West Chester University’s field hockey team saw its quest for its first National Championship since 2012 come to an end on Friday, Nov. 20 in an NCAA Semifinals loss against East Stroudsburg University. The semifinal loss marks the second straight year the Golden Rams’ season has ended one game away from the National Championship game, and it also marks a farewell for the four graduating seniors, all crucial members of the team.
The semifinal matchup marked the third meeting of the season between the Golden Rams and the Warriors. Both of the first two were victories for ESU. Senior midfielder Rebecca Snyder got the momentum going with a goal for the Warriors just 2:36 into the game, and Desiraye Mack added another 10 minutes later as ESU was out to a quick 2-0 lead. The first 18 minutes of the game were controlled entirely by East Stroudsburg. It looked like that would all change in the 19th minute. Alexis Versak got West Chester on the board in the 19th minute with a goal from a penalty corner, and the momentum suddenly shifted toward the side of WCU. Ally Roth, the leading goal scorer for the Warriors, put an end to the momentum in the 28th minute with her 20th goal of the season to give ESU a 3-1 lead, and then the flood gates would open. Paige Harrold added another goal for East Stroudsburg in the 32nd minute, to give the Warriors a comfortable 4-1 lead going into the second half.
The second half was the same story with complete control on both sides of the ball for ESU. West Chester could not establish any rhythm on offense, mostly because they were pushed on their heels on defense for most of the game. Mack and Marisa Miro added on a pair of goals less than two minutes apart in the 55th and 56th minute to give the Warriors a commanding 6-1 lead with just 14 minutes remaining in the game. Rachal Toppi looked to spark a comeback in the 58th minute with her 24th goal of the season to bring the score to 6-2, but that lone goal was all that would come of the comeback attempt. The Warriors have been the Golden Rams’ kryptonite this season, and they could never figure out how to beat them. The semifinal victory marks the third straight win for ESU over WCU this season. Prior to this season, WCU won the last 9 meetings against ESU since reclassifying to DII prior to 2011. The Warriors outscored the Golden Rams 13-3 in three games this season, while WCU had a 73-22 goal differential in its other 19 games.
East Stroudsburg advanced to play for a National Championship against Merrimack, both of which are playing for their first ever national title. The semifinal loss was the last game four senior Golden Ram players will ever play in a WCU uniform. Alayna Broan, Alexa Moran, Kristina Scherrer, and Versak will all be tough players to replace for Head Coach Amy Cohen’s squad next season. While the offensive and defensive abilities of those four can be replaced, the leadership and chemistry they brought to the team will be the toughest to replace. The future is still bright for the Golden Rams, and the success of the program shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Marnie Kusakavitch, Dayle Paustian, Mary Spisak and Toppi will all be asked to carry a majority of the workload for the Golden Rams next season, as they look to compete for the ultimate end goal: a championship.
Dylan Harrison is a fourth-year student majoring in communications with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at DH785892@wcupa.edu.