Congratulations 2023 College Division II Conference Winners
With post-season conference tournaments taking place this past weekend, USA Field Hockey is highlighting each conference champion in Division II.
Northeast-10 Conference: Saint Anselm
For just the second time in program history, the Saint Anselm Hawks claim the Northeast-10 (NE10) Conference title.
Last season, the Hawks had been upset in double overtime by Adelphi in the semifinal, who went on to win it all. This time around, No. 2 seed Saint Anselm redeemed themselves with a 3-1 semifinal victory over the Panthers to advance to the final, where they faced No. 1 seed Assumption.
Like their 2-1 OT win in the regular season, the Hawks narrowly defeated the Greyhounds in the final by a score of 2-1. Saint Anselm chased a 1-0 deficit for about seven minutes before sophomore Maggie Burchill tallied the tying goal, while the defense held strong. Burchill was the hero for the Hawks when she notched the game-winner in the final quarter on a penalty stroke. Senior goalkeeper Mackenzie McConnell was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, while Grace Mitchell and Burchill were recognized as part of the NE10 All-Tournament Team.
Saint Anselm now sits with a 18-3 record and ranks fifth in the nation.
Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference: East Stroudsburg
East Stroudsburg defended their Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) title on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Shippensburg.
Unlike the 2022 season, the PSAC championship this year was a chalky battle between No. 1 seed East Stroudsburg and No. 2 seed Shippensburg. After a bye in the first round, the Warriors defeated No. 4 seed Mansfield by scoring in the final five minutes of regulation to tie the match 2-2 and send it to overtime, where they were able to score after seven minutes of play. Seniors Madison Kline and Grace Lesh combined beautifully in the match, with Kline scoring both goals off of assists from Lesh.
The final was a rematch of last season’s NCAA Division II Championship match – East Stroudsburg against Shippensburg. Again, the Warriors came out on top of the Raiders – a dramatic 2-1 double overtime victory.
Junior midfielder Jady van Gils was named the PSAC Athlete of the Year last week.
East Stroudsburg moves to 20-2 on the season and currently ranks number one in Division II. The Warriors now hold four PSAC titles.
South Atlantic Conference: Lander
In dramatic overtime fashion, No. 4 seed Lander won the title of 2023 South Atlantic Conference (SAC) champion in just their second year of competition.
If the NE10 and PSAC finals were chalky, the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) final was the outlier. After shutting out No. 5 seed Belmont Abbey in the quarterfinal, No. 4 seed Lander upset No. 1 seed and fourth nationally ranked Mount Olive. After a match that was scoreless for nearly 60 minutes, freshman Leira Van Tilburg notched the game-winner in the final second. The Bearcats had previosly lost to the Trojans twice in the regular season – 1-0 in September and 5-2 just one week before the semifinal.
In another semifinal upset, No. 3 seed Limestone defeated No. 2 seed Newberry to see Lander in the final. Although the Saints got on the board first in the tight match, the Bearcats equalized in the fourth off a penalty corner goal from Aniek Vreeken. Just three minutes into overtime, Lander was awarded a penalty stroke, which Victoria Hulst sunk into the cage to give Lander their first ever SAC title. Hulst, Van Tilburg, Gwen Vendrig, and Isabel Elenga were each named to the All-Tournament team.
It’s just about as great a second season you could ask for for head coach Robbert Schenk and the Bearcats. In their inaugural season in 2022, Lander finished with a 9-8 record. This season, they are 13-6 so far, with a SAC championship title and a good look to the NCAA Tournament.
Images courtesy of Saint Anselm Athletics, Dave Janosz/ESU Athletics, SAC Sports