Just two days after being dominated statistically against Indiana (Pennsylvania), the Bloomsburg field hockey team proved why it was ranked No. 1 all-season long with a 1-0 victory over Bentley on Saturday in the title game of the 2006 NCAA Division II Field Hockey Championship.
With the win, the Huskies (24-0) capped an undefeated season with a national championship for the third time.
“The team was focused from the start and played hard,” said Husky head coach Jan Hutchinson, who in 29 seasons at Bloomsburg has won 15 national championship and 525 career games, the NCAA all-divisions record. “This championship was special because of these individual kids. They are different than any other group we’ve had.”
Bloomsburg held a 16-2 advantage in shots and a 10-1 margin in penalty corners. It did an excellent job of applying offensive pressure, something the team was not able to do effectively against IUP on Thursday.
The key to the Huskies’ eighth national championship in the last 11 years, and fourth against Bentley, was in the flurry of activity and shots directed toward Bentley goalkeeper Alyssa Sliney which culminated in the game’s 21st minute.
After a penalty corner by Bloomsburg junior Ashley Heckard, sophomore Venessa Witman had her shot blocked in front, but sophomore Samantha Kropa was there for the rebound, driving home the loose ball for the game’s lone score.
For Kropa, it was her 23rd goal of the season. Together with fellow sophomore Jamie Vanartsdalen, who totaled 26 goals this year, the duo accounted for 49 of the team’s school-record 99 goals this season, marking the first time since 1991 that Bloomsburg has had two 20-goal scorers.
“They have great sticks and are a very good team,” Bentley coach Kelly McGowan said of Bloomsburg. “They play a much different style than us, and it was rough to match up with them.”
After the goal, the Huskies continued the onslaught, totaling six shots, five of which were on goal and all stopped by Sliney. Holding a 1-0 lead at halftime, Bloomsburg outshot the Falcons 10-1 and boasted a 7-0 advantage in penalty corners.
The Falcons (17-6), who were making their sixth championship game appearance in the last eight years, did a better job with the Bloomsburg attack in the second half while starting to assert some late offensive pressure of their own.
After Witman failed to convert a penalty stroke in the 44th minute to keep the margin at 1-0, Bentley got its first penalty corner of the game in the 63rd minute, but the Falcons failed to register a shot on goal after junior Kate Braden’s shot was blocked. Bloomsburg senior Tracey Hudak earned her fifth shutout of the season and second of the tournament.
The careers of eight Bentley seniors ended with two championship-game appearances and no titles. Among the seniors was Mary Rogers, the all-time leading scorer in Division II history with 205 points.
For the Huskies, the championship concluded a week’s worth of activity in Florida, for which the team was grateful.
“The kids have been thrilled with the whole Festival,” Hutchinson said. “They’ve had a wonderful time, and they said that even if we had not come away with a championship, that this would have been a wonderful time. The championship is just icing on the cake.”