The 2018 DII field hockey season closed in similar fashion to the previous two years. Shippensburg hoisted the national championship trophy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, marking the third-consecutive national title for the Raiders.
While Shippensburg opens its season on Sept. 7 on a quest to tie Bloomsburg with the longest championship run — the Huskies won four in a row on two separate occasions — everyone else opens the season looking to end that streak. Here's a look at three teams that could stop the Raiders national championship monopoly in DII field hockey.
West Chester — 2018 finish: 17-3, national semifinals
The Golden Rams had a big 2018 campaign, romping through the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference with a 9-1 regular-season record. After earning a first-round bye in the DII field hockey championship by defeating the Raiders in the PSAC championship, West Chester's season came to an end as so many other's have: a loss in the national semifinals to Shippensburg.
The Golden Rams lose a big piece of the offense in Kaitlin Hatch but return plenty of firepower that makes them immediate contenders for the 2019 crown. Forward Katie Thompson — who lead the team in goals (19), assists (eight), and points (46) in 2018 — returns as does mids Caitlin Kelly (19 points in 2018) and Emma Velez (13 points in 2018), the three of which combined to make 59 of 60 starts.
Where West Chester may struggle is in goal with three fresh keepers on the roster this year. Luckily, the Rams return two capable backs in Caitie McNamara — a PSAC first-teamer a year ago — and Marre Corver to help the transition. This team has already proved it can beat Shippensburg in a big game, so West Chester may be the biggest threat in the bunch.
FULL 2019 RANKINGS: NHFCA preseason poll
Millersville — 2018 finish: 14-6, PSAC semifinals
The more popular pick here may be East Stroudsburg which earned a first-round bye in the DII field hockey championship and finished as national runners-up. But the Warriors lose a lot from that team and Millersville is the polar opposite.
The Marauders return four of the top five scorers from a year ago. Forward Erica Tarsi led the team in goals and points (14 and 34, respectively) while Sol Ortiz-Kreiner was tops in assists with nine. Forwards Kyra Brakefield and Emma Boutcher are also back to help the offensive charge, but this team goes deep in experience. Jordan Goddard and Meredith Fagan are back on defense, while Millersville returns not one, but two goalkeepers from 2018 in Autumn Peters and Katie Baker.
Millersville opens its season Sept. 5 at home against a Pace team that reached the NCAA tournament a year ago. Six days later, the Marauders hit the road for their first away game of the season in Shippensburg. Those opening games will be a big test to see where Millersville stands.
Saint Anselm — 2018 finish: 15-7, first-round NCAA tournament
It can't be a total PSAC party all the time, right? The last team to win the DII field hockey championship from the NE10 was UMass Lowell back in 2010, which was also the last undefeated season. The Hawks will have a tough time in the Northeast-10 with a Pace team coming off a historic season in which it racked up 18 wins, the second most in DII last season.
Both teams lose some very big pieces, but Saint Anselm returns a few more key players that give it the slight edge. Though Abby Walker and Maddie Bressler are gone, Carly LaCasse, Hannah Potter, and Hannah Friend return and showed plenty capable of leading an offense last season. The Hawks have an experienced backline as well, with senior backs Kaeleigh Lord and Amanda Desimone holding things down in front of keeper Julia Hand who went 13-7 with three shutouts a year ago.
The Hawks won't face a ranked team until Oct. 9 when they travel to Stonehill. Three days later, Pace comes to town. This will be the toughest swing of the season for the Hawks, but if they come out ahead, Saint Anselm will be in the NE10 driver's seat.