Raiders field hockey: Perfect season brings national title

A perfect season without a single loss earned the Shippensburg Raiders Field Hockey team another national championship title over the weekend. SU completed the perfect season Sunday with 3-0 win over West Chester.

The No. 1 Shippensburg University field hockey team scored three goals in the first eight minutes Sunday to claim its sixth national championship in school history. The Raiders defeated No. 3 West Chester in the 2021 NCAA Division II Championship Game at Millersville University’s Chryst Field at Biemesderfer Stadium.

READ: Raiders field hockey: Freshman from Amsterdam scores winning goal

First totally undefeated season

Shippensburg (20-0) achieved its first undefeated season in the NCAA era (1980-present) and first since an 11-0-2 campaign in 1977. SU has now won 11 consecutive NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2016; including eight straight under fifth-year head coach Tara Zollinger.

“I’d like to congratulate West Chester on a terrific season; and I’d like to congratulate our team, and our leadership group from our senior class who made a decision at the end of our last season that they were going to do everything in their power to make the adjustments that we needed to make to bring the national championship home to Shippensburg,” Zollinger said.

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Sunday’s historic victory made Shippensburg the first team to win a national championship with an undefeated record since 2010 (Massachusetts Lowell, 24-0). They are also the first team to win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship and the NCAA Division II National Championship in the same season since the 2015 East Stroudsburg Warriors.

“One game at a time has been a mantra of this program since the 2016 Championship season,” Zollinger said. “That was something that one of the alums, Taylor Fisher, established; and it’s just been passed down from team to team. This team is going to focus on the game in front of us, because that’s the most important game. I know everybody knew what our record was, but we weren’t talking about it. We weren’t focusing on it. We were focusing on what we needed to do; and what adjustments we needed to make in order to play the game that was right in front of us.”

READ: PSAC’s top teams face off in nationals

A fast start: ‘All the difference’

Shippensburg’s fast start was all the difference in Sunday’s national championship. Senior Jenna Sluymer (Nieuw-Vennep, The Netherlands/Haarlemmermeer Lyceum, Hoofddorp) slammed home her own rebound, giving SU a 1-0 lead less than 90 seconds into the match.

Five minutes later, senior Jazmin Petrantonio (Saenz Pena, Argentina/Colegio Nuestra Senora de la Misericordia) rocketed home a corner entry from graduate Caitlyn Wink (Princess Anne, Md./Delmar) to make it 2-0. Less than two minutes later a diving reverse hit from freshman Valu Paul (Buenos Aires, Argentina/Instituto La Salle Florida) made it 3-0 in the blink of an eye.

“In those opening moments of the game, we were playing SHIP Hockey; we’re passing, we’re moving, we’ve got our eyes off the ball and we’re finishing in the circle,” Zollinger said. “These are all things that were part of our gameplan. So, the goal itself absolutely gave us the energy in the opening moments. But how that goal was scored gave us, I think, even more confidence for the remainder of the game.”

West Chester (17-5) came up short in the national championship game for the first time in its history. The Golden Rams were 3-0 in NCAA Division II championship games entering Sunday; and 7-0 overall spanning its timeframe prior to reclassification.

READ: SU field hockey: PSAC title claimed by Raiders

The season

Only six teams scored goals against Shippensburg this season; and only three of those teams scored multiple goals in a game. West Chester scored three goals in the second game of the season, and Coker and Queens (N.C.) each scored twice.

None was enough to rob the Raiders of their perfect season.

Since the Sept. 26 match against Queens (N.C.) no opponent scored more than one goal in a game against Shippensburg. That covered a span of 14 games.

“Every game and every practice after that, we worked super hard on the basics and just keeping our mindset right and being present,” Wink said. “Everybody really bought into that and agreed, ‘This is not our best, and how can we get to our best?’”

READ: Shippensburg field hockey rallies for win

Senior class leadership

“There was a moment when the senior class refocused and all came together and decided, ‘We’re going to make changes,’” Zollinger said. “It was something that Jaz said in a circle that we had. She said we’re either going to all win together, or we’re all going to lose together. I think the leadership of the senior class is truly why the team reached that mindset.”

Shippensburg’s 12-person senior class includes players who debuted in either 2017 or 2018. Dating back to the start of the 2017 season, Shippensburg’s seniors combined to post a 68-14 record and claim multiple national championships.

Wink, Petrantonio, Sluymer, Sarah Womer (Churchville, Pa./Council Rock South), Adrienne McGarrigle (Lititz, Pa./Warwick), Anna Gruber (Silver Spring, Md./Paint Branch), Jody Boyer (Lewes, Del./Cape Henlopen), Kalah Williams (Easton, Pa./Easton Area), Meg Thompson (Ellicott City, Md./Centennial), Maddie Reuther (West Chester, Pa./B. Reed Henderson), Lauren Loperfido (Columbia, Pa./Hempfield) and graduate transfer Tori Albright (Landisburg, Pa./West Perry (UConn) make up the class.

“To see who they have grown into and the relationships that they built, I know that at the end of the day, they’re going to have each other no matter what,” Zollinger said of her seniors. “And it’s really, really special. This senior class will always hold a really special place in my heart professionally and personally, and I’m so grateful to be someone in their corner for the rest of their lives too.”

Notes:

  • Shippensburg is 16-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and has won five NCAA Division II national titles: 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2021.
  • Shippensburg’s first national championship in school history came in 1979, when the Raiders claimed the AIAW Division III national championship by
  • Sunday’s game was the first time that Shippensburg and West Chester faced each other in the NCAA Division II National Championship game. It was just the second time since 1998 that two teams from the PSAC faced each other for the national championship (SHIP defeated ESU in 2018).
  • Sunday was the fourth meeting between the two teams in NCAA Division II Tournament history, with West Chester holding a 2-1 edge all-time. The two teams last met in the 2018 national semifinals in Pittsburgh, a game claimed by the Raiders, 4-0.
  • It was also the fourth meeting of the season between the two teams. SU won the three previous meetings this season: 4-3 at West Chester on Sept. 11, 4-0 at Shippensburg on Oct. 5, and 3-1 on Nov. 7 in the PSAC Championship game.
  • Overall, this is Shippensburg’s fifth undefeated season from 1960-present (also 5-0-3 in 1971, 7-0 in 1968, 5-0-1 in 1967).
  • Shippensburg senior Jazmin Petrantonio concludes her historic career with 106 career goals, third-most in NCAA Division II history. Among Petrantonio’s many records is scoring more goals than any other player in the history of the NCAA Division II Field Hockey Championships: 10 in eight career NCAA Tournament games.
  • Sunday’s game was a perfect end to a perfect season

Photos by Bill Smith/Shippensburg University


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