Hail to the champs

By on December 10, 2014

Local players help MU win NCAA title

Manheim Central grad Randi Boyd (center), a senior at Millersville University, hoists the NCAA Division-Two championship trophy with teammates Alicia Youtz and Katelyn Zapp after the Lady Marauders defeated LIU Post 1-0 in the finals.

Manheim Central grad Randi Boyd (center), a senior at Millersville University, hoists the NCAA Division-Two championship trophy with teammates Alicia Youtz and Katelyn Zapp after the Lady Marauders defeated LIU Post 1-0 in the finals.

When 2014 Warwick grad Courtney Weaver signed to continue her field hockey career at Millersville University, no one could have expected the thrilling journey she would enjoy as a freshman.

The trek took Weaver, Manheim Central grads Sarah Bomberger and Randi Boyd, and their Lady Marauder teammates to Louisville, Ky., where they knocked off LIU Post 1-0 on Saturday, Dec. 6 to claim the NCAA Division-Two championship.

“Words really can’t describe the feeling,” said Weaver, who played in all 23 of Millersville’s games. “The seniors were great leaders. They really led this team and they honestly deserve this win. And everyone couldn’t be more happy for them because they did work for this.”

Two of those seniors were Bomberger and Boyd, who suffered the disappointment of losing 3-1 to PSAC rival and eventual NCAA champ Shippensburg in the 2013 Final Four in Virginia Beach, Va. Returning for their final year this fall, the former Lady Barons, and MU’s six other seniors, were driven by their loss in last year’s NCAA semis.

Warwick grad Courtney Weaver (left) passes the ball to a teammate in Millersville’s 2-1 win over West Chester in the NCAA Division-Two semi-finals.

Warwick grad Courtney Weaver (left) passes the ball to a teammate in Millersville’s 2-1 win over West Chester in the NCAA Division-Two semi-finals.

“It was pretty awesome (to win),” said Boyd, a midfielder. “That’s what we had in mind ever since we lost last year, so we knew that we wanted to come back and take it all.”

Bomberger and Boyd were two of 10 players that started all 23 of Millersville’s games this fall.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet that we won,” Bomberger said. “It just feels good to come back again another year and to just prove that we can do it and really show this program that we can reach for the top.”

It was LIU Post that stood between Millersville (20-3) and the top of that mountain. With the game still scoreless at the half, sophomore Olivia Hershey, a Manheim Township grad, scored what proved to be the game-winner with 24 minutes remaining.

Manheim Central product Sarah Bomberger, a midfielder for the Lady Marauders, carries the ball past an LIU Post defender in the NCAA Division-Two championship game.

Manheim Central product Sarah Bomberger, a midfielder for the Lady Marauders, carries the ball past an LIU Post defender in the NCAA Division-Two championship game.

From there, the Lady Pioneers tested an MU defense which recorded a school-record 13 shutouts this season. But goalie Lauren Sotzin was equal to the task, stepping up with three saves in the final 10 minutes to preserve the one-goal advantage.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Weaver acknowledged, “but our defense was unbelievable. Sotzin was great in goal. She tipped a shot out that could have been a goal and (LMH grad) Rachel (Dickinson) had a great save. They were like, nothing was getting past them, and it was awesome to see their fight in the circle.”

Added Boyd, “At that point, it just came down to guts and who wanted it more. Defense is a big part of our game. (Coach) Shelly (Behrens) had talked to us and said, ‘In Division Two most times, offense wins games. But in our case, defense wins games.’ We have a very solid backfield. We’ve set multiple records with our defense and goalie.”

Indeed, this marked the second year in a row that MU finished ranked No. 1 in goals against average, handing LIU Post a shutout loss for just the second time this season. The Lady Marauders 13th shutout came against against an LIU squad averaging more than four goals per game.

In addition to Millersville setting a single-season record for wins (20), Sotzin established program marks for career wins (54) and shutouts (32).

Asked if she thought at the time that Hershey’s goal would stand up for the win, Bomberger said, “We take pride in our defense. Olivia scored the goal which was pretty awesome for a sophomore. I wish we would have had more (scoring) chances, but we came out with the win and the No. 1 trophy, which was pretty cool to make history.”

At season’s start, Bomberger, a PSAC First-Team All-Star at midfield, was selected as one of Millersville’s co-captains, along with fellow seniors Dickinson, Sotzin and Katelyn Zapp. The former Manheim Central star noted, however, that all eight of the seniors took on the leadership role.

“It was everyone who was committed and took charge,” said Bomberger, who will graduate in May with a degree in applied engineering. “It was pretty much the whole senior class that led this team.”

That leadership was certainly a big factor in helping the Lady Marauders bounce back from a 3-0 loss to rival West Chester in the PSAC finals.

After defeating Shippensburg 2-1 in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament, they got another chance at the Lady Rams. This time, Millersville got goals from Alicia Youtz and Champayne Hess in a 2–1 victory to punch their ticket to the finals.

“That was probably the best feeling,” said Boyd, who will graduate in May with a degree in social work. “We kinda thought after that game, ‘We don’t want to feel like this again.’ And also, we felt like if they won 3-0 that they would think the next time they play us, they’d have it won. That was not our mindset at all. We knew that we could beat them and we did it.”

Sure enough, and then they brought home the first-ever NCAA championship for a women’s sport at Millersville with their 1-0 win over LIU Post.

It was another feather in the cap for the PSAC. A year ago, Shippensburg defeated LIU Post 2-1 for the NCAA title. In 2011-12, West Chester won back-to-back national championships.

“The PSAC is a tough conference to play in,” Bomberger said. “West Chester and Ship make us play better each and every day. They’re our toughest competition, without a doubt.”

Clearly, it helped prepare the Lady Marauders for a journey that they won’t soon forget.

Upon their return from Louisville, they were greeted as heroes in Millersville.

“We actually got escorted by some police officers. We were on Route 30 and you’d see these flashing lights coming from behind and we thought we were getting pulled over,” Bomberger laughed. “There were firetrucks that were escorting us and it was awesome to come into town like that. We came to the Student Memorial Center and there was a big crowd of students and faculty and the president was there. So that was really cool to be welcomed home by our community.”

Added Weaver, “It’s been a great experience. Being a national champion as a freshman, no one goes into college expecting that. The community has been awesome. They’ve just been so supportive.”

The experience is one that the Lady Marauders won’t soon forget.

“Not only the win to be national champions,” Boyd said, “but the team and the girls we got to play with, both on the field and off the field, we’ve become best friends with each other and I know I’ll have lifelong friendships with a lot of the girls.”

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