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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | September 11, 2019

3 reasons Shippensburg can win its fourth-straight DII field hockey title

Shippensburg wins DII field hockey national championship

The last three DII field hockey seasons have all ended the same way. Shippensburg has risen to champion every season since 2016 and now stand on the precipice of history. Should the Raiders win once again in 2019, they'll tie Bloomsburg's all-time mark of four championships in a row, a run the Huskies accomplished twice.

We already took a look at the top three contenders that could end the Raiders remarkable run. Now, let's shift our attention to the reigning champs, and see why it is entirely possible that Shippensburg ties Bloomsburg's historic mark with its fourth-straight national title in 2019. 

CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS: 3 teams that can end Shippensburg's run

Raiders head coach Tara Zollinger hasn't really experienced losing

Former head coach Bertie Landes ended her career right. She picked up her 486th career win — second-most all-time in DII history — while grabbing her second national championship in four years. She walked off into the sunset after that 2016 season, handing the reigns to Tara Zollinger as the new commander of The Ship. 

Zollinger is now 36-8 after her first two seasons with the Raiders, both of which have ended with a national championship. What the Raiders have done in the DII field hockey championship tournaments in both seasons have been nothing short of remarkable. In 2017 as the No. 3 seed, the Raiders blew past the competition, outscoring their three opponents 12-3. It was more of the same in 2018, going 3-0 while posting two shutouts.

The one thing Zollinger's teams seemingly can't figure out is West Chester in the PSAC tournament. The Golden Rams have bumped Shippensburg from the conference tournament the past two seasons, last year in the championship game. So, while Zollinger is looking to stay perfect in the DII field hockey championship, she is still searching for that elusive PSAC tournament crown.

HISTORY: Programs with the most titles in DII field hockey 

Jazmin Petrantonio may be the best player in DII

No surprise here. Petrantonio enters 2019 the reigning NFHCA player of the year for DII and deservingly so. That comes one year after her dominant 2017 debut season when she took home the NFHCA Atlantic Region player of the year and PSAC freshman of the year honors. 

Simply put, Petrantonio is already great, and only getting better. She scored 28 goals last season, second to only Stonehill's Kacie Smith who happens to be one of DII field hockey's most prolific scorers of all time. Thirteen of her 40 career goals have been game-winners, so Petrantonio doesn't fear the enormous spotlight that will shine on her in 2019. 

Championship experience returns to Shippensburg

Petrantonio isn't alone on the field. The Raiders had three All-Americans in 2018 — Petrantonio, defender Mikayla Cheney, and forward Jenna Sluymer — and all three are back. Senior defender Rosalio Cappadora will return to anchor the defense after starting all 23 games a year ago earning All-Tournament honors in the DII field hockey championship.

Shippenburg's top five goal scorers — who combined for 62 of the team's 79 goals — are back, including Emily Stauffer who scored the game-winner in overtime against East Stroudsburg in the 2018 championship match. The Raiders may struggle a bit with the loss of goalkeeper Ally Mooney who went 57-11 over the three-title run, but the defense is strong enough, and offense powerful enough, to work through the changes in net.

Winning four in a row won't be easy. But if there's a team that has everything lined up to pull it off, Shippensburg is it.

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