The 2015 Division II field hockey championship semifinals in Bloomsburg, Penn. feature four teams that stand in the top-five in the country in goals per game.
The nation’s leading scorer, Erika Kelly of Stonehill -- the top-scoring team in Division II -- has 61 points and 25 goals this season. Kelly’s 217 points and 98 goals are good for the active career lead amongst DII in both categories.
Kelly’s teammate Sarah Morse matched her assist total with 11 this season. The duo has the second and third best nationwide assist average respectively.
Stonehill was selected to earn a bye to the semifinals and awaited the winner of the game between Merrimack and Adelphi. A dependable effort from goalkeeper Madison Davis and two goals from Rylie Hammond pushed the Warriors to a 2-1 overtime victory.
Davis was tested early and often in the matchup with Adelphi and finished the game with nine saves. The game propelled her to the second-best save percentage in the country, .815.
Hammond is second on the team to Mary McNeil in total scoring. McNeil has 14 goals this season to Hammond’s 13, but none were as big as Hammond’s overtime winner against Adelphi.
The McNeil-Hammond combo doesn’t put up the same big numbers as Stonehill’s offensive duo, but paired with a staunch defensive effort and ability to control the ball, the pair pose a true threat to Stonehill keeper Sara Freedman.
In the other first round matchup, it took the nation’s second-best offense to get by Sara Rumler and defending champion Millersville. West Chester’s leading-scorer Rachel Toppi put the overtime winner past Rumler to book the Golden Rams a date with East Stroudsburg in the semifinals.
Rumler and the Marauder defense provided perhaps the biggest threat among the final six teams allowing less than a half a goal per game – and to answer your question: No. There is no such a thing as a half goal in field hockey; Millersville was just that good.
Millersville’s 0.45 goals allowed per contest was the best mark in the country and now West Chester must contend with second-best GAA in DII and East Stroudsburg.
West Chester is the beneficiary of two Division I transfers in the backfield. Sophomore Mackenzie Mlkvy is in her first season with the Rams after a year at Kent State. Junior Giuliana Antignani also came from Kent State, but was on West Chester’s roster in 2014.
The Rams’ opponent in goal on Friday will more than likely be Danielle Ard. Ard was second to Rumler in GAA and is one of only three keepers in DII to allow less than one goal per contest.
Both teams have the ability to really take it to the other team. East Stroudsburg and West Chester are the only two teams in the country that boast a scoring margin greater than two goals.
If the first round of the 2015 championship is any indication -- the bracket already features two overtime games – the forecast for the three games at Steph Petit Stadium calls for nail biters, overtime thrillers and perhaps even a sudden death stroke off and regular season scoring margin will be a distant memory.