.”
Enter White, whose initial shot on goal banked off another player, earning the penalty stroke.
“When I went to take the stroke, I just kind of focused and didn’t think that it was the game winner and just took the shot,” White said.
But she didn’t have time to celebrate. After slinging away her stick and dropping to her knees, she thought better of it, seeing her teammates pour toward her.
“I went down for a moment and then I thought, ‘Well, I better get back up or I’m not going to be able to breathe,’” White said.
Landes, in her 15th year at Shippensburg, had a different view.
“’Did it really happen?’” she said of her first reaction. “It’s a flashback from a coach when you get as old as I am to all the players that you had, that had the opportunity and didn’t get it.”
The flashback got very detailed, with Landes citing the support of superiors, assistant coaches and former players..
"That all goes through your head,” she said. “All the people that surround you and support you and make you able to do this.”
LIU Post players, meanwhile, were mining their disappointment.
“We gave it absolutely everything,” Crouse said. “We’ve never played with more heart and passion.”
“We’re just going to take this game as the first step to next season,” Margiotta said.
Savin, who admitted she wished her team had been more assertive on offense, still could offer only praise.
“Championship games should be close like this and we knew it was going to be a close game,” she said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t the result we were hoping fur, but my girls played a great game.”