Though the winning came to a brief halt, three letters remained constant throughout the LIU Post field hockey season.
“Early in the season we started chanting R-T-R, which stands for ‘Road to Ring’ as a reminder of our goal to win the national championship,” sophomore midfielder Emily Miller said.
Miller and her teammates now find themselves within two victories of transforming their season-long rallying cry into a season for the ages.
East region No. 1 seed LIU Post (15-3) takes on No. 2 seed Saint Anselm College (16-4) in the NCAA Division II semifinals on Friday at W.B. Mason Stadium in Easton, Massachusetts.
The winner will face off against either Atlantic region No. 1 seed Millersville or No. 2 Shippensburg in the National Championship on Sunday.
But for LIU Post, the pre-requisites to a third title game appearance in four seasons and first national title will be a third win over the Hawks in about an eight-week span.
“People always say it’s tough to beat a team three times, but we’ve done it before,” LIU Post coach Raenee Savin said. “We’ve changed our game plan and watched film. We feel we’re prepared to make the necessary adjustments.”
The Pioneers must also be prepared to dig deep on Friday because each of the first two meetings with Saint Anselm ended in similar fashion (2-1 in overtime).
LIU Post won the first matchup October 1 with a goal from junior Kaycee Zelkovsky. Miller’s 19th goal of the season on Nov. 6 earned the Pioneers their first Northeast Conference title since 2013. Miller was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“It was exciting, but it was definitely a team effort,” Miller said. “Everyone kept pushing each other. Everyone wanted to do it for the seniors.”
LIU Post has exponentially greater aspirations, however.
“It’s the feeling of being on a dream team,” senior goalkeeper Ericka Parks said. “But while it felt great to win that title, all I could think about is how much better it’ll feel to celebrate winning the big one.”
The mind-set entering the third and final act of this immensely competitive matchup with Saint Anselm?
“Business as usual,” Savin said. “We want to put up numbers because we know they’re defensive-minded.”
After an unblemished 8-0 start to the season and talk of pursuing a perfect year, LIU Post encountered a severely unexpected rough patch. The Pioneers dropped three consecutive matches to Adelphi, Southern New Hampshire and Southern Connecticut State.
Yet, ironically, Savin believed it was beneficial toward the team’s long-term success. Since snapping the losing streak, LIU Post has ripped off seven consecutive wins.
“I think it made everyone realize we’re not invincible and that we’d have to work hard every single day and nothing would be handed to us,” Savin said.
Savin sought to instill the related team value of selflessness into her players from day one. Entering the season, Savin inserted John O’Sullivan’s article “Sweep the Shed” into the team workbook.
“It talked about motivation and team culture, stop asking about what you can have and instead ask what you can give,” Savin said.
Inspired by the message, the Pioneers began posting three letters all over the locker room. Chanting them before, during and after each match.