Former Warwick stars win national title at West ChesterField Hockey

By on November 22, 2011

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

The West Chester University field hockey team was just thankful for another chance.

After losing to CW Post 2-1 in double OT in the PSAC playoff quarterfinals, they weren’t sure that they would get one.

"It was up to CW Post or us getting into the NCAA Tournament," said Lady Golden Rams’ junior right fullback Carley Buckwalter, a 2009 Warwick grad. "And then when they said (during the selection show) that Shippensburg would be playing West Chester, it was a relief that we got in it over CW Post."

"That was, honestly, a little embarassing that we did lose (to CW Post in the PSAC quarterfinals)," acknowledged senior back Brynn Adams, a 2008 Warwick product. "We had a lot to prove."

Prove themselves they did.

With three former Warwick stars contributing — Adams, Buckwalter and 2010 grad Megan Callanan — West Chester capped a perfect run through the NCAA Division-II National Championships with a 2-1 win over UMass-Lowell in the finals at Bloomsburg’s Sports Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 13.

"Amazing," said Callanan, a sophomore forward. "I feel like those are childhood dreams that all of us have had because we’ve been playing field hockey for so long. I’ve been playing since I was in second grade for (Warwick) coach (Bob) Derr, so finally accomplishing something like a national title is just unreal."

It marked the Lady Golden Rams’ fifth national championship overall in field hockey and first at the D-II level. WCU also won AIAW national titles in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978. The Lady Golden Rams’ field hockey squad (17-4) joins the 1961 men’s soccer team, and the 2002 and 2008 women’s lacrosse teams as the only NCAA champions in school history.

For Adams, it was the perfect end to her playing career.

"There are no words," said Adams, whose goal with 15:14 elapsed in the first half proved to be the game-winner against UMass-Lowell. "If you think about it, only three teams — seniors especially — can say that they ended their career on a winning (side) in a national championship. It’s sad because everything you’ve worked for is coming to an end, but I’m happy it ended so well for us. We got really lucky."

The Lady Rams also had something to do with creating their own luck, as they peaked at the right time in the post-season. Many might have picked West Chester to be an underdog against Shippensburg in the NCAA first round after the Raiders shut out the Lady Rams 2-0 in the regular season.

This time, however, Buckwalter scored early in the third minute, on an assist from Adams, to give WCU a lead it never lost on its way to a 3-0 whitewashing. Michele Schrift and Adams also found the back of the cage.

"We all had heart and we believed in one another," Buckwalter said. "I feel like we got better as the season went on. As a team, we got more comfortable playing with one another and we grew as one."

That heart again showed through in the National semi-finals against reigning PSAC champ Bloomsburg, which had defeated West Chester twice in the regular season by a combined score of 12-2.

Adams made a key defensive save and the two teams battled to a 2-2 stalemate through 100 minutes before the Lady Rams eventually prevailed 3-2 in penalty strokes thanks to a clutch save from keeper Kristin Arnold. Not only did they punch their ticket to the finals, but they also handed Bloomsburg its first loss in the process.

"All week at practice (prior to the game against Ship), it just felt like we had peaked at the right time," Adams said. "We all just felt it. And we beat Ship, and then the next week we had the same feeling at practice all week for Bloomsburg. We all had a good feeling about it and it just felt right. I honestly think we peaked at the right time and we just realized that we can beat those teams, and we did."

Callanan echoed those words, that the Lady Rams felt like this was their finally their time.

"We knew that all the other times we had played these teams, we were not at our best and we weren’t at our right confidence level and we were finally ready — like they didn’t know what to expect from us," said Callanan, who scored for the Lady Rams in a 10-1 thumping of Mansfield on Sept. 30.

"The Bloomsburg game was a huge win for us," Buckwalter said. "That gave us a lot of confidence and we realized, ‘This isn’t luck anymore. We are a skilled team.’"

The finals were a rematch from an earlier battle, when WCU defeated UMass-Lowell 4-3 in its second game of the season. The Lady Rams scored twice in the opening 15:14, with the second of those coming off the stick of Adams on a penalty corner. It was her career-high 10th goal of the season, to go with six assists for 26 points.

"Unreal," Adams said of scoring in the finals. "We had done corners a certain way all year and I was an inserter. But we got to the field turf and we just weren’t producing anything off of our corners, so (coach Amy Cohen) actually ended up switching me up to the top and she was like, ‘Listen, you’re up here, you get the ball. I don’t care what you do. Just put the ball in the net.’ It was nice that she gave me that opportunity."

The River Hawks got within one in the 57th minute, but West Chester held the advantage in shots (20-17) and corner (15-10) and held on for the victory.

"I can’t believe it that we won a national championship game," Buckwalter said. "All my professors are saying, ‘You are a national champion.’ It just feels great to say."

For Adams and Callanan, they are feeling great about their decisions to transfer from Louisville and New Hampshire, respectively.

"We’ve had a lot happen to us in the past year at West Chester," said Adams, who came to West Chester prior to the 2009 season. "We got moved down to Division-II (from D-I), we got a new coach. When I transferred here, I just wanted to love hockey again and I did and I never would have thought that this is the position that I would be in."

Callanan, who just completed her first year at WCU, added, "I think this is without a doubt the best decision I ever made. I love my teammates and I’m so happy to be part of West Chester field hockey and I’m really proud of all my teammates." More TITLE, page B-3