NCAA Field Hockey Season Preview: Division II
Play officially starts in one week, so it’s time to peer into the past, present and future of the NCAA Division II Field Hockey season!
Division II is always an interesting level to watch. Out of the trio of conferences that make up college field hockey’s smallest division, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) has separated itself as the leader of the pack. A team from the PSAC has won every Division II title since 2011 – a stretch that includes Shippensburg hoisting the trophy four times in the last six tournaments. Last season, it was East Stroudsburg who came up big to win their second-ever title. Let’s talk about who might be the one to claim the Division II Championship this season!
East Stroudsburg (PSAC)
It was fun watching East Stroudsburg last season – the team was coming off the high of an NCAA Semifinal appearance and ready for a little something more. And the Warriors did not disappoint. They started the 2022 season with seven straight wins, then finished off with a 20-2 record and an NCAA Crown. After they had suffered a narrow 1-0 loss to Shippensburg in conference play, East Stroudsburg returned the favor with a huge 1-0 victory when it counted to topple the reigning Division II Champions.
The Warriors boast some veteran players, as they will return their top three 2022 offensive leaders – Madison Kline, Nicole Krozser and Hanna Lewis – as graduate students. All-American goalkeeper Amy Supey returns in the cage for her senior season after finishing off her junior year leading Division II in goals against average (0.41) and save percentage (0.879). 2023 has all the makings for another strong ESU team.
Last season, Shippensburg finished with an impressive 16-4 record – which may not have been as notable to them considering their 2021 season was a perfect 20-0. Last October, the Raiders experienced their first defeat after 28 straight wins at the hands of then-No. 4 Kutztown. Their next two losses were to Millersville – the latter knocking them out in the PSAC Semifinals – then the final defeat came from East Stroudsburg in the NCAA Championship. It was a tough matchup between two relentless teams that was decided in the final minute of the game, and we can only assume that Shippensburg will want to settle for nothing less than a sixth Division II Title this season.
The Raiders will see the return of their two All-American offensive machines – sophomore Agus Garibaldi and junior Tess Jedeloo – in addition to junior goalkeeper Lindsay Tripodo. Garibaldi, who hails from Argentina, was the 2022 PSAC Freshman of the Year.
After a stellar 16-win regular season that featured top-five wins over Millersville, Shippensburg and East Stroudsburg, the Golden Bears only got the opportunity to play one postseason game. Kutztown entered the PSAC Tournament as the No. 1 seed for the first-time in program history – receiving a bye in the first round as a result – but then fell, 2-0, to East Stroudsburg in the semifinal. That was the end of the season for the Golden Bears, who did not earn a selection to the NCAA Tournament.
Kutztown will take a hit with the graduation of First Team All-American Rachel Dusman and Second Team All-American Olivia Blasone. Dusman was a force for the Golden Bears, with 14 goals in total on the season and four of them standing as game-winners. Returning will be First Team All-American defender Sarah Gatehouse, as she enters her senior season. However, under the guidance of 2022 PSAC Coach of the Year Marci Scheuing, the Golden Bears figure to continue their momentum and come into this season hungry.
Millersville was another team that unfortunately felt the pain of being in the PSAC last season. The Marauders went 7-2 in conference with their only losses to East Stroudsburg and Kutztown. They had an impressive midseason victory over then-No.1 West Chester – breaking the Rams out of their perfect 8-0 spell. Toward the end of regular season play, Millersville pulled out a big 4-1 win over then-No. 2 Shippensburg, then defeated the Raiders for a second time in the PSAC Semifinal. The Marauders were up against East Stroudsburg in the conference final but found themselves ending their season with a narrow 3-2 overtime loss to the soon-to-be Division II Champion.
Millersville will take a big blow in losing all three of their 2022 All-American athletes – Kate Strickland, Georgia Werkiser and Ashlynn Lennon. The Marauders will have to rely on incoming talent, as well as returning players like seniors Bri Harsh and Codi Bolllinger, to step up and fill the gaps. The Marauders have logged 10 straight winning seasons and last won the 2014 title, so they’ll be looking to continue a prolific stretch under head coach Shelly Behrens.
West Chester (PSAC)
Ranked fourth in the PSAC Preseason Poll is West Chester. After winning the NCAA Championship in 2019, the Rams came back for more in the 2021 season, only to fall 3-0 to Shippensburg in the final. Last season they made it as far as the NCAA Semifinal before their NCAA trophy dreams were again cut short by the Raiders.
Keeping in line with the rest of the PSAC, the Rams will be without some of their previous top players for this upcoming season. It will tough to replace NFHCA Division II National Player of the Year in Valerie van Kuijck in addition to PSAC Defensive Athlete of the Year Dara Spavlik – who will be sticking around as a member of the Rams coaching staff. On the bright side, West Chester will see the return of talent like Claudia Jaszczak, Paige Wolfe and Jasmine Miller. The first two earned PSAC All-Conference First Team honors in 2022, while Miller was a Second Team selection.
Other teams to watch
It can be hard to compare teams within Division II because we aren’t afforded the luxury of a lot of cross-conference play. Two teams in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) that will be good to watch this fall are Mount Olive and Converse, which ranked first and second in the recently released SAC Preseason Poll.
Mount Olive had a historic season last fall after tallying 14 wins – a team record – and making their first appearance in the SAC Championship match. The Trojans were defeated by Converse in the final by a score of 2-1, the same score they had beaten the Valkyries by just one month prior. Now, in just its fifth year of program existence, Mount Olive was voted the conference favorite in the SAC Preseason Poll. The Trojans will expect to see continued success as their young team gains more experience. Returners include 2022 SAC Freshman of the Year Nikki Bos, who set program history last season with 35 points (13 points and 9 assists.)
In addition to winning their second consecutive SAC Title last season, Converse closely battled Shippensburg to a 3-2 setback during the regular season. It was one of a pair of losses in an impressive 17-2 season. The Valkyries have been producing top talent but will have to replace several of their best players this fall. After a stellar sophomore season at Converse that included leading Division II in goals and earning the 2022 SAC Offensive Player of the Year award, Lotte Kanters will be playing out her junior year in Division I at the University of Vermont. Similarly, sophomore Josephine Jense will continue her playing career in Division I at Virginia Commonwealth University after winning the 2022 SAC Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman. Jense will be joined at VCU by her teammate, junior Luisa Fasold, who was another key piece of the 2022 Converse lineup. Included in the returning group is junior Catalina Pistaccio, a Second Team All-American pick.
Adelphi, Assumption and Saint Anslem all represented the Northeast-10 (NE10) conference in NCAA postseason play last season. Despite success in their own conference, none of them registered a win against a PSAC team – neither in the NCAA Tournament nor regular season play. In the 2023 NE10 Preseason Poll, Pace and Adelphi tied for third, while Assumption and Saint Anslem claimed one and two respectively.
Assumption looked good last season with an 11-2 conference record but could not find what they needed to defeat Pace in the NE10 Quarterfinals. Despite this, the Greyhounds were able to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where they found themselves matched up against a familiar foe – Saint Anselm. After falling to the Hawks in shootouts earlier in the season, the tides turned for Assumption, who pulled out an extra time win in the NCAA First Round. It was the second straight Semifinal appearance for Assumption, who fell to East Stroudsburg.
The end of the 2022 campaign for Saint Anslem saw a 14-7 overall record, an overtime loss to Adelphi in the NE10 Semifinal, and a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Assumption in the NCAA First Round. The Hawks will begin their 2023 season much like how they started last fall – by testing their strength against three tough PSAC opponents. Last year Saint Anslem took on Shippensburg, Millersville and East Stroudsburg and lost only by a combined score of 6-1.
The Hawks will be missing their offensive leader from last season, Maggie Malloy, in addition to key defender Jackie Gaumer. 2022 NE10 Goalkeeper on the Year Mackenzie McConnell will be returning for her senior season at Saint Anslem.
Hope you’re getting excited for the start of the NCAA Division II season! And don’t forget – the preseason edition of the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division II National Coaches Poll will be released next week on Tuesday, August 29!
Images courtesy of ESU Athletics, Shippensburg Athletics, Kutztown Athletics, Chris Sponagle/Millersville Athletics, West Chester Athletics, Mount Olive Athletics, Converse Athletics, Assumption Athletics, Saint Anslem Athletics