The Golden Rams overthrew undefeated Bloomsburg in the NCAA semi-finals with a score of 3-2 after double overtime that was decided by penalty strokes at Bloomsburg on Friday, sending WCU to the National Championships.
With the win, West Chester claimed its first South Region title, and will face the North Region winners, UMass-Lowell, in the National Championships on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Sports Stadium at Bloomsburg University.
The Division II powerhouses played 100 minutes of field hockey with a tied score of 2-2 before the game was sent penalty strokes to decide their fate. West Chester (15-4-1) gained an edge over Bloomsburg (19-0-1) as goalkeeper Kristin Arnold made her biggest save of her career defending her goal from Bloomsburg’s final attempt to take the game.
West Chester held a 27-21 advantage on shots throughout the game and a 19-8 advantage on penalty corners.
“This week’s practice is based off what we have seen from Bloomsburg,” head coach Amy Cohen said. “We try not to worry too much about what another team is going to do, rather how we are going to counter them.”
And that’s exactly the craft the Golden Rams mastered on Friday afternoon against the No. 1 seed.
Bloomsburg’s Brittany Matthews put up the first tally in the 27th minute, coming off the right corner, taking an assist from Sandy Anceravage.
The Golden Rams responded with back-to-back goals with five minutes remaining in the first half to head into halftime with a 2-1 hold over the Huskies. Kayla Gluchowski put the Rams on the board with her 13th goal of the season, taking a shot off a deflection from Michele Schrift.
Schrift then gave West Chester the lead, deflecting a high shot from Carley Buckwalter, putting the Rams up 2-1.
Jenna DiSabatino tied the game in the second half as she sent a shot over the players’ heads into the upper left corner in the 47th minute of play.
The score remained 2-2 throughout regulation and both overtimes, putting the teams’ fate in the hands of their penalty strokes.
West Chester outshot the Huskies by an 8-4 margin in the first 15-minute OT, while the hosts outshot the Golden Rams 7-4 in the second OT.
The Rams held an advantage in the shootout and were awarded a “team” goal, taking an edge over the Huskies with a 3-2 victory.
Senior co-captain, Brynn Adams, made two defensive saves while Schrift and Nancy Stehmen made one.
Stehmen displayed outstanding athletic and academic achievement as she received the Elite 89 award at the 2011 NCAA Division II Field Hockey Championship banquet on Thursday of this week.
She received the award for being an athlete in the NCAA tournament while maintaining a 4.0 cumulative GPA as a second-year student at the university. She was the first WCU student athlete to receive the academic award.
Hollenbach operated as the backbone of Bloomsburg’s team, making 12 saves, which propelled the team to overtime and penalty strokes. But it was still not enough to halt the Golden Rams’ aggressive offense.
Arnold was credited with three saves in the win.
“All season long we’ve expected the best from ourselves every time we step on the field, and this weekend is no different,” Adams said, as Cohen agreed.
“We have had an excellent season from the first day of pre-season,” Cohen said. “When I got here last March, each practice was starting to prepare us for what we would see this season. The team has done an amazing job in learning and growing on and off the field. I am very proud of each and every one of them.”
“This season was much more than I could have ever asked for,” Adams said of her final collegiate field hockey performances. “We set our sights high in the beginning of the season and I am so proud of this team for making it as far as we did.”
The Golden Rams will face UMass-Lowell for the championship title on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Sports Complex Stadium. The game will be a rematch of the contest played on Sept. 3 resulting in a 4-3 come-from-behind victory for the Rams. WCU took the game in OT to stunt the River Hawks’ 24-game winning streak.
Brynn Dougherty is a fourth-year student majoring in economics and finance with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at BD670913@wcupa.edu.