New Jersey captures championship, 3-2 in overtime

May 27, 2011, 8:45 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, C.O. – The Women’s National Championship concluded today at American University in Washington, D.C. The prestigious event that started one week ago, gathered America’s top field hockey talent to contest for a USA Women’s National Team roster spot. The level of ability and skill on the pitch was tremendously impressive and exciting for all to see. New Jersey clinched the title of Regional Champions, 3-2 in overtime against the South. New England continued their winning streak with a shutout over California and Mid Atlantic dominated Pennsylvania with a 6-2 victory.

The week-long event proved to wear on New England and California today, as both teams stepped on the pitch looking fatigued. However, in the eighth minute, New England’s Lauren Pfeiffer (Mt. Laurel, NJ) converted a penalty corner into a goal with a bullet sent to the left corner of the cage.

California struggled to find a strong steady offense for the majority of the first half and offered no shots on goal until the seventeenth minute. However, those shots did not convert to goals. Emily Bastiaanse (Granby, CT) added one more to the boards for New England with a reverse chip field goal, making the score 2-0.

Two penalty corners came close to scoring opportunities for California, but the absence of a post player resulted in no goals. California gained composure in the remaining five minutes and increased their quality of play, however, a penalty corner awarded to New England gave them the advantage and a final scoring opportunity before the end of the half. Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, NY) executed a reverse chip shot past California’s keeper, to take the lead 3-0.

Coming out in the second half, California applied immediate pressure, but a strong New England defense deterred all goal scoring opportunities. With pressure rising, Lauren Crandall (Doylestown, PA) was given a yellow card and California was forced to play a man down for ten minutes.

New England took advantage of California’s penalty, with a field goal scored by Pam Spuehler (Sudbury, MA). California continued to increase pressure on New England to create scoring opportunities. However, In the middle of a seemingly perfect passing sequence, Gonzalez picked off a ball and sent a quick pass to her teammate, who then laid the ball in front of the cage for Spuehler to one time it to the back of the net. New England took the shutout win, 4-0.

Despite Pennsylvania setting the level of play early on, Mid Atlantic came away victorious with a 6-2 defeat.

Nicole Nelson (Telford, PA) put Pennsylvania on the boards first with a shot sent over the goalies head. Katie O’Donnell (Blue Bell, PA) equalized the match with a hard strike to the back of the cage.

Tied 1-1, Pennsylvania gained controlled, earning multiple penalty corners but capitalizing on none. Heather Susek (Plains, PA) finally broke Pennsylvania’s streak with a backhand shot into the net.

Later in the first half, Tara Puffenberger (Dallas, PA) redirected a shot by teammate Paige Selenski (Shavertown, PA) to tie the score 2-2 going into halftime.

Straight out of the gates in the second half, Mid Atlantic started firing shots at goalkeeper Amy Swensen (Norfolk, VA). Swensen made great saves, but was eventually unable to hold back Mid Atlantics offense. Mid Atlantic held Pennsylvania scoreless for the entire second half and managed to add four more goals to their total.

Dina Rizzo (Annapolis, MD) scored her first goal of the tournament on a penalty corner. Another shot by Rizzo was tapped in by Puffenberger to make the score 4-2 in the forty-fifth minute. The scoring only continued for Mid Atlantic. Jill Witmer (Lancaster, PA) chipped a ball into the net to take a three goal lead over Pennsylvania. With one minute remaining, a penalty corner gave Mid Atlantic an advantage. Rizzo fired a rocket to the back of the cage to solidify the victory over Pennsylvania, 6-2.

The final match between New Jersey and the South was a battle. Seventy minutes of play proved too short to determine a champion. The match was sent into overtime, 2-2. Leading the tournament in number of goals scored, Kathleen Sharkey (Moosic, PA) found the net one more time, giving New Jersey the instant win and title of Regional Champions for the third consecutive year.

New Jersey struggled to get the ball over the fifty yard line in the first few minutes of play. However, it as New Jersey who got on the boards first with a sweep hit high into the back of the net by Katie Evans (Newtown Square, PA).

A penalty corner awarded to the South gave them a scoring opportunity that they were able to convert into a goal. Caitlin Van Sickle (Wilmington, DE) took a shot that was redirected on cage by Jaclyn Radvany (Lawrenceville, NJ). The score was tied 1-1 going into halftime.

Less than ten minutes into the second half, another penalty corner resulted in a goal for the South with Kelsey Kolojejchick (Larksville, PA) redirecting a shot on cage. New Jersey answered back to tie up the match at 2-2, with a goal by Julia Reinprecht (Perkasie, PA).

Reinprecht’s goal seemed to increase both New Jersey and the South’s intensity. The final minutes were thrilling as both teams fought hard to add one more goal to the boards, but neither were able to capitalize. In overtime, Sharkey’s bullet of a shot flew past South’s goalkeeper Jackie Kintzer (Chapel Hill, NC) to claim the win, 3-2 and the title of Regional Champions.

Kintzer was named goalkeeper of the tournament and K. Reinprecht was named player of the final. Both players had outstanding performances on the field and in the cage.

Katelyn Falgowski (Ladenberg, PA) was awarded with player of the tournament. “Katelyn was the best on ground in every game she played,” said Bodiemeade. “She was the most consistent, high level performer in the tournament.”

“It was a fantastic tournament that was successfully organized and run,” said Lee Bodimeade, USA Women’s National Team Head Coach. “The level of performance was far more accelerated than expected. It was pleasing to see the amount of talent and ability on the pitch this past week.”