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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | August 31, 2018

These questions will be answered in the 2018 DII field hockey season

2017 DII Field Hockey: Championship Recap

It was more of the same in 2017 for DII field hockey. Shippensburg met LIU Post in the national championship for the second straight season, and once again the Red Raiders rose victorious.

The preseason top 10 has been released, with Shippensburg leading the pack. Looking to become the first team to win three championships in a row since Bloomsburg’s legendary seven-title run in eight years from 2002-09, there is plenty to watch in the coming season. How will it all play out? To answer that question, we’ll have to answer these during the 2018 season.

COMPLETE PRESEASON POLL

Will it be three in a row for The Ship?

Last season, there was a changing of the guard in Shippensburg. Head coach Bertie Landes retired in high fashion, winning her second championship in four years. Landes then handed the reigns to Tara Zollinger, who made history becoming the first person to win a DII championship in their first year as head coach.

MORE: Shippensburg wins second straight title 

Zollinger’s historic debut was helped by an impressive senior class. Gone are three of last year’s top four scorers in Emily Barnard, Mary Spisak, and Brooke Sheibly, but the sign of a power program is the ability to move forward with the players that remain.

The Red Raiders will have plenty of firepower, led by Jazmin Petrantonio who, as a freshman, joined her senior teammates Barnard and Sheilby on the All-American team last year. With two-time All-Tournament goalkeeper Ally Mooney in the cage for one more season, the offense will have one of the best in DII behind them for support. The pieces are there. The championship experience is there. The question is how the new guard will gel, and if the past five seasons have shown us anything, it’s to expect The Ship to have a shot at another title in November.

Is this the year LIU Post finally breaks through?

Simply put, the Pioneers are one of the most dominant programs going in DII right now. LIU Post has made four trips to the final game in the past five years. Despite all the accolades along the way, the Pioneers are still looking for that first national championship.

Head coach Raenee Savin has turned LIU Post into a perennial powerhouse, however, this season they slip in a bit under-the-radar, projected to finish third in their own Northeast-10 conference. But with a lot of key pieces returning, you can expect them to be in contention right to the very end.

There is no question that the Pioneers go as Emily Miller goes. The two-time All American is coming off an outstanding 40-goal season. Rachel Vellis had a sensational freshman season in the cage and looks to improve in her sophomore campaign. Speaking of power freshman, Sammy Bell was dominant from the mid, scoring 13 goals and assisting on 11 other last season.

Though some faces will change in the lineup, there is still plenty of returning power hungry to atone the past shortcomings. The same can be said for Savin, who has spent half her life as a Pioneer.

“It would be absolutely amazing for not only myself, but them as well,” Savin told NCAA.com heading into the 2016 postseason. “I went to school there, I met my husband there, now my daughter runs around like she owns the place. It’s truly a family affair. I couldn’t do my job well if I didn’t love it so much. I love these girls, and we truly are a family.” 

What can Kacie Smith possibly do next?

Stonehill’s Kacie Smith had an unreal 2017. Let’s break it down, achievement by achievement. All-American? Without question. DII player of the year? Yup. Became the DII record-holder for most goals in a single-season? Check that one off. Led all three divisions in scoring and goals, while leading DII with a school-record 17 assists? Sure, add that on to the resume as well.

MORE: Meet Kacie Smith, closing in on the single greatest season in DII history

The list goes on, but you get the point. Smith’s season was one of the all-time greatest, and now she’s chasing Bloomsburg’s legendary Jamie Vanartsdalen for the few scoring records she didn’t set last season.

Of course, it didn’t go unnoticed as Smith’s Skyhawks are projected to top the NE-10 this season and enter the season ranked No. 6 overall. Smith has quite a bit filling her trophy case, but to end her collegiate career holding the biggest one of them all would be quite the encore to her historic 2017.

How stacked is Millersville?

Eight returning starters. Returning All Americans. The winningest coach in program history.

The Marauders have been a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference perennial contender for more than half a decade, appearing in five of the last six PSAC championship games. They've been to five straight NCAA tournaments making it to the national semifinals last season.

Aliza Miza is the team's lone returning senior and is looking to end her career a four-time All American. Erica Tarsi earned All-American honors leading the team in goals (12) and points (31). Meredith Fagan had a huge freshman year, earning several accolades while anchoring the defense. This team is young in age, but not experience. Shelly Behrens knows how to win, and you can be sure she will get the most out of her players for another exciting run.

Can the NE-10 finally get the title back?

When was the last time a team outside the PSAC won the national championship? You have to go all the way back to 2010 when now-Division I UMass-Lowell won the title. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2001 for the last active member of the NE-10 to win a title, with Bentley winning it all that season.

The PSAC is once again loaded with talent, as Shippensburg, East Stroudsburg, Millersville, and West Chester dominate the top 5, representing the last four champions in DII field hockey. But the NE-10 is heavy at the top this year, as indicated by LIU Post earning a preseason No. 3 ranking in their own conference. Stonehill, LIU Post, Saint Anselm and Merrimack should all make some noise this year and challenge to bring the trophy back to the northeast.

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