Congratulations 2023 College Division I Conference Winners
With post-season conference tournaments finishing this past weekend, USA Field Hockey is highlighting each conference champion in Division I.
America East: California
It was a memorable day for California as they won their first ever America East tournament title in their last ever match being in the America East. With the win, the Bears clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament, their first since 2006.
To get to this historic moment, No. 4 seed California defeated No. 5 seed Vermont 1-0 to advance to the semifinal, where they faced No. 1 seed Umass Lowell. Propelled by a hat trick from graduate transfer Daniella Rhodes, the Bears overcame a two goal deficit to win 3-2 in double overtime over the River Hawks.
The championship match against No. 2 seed and reigning America East Champion UAlbany was another 3-2 OT win for California. After scoring first just eight minutes in, the Bears found themselves trailing 2-1 in the fourth quarter. No stranger to scoring big goals in big moments, graduate student Bente Baekers tied up the match with five minutes left in regulation. It was then freshman Holly Pears who found the back of the net for the overtime game-winner. Keeping California in the match was sophomore goalkeeper Tina Jolly, who tallied eight saves on the day.
All three America East tournament wins were to teams that California had lost to earlier this season. The Bears are now 12-7 on the season.
Atlantic Coast Conference: North Carolina
Even with a new head coach, North Carolina’s reign over the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) didn’t skip a beat. With Erin Matson — a five-time champion as a player — taking over for Karen Shelton, the Tar Heels still rolled to a seventh straight ACC Championship with a 2-0 shutout of rival Duke in the title game.
Tournament MVP Ryleigh Heck opened the scoring shortly after halftime with what became the No. 1 play on SportsCenter — an air dribble goal that was deftly chipped over the Blue Devils goalkeeper. Charly Bruder added an insurance goal six minutes later as the Tar Heels beat Duke for the second time in a week.
North Carolina — who avenged an earlier loss to Virginia with the semifinal victory — has won three straight and sits at 14-3 as they head into the NCAA Tournament.
Atlantic 10: Saint Joseph’s
Saint Joseph’s picked up their third consecutive Atlantic 10 title on Sunday with a 2-1 win over UMass.
It was the consecutive second season that Saint Joseph’s met UMass in the conference final. The No. 1 seed Hawks shutout No. 4 seed La Salle 4-0 in the semifinal, while No. 2 seed UMass defeated No. 3 seed VCU 3-2. Lily Santi opened up the scoring for Saint Joseph’s, tallying from the ground in the last few seconds of the first quarter. The Minutewomen equalized in the 26th minute, but Hailey Bitters notched the game-winning goal off a penalty corner tip in the third quarter to send the Hawks home with the A10 trophy.
Sol Borensztein, Kate Crist, Maaike Gorissen, Leigh James, and Santi were all named to the All-Tournament team, with Santi being named the tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP). The No. 15 nationally ranked Hawks improve their record to 16-4 with the win.
Big East: Old Dominion
Old Dominion upset No. 6 nationally ranked Liberty to capture their first ever Big East championship title.
After conceding a goal to No. 1 seed Liberty in the second quarter, No. 2 seed Old Dominion picked up the pace by tallying three straight unanswered goals. Frederique Zandenbergen opened up the scoring for the Monarchs just five minutes after the Flames notched the first of the match, while Marlon de Bruijne nailed the game-winner in the third frame. An insurance goal from Nicole Fredricks in the final quarter sealed the deal for Old Dominion, who earned their first spot in the NCAA tournament since 2013 and redemption from the 3-1 loss to the Flames in last season’s Big East final.
De Bruijne, Fredericks, Zandbergen, and Sacha de Gier all were recognized on the All-Tournament Team, with Fredericks receiving the honor of MVP.
Old Dominion had shutout No. 3 seed Temple 2-0 to advance to the final. The Monarchs are now 14-5 this season.
Big Ten: Northwestern
It took almost 78 minutes, but Northwestern’s Olivia Bent-Cole found the back of the cage in double-overtime to lift the top-ranked Wildcats over Maryland, 1-0, for a first Big Ten (B1G) Championship since 2014.
Bent-Cole’s goal broke a dramatic stalemate in which Northwestern had a decisive 22-5 edge in shots and 17-3 in penalty corners. She went almost the length of the field up the right side before cutting in and scoring. The Terrapins battled after knocking off Iowa and Rutgers to reach the final.
Northwestern, who had a first-round bye, beat Ohio State in the semifinals. That 3-1 win featured goals from Lauren Wadas, Peyton Halsey, and Ilse Tromp. Goalie Annabel Skubisz stopped 10 shots in that game — and then five in the final — to earn the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. Bent-Cole, Skubisz, and midfielder Katie Jones were named to the All-Tournament Team.
The Wildcats have won 18 straight games since a season-opening loss to Louisville. They’re well-poised for success in the NCAA Tournament as they’ll enter at 18-1 on the year.
Coastal Athletic Association: William & Mary
In what was a memorable double-overtime championship match, third-seeded William & Mary claimed its second CAA title in program history with a 3-2 upset of No. 1 Monmouth at Rullo Stadium in Newark, Del.
The Tribe, who entered having already beaten the top-seeded Hawks back on Oct. 20, twice erased deficits in the victory. Lauren Curran — who earned the CAA All-Tournament Most Outstanding Player honor — logged a hat trick. After trailing by a goal at halftime, Curran equalized only to see Monmouth retake the lead nine minutes later. Trailing late in the fourth, Curran scored the equalizer again with five minutes to go, then tacked on the game-winner in the 74th minute.
William & Mary upset No. 2 Drexel, 2-0, to reach the finals behind two goals from Pyper Friedman and nine saves from George. The Tribe have won four straight, bumping their record to 11-8 as they head to the NCAA Tournament.
Ivy League: Harvard
The first-ever Ivy League tournament ended with fireworks: Harvard’s Lara Beekhuis scored with 35 seconds remaining to lift the top-seeded Crimson past No. 3 Princeton, 2-1. Harvard claimed the inaugural championship after the league had previously crowned its regular season champion.
Beekhuis, who accounted for all three of the Crimson’s goals at the tournament, put Harvard up in the seventh minute of Sunday’s title game. Princeton answered shortly after halftime and it was a stalemate until the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Beekhuis tallied the game-winner on a goal that just crossed the goal line and was confirmed on replay.
Harvard, who blanked Penn by a 1-0 margin in the semifinals, has now won 10 straight games. Up to No. 9 in the NFHCA rankings, the Crimson are 15-3 overall heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Mid-American Conference: Miami (OH)
For the sixth straight year, Miami stands alone atop the MAC. The Red awks continued their run of conference championships, taking down third-seeded Kent State, 3-1.
After a tense 1-0 shutout of Ohio in the semifinals that required a fourth-quarter goal, Miami had an easier time in the title game. After a scoreless first quarter, the RedHawks offense kicked into high gear and tallied in each of the next three quarters to pull away.
Four different players tallied in two games for Miami, highlighted by the MAC’s Most Outstanding Player in Paula Peña Martinez. Martinez scored in the title game and placed 10 shots on goal in two games. Other RedHawks on the All-Tournament team were Isabelle Perese, Madison Workman, and Reese Wearren.
Miami has won five straight games entering the NCAA Tournament, bringing their record to 14-7. The RedHawks have won their first-round NCAA game in each of the last two years.
Northeast Conference: Sacred Heart
It took dramatic, back-to-back overtime games, but for the first time since 2005, Sacred Heart are your Northeast Conference (NEC) Champions. The Pioneers, seeded third, took down No. 2 Saint Francis before upsetting No. 1 Wagner in Sunday’s title game by identical 1-0 scorelines.
In both games, it was senior midfielder Isabelle Chamberlain who came up with the game-winner and earned NEC Most Outstanding Player honors. In the semifinals, Chamberlain converted a penalty stroke in the final minute of the second overtime to send Sacred Heart to the title game. There, after 61 scoreless minutes, Chamberlain fired in a goal off a penalty corner to sink Wagner.
Goalkeeper Samantha Maresca and the Pioneers defense played remarkably well over the two games, fending off 19 corners in the champions. Maresca totaled five and 13 saves, respectively, over the two shutouts. Maresca, Chamberlain, Emma Brayford, and Madelyn Kidd all featured on the All-Tournament team.
Sacred Heart has won six straight heading into the NCAA Tournament and sit at 9-10 overall.
Patriot League: American
In the seventh meeting all-time in the Patriot League title game between American and Lafayette, it was the Eagles who came away with a 1-0 shutout for a 13th conference championship.
Agustina Roffo tallied the game-winner in the fourth quarter, breaking a scoreless deadlock in the 46th minute. Roffo’s goal came off a feed from teammate Sophie Willemse on a penalty corner. Goalkeeper Bryn Underwood logged the shutout, turning away four Leopards’ shots in the victory.
Underwood and Roffo were joined on the All-Tournament Team by Tayla-Jade Weiss and Charllene Boshoff. Weiss earned the conference’s Most Outstanding Player award after a goal and an assist in a 3-2 semifinal win over Bucknell. The Eagles took a 3-0 first-quarter lead in that game and fought off a late rally from the Bison.
American sits at 11-7 with a four-game winning streak entering the NCAA Tournament.
Images courtesy of California Athletics, UNC Athletics, Brian McWalters/Saint Joseph's Athletics, Old Dominion Athletics, Northwestern Athletics, William & Mary Athletics, Harvard Athletics, Miami Athletics, Sacred Heart Athletics, American Athletics