What could be better than LIU Post’s 8-0 field hockey record? How about the fact that the Pioneers are the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
“It definitely feels unreal,” said sophomore Emily Miller, a forward/midfielder who leads the team in scoring.
Post enforced its NFHCA Division-II ranking Saturday with a 2-1 overtime victory at home over seventh-ranked St. Anselm. Kaycee Zelkovsky won the match with a goal in overtime.
Grace Ilias gave Post a 1-0 lead early in the first half, and Erin Collins tied the game for Saint Anselm in the second half.
Before the game, Miller, Ericka Parks and Melissa “Missy” Quintanilla interlocked hands as a symbol of unity as they answered questions.
“This is what makes our team special,” said coach Raenee Savin.
Parks, the junior goalkeeper out of Nesconset and Smithtown East, had been special in her own right, allowing only four goals over the first seven games. Parks said playing field hockey at LIU Post had been her dream since seventh grade after meeting Savin, who lives in her neighborhood.
Parks continued to live the dream on Saturday, recording five saves before Zelkovsky’s overtime goal to keep the unblemished campaign by this tightly-knit group rolling along.
So what transpired over time to create such a strong foundation within the team dynamic? Savin believed she pinpointed the exact instant, which dates back to three years ago.
Surprisingly, however, the moment she brought up is not the 2-1 overtime loss to Shippensburg University in the 2013 Division II National Championship game. After winning the first 21 matches of the season the Pioneers fell one goal short of a perfect season that would have only further cemented their place in NCAA field hockey history.
Savin recalled another event because this one was a truly life-changing loss.
“It wasn’t until 2013 that I think everyone here really started buying into the idea of being a family,” Savin said. “I attribute a lot of that, unfortunately, to the fact that we lost Missy’s mom to cancer just after her freshman year.
“It just brought all of us much closer together because we had to support Missy. And we were all affected by what happened.”
It was a tumultuous 2013 year for LIU Post both on the field and off, and Savin and the players continue to keep both aspects of it close to heart. Saturday’s thrilling overtime victory happened to take place in the team’s annual “Stick-It-To-Cancer” game, which honors those who have battled the terrible disease and helps spread awareness toward research for a cure.
Meanwhile, the freshmen from that 2013 group have since grown into the seniors leading the current club, and they openly acknowledged that the heartbreak from that defeat still feels fresh, still drives them every day. Not only to win the title, but to claim redemption by finishing this season undefeated.
“I think we can do it,” Parks said. “We always look around and see runner-up trophies, but we just want to get off the bus with that first-place trophy and put it on the showcase.”