EASTON, Mass. — One game.
It is what has separated the LIU Post field hockey team from being the Division II national champs three times in the past four seasons.
This time, Post (16-4) fell, 2-1, to the Shippensburg Raiders (20-3), in the Division II National Championship at Stonehill College on Sunday afternoon.
“We poured our heart and souls out on the field today,” senior defender Abi Sawyer said. “We thought we had it today. But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”
Facing the top defense in the nation (14 shutouts in 23 games), Post mustered just three shots all match. And there were less than five minutes remaining when Post scored its lone goal.
Down 2-0 with 8:50 remaining in the second half, Post pulled goalkeeper Ericka Parks so it could have another forward on the field, a decision coach Raenee Savin said came from her ice hockey background. It worked.
On a penalty corner, Grace Ilias zipped the ball to Arantxa Rosainz Caloca. Raiders goalkeeper Ally Mooney stopped Caloca’s shot, but she could not stop Emily Miller’s second effort. It was Miller’s 20th goal of the season.
While the goal cut the deficit to one, Post could not find another clean shot before the match ended.
Post also fell, 2-1, to the Raiders in the 2013 championship game, when this year’s senior class were freshmen. But Savin said her team’s experience against the Raiders hardly factored into this year’s preparation.
“Teams are different every year — even from one year to the next,” she said. “It was a quick turnover. We had watched a little film of each team we were going to play. Once we knew who we were going to be facing, it was all business.
“My assistant coach, Ellis Chance, and I sat down and together we came up with a great game plan,” she added. “We played a different style than we had all year long and I’m very proud that we were able to change on the fly.”
Although this year’s senior class did not win a national title, the six of them (Sawyer, Parks, midfielder Steph Mocerino, midfielder/forwards Lauren Adamusik and Melissa Quintanilla and goalkeeper Savanah Cummings) did compete in three championship games.
“As a senior class as a whole, we’ve been very lucky,” said Sawyer, who hails from England. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work. The experience really does make you feel like a celebrity. All the hard work — the hundreds of hours you put in — all the injuries and whatnot are all worth it based off the experience.”
“I wouldn’t have traded these last four years for anything,” Parks added. “Even though we didn’t come out on top per se, it still feels like we came out on top. The memories we’ve shared have been amazing and it’s been a blessing.”