If you check out the box score or read a recap of the Marauders field hockey team’s devastating loss in the PSAC championship game to West Chester University, you might find yourself wondering what went wrong.
Head coach and PSAC Coach of the Year in 2014 (and 2013 and 2012…) Shelly Behrens has a simple answer for that.
While the 3-0 loss on Saturday may have spoiled the Marauders chances at being named PSAC Champion, Behrens couldn’t be more proud of what her team has done this season.
“We [were] competing for a PSAC Championship on the road with less than 24 hours rest having just played a really great game against Shippensburg in the semi-final the night before,” said Behrens. “I would of liked to have seen us do some things better… but I am proud of our team for making the PSAC Tournament and making it back to the Championship game. Most teams maybe never get this experience and I feel our squad earned this opportunity.”
The Marauders did indeed earn their spot in the championship game Saturday afternoon. Following up on last year’s 16-2 regular season record and subsequent PSAC title, the Marauders decided 16-2 was a good look, finishing with the second best record in the conference for the second consecutive year.
After ending the season on a five game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents 13-1, the Marauders, led by senior goalkeeper Lauren Sotzin once again managed to hold their opponent scoreless in the semi-finals over Shippensburg. The 2-0 victory on Friday left the Marauders with little time for rest, relaxation and preparation for the championship game against the conference’s best offense in the Golden Rams.
The Rams started Saturday’s game off by showing just how vicious their attack could be, even against a team who recorded 12 regular season shutouts. Just past the seven-minute mark, West Chester’s Marnie Kusavitch took a pass from Rachal Toppi and tapped it past Sotzin to get the scoring started.
From there, the Golden Rams never looked back, holding off the Marauders attack all game.
As the first half wound to a close, it appeared as though the Marauders would enter the second half down with a very manageable one-goal deficit. However with less than a minute to go, the Golden Rams managed to pad their lead when Alayna Brown tipped a shot into the net for her ninth goal on the year.
A two-goal lead for the Rams, while not insurmountable, would require an extraordinary effort on the Marauders behalf. Though the results did not manifest in the second half, the effort was certainly there.
“I loved how our kids played hard and fought the whole match, especially the second half – even earning a penalty corner with no time left,” said Behrens. “I saw a whole new level of something from this team and I like it.”
While the loss ends the team’s bid for a second consecutive PSAC Championship, it does not necessarily spell the end of the season for the Marauders.
Sunday afternoon brings with it the selection show for this year’s NCAA tournament. Behrens and the Marauders are hoping they are given the opportunity once more this season to show what the team can do.
“We nearly have to be perfect to be considered and when you look at what we have done, I am very proud of this team for all they have accomplished to date,” she said. “I am hopeful we have done enough in the regular season to earn the opportunity for NCAA play.”
Despite the senior status and impending loss of key players including leading scorer Katelyn Zapp, 2014 PSAC Defensive Player of the Year Rachel Dickinson and first team All-PSAC players Sotzin and Sarah Bomberger—among others—Behrens prefers to think about the immediate future, not those who are departing.
“Well we still have some Field Hockey to play – so I prefer to focus on who we are and not we are not,” she said. “We are not a team of 1 or 2 standouts, we have some great balance on this squad and a number of people who can and do step up. I think the team gets the recognition. No one person defines us.”
When asked what she and the team would change about their approach for the NCAA tournament if selected, Behrens decided to once again keep it simple, echoing her earlier statement.