Another day closer to the start of the fall college season. To continue the excitement as games inch closer, below is a recap of last season's Division II as well as a prediction on who will finish at the top this upcoming year.
Exhibiting complete dominance over Division II field hockey, Shippensburg secured the championship in 2022, ending a brief two-year spell without a title for a program that won a three-peat from 2016 to 2018. The Raiders had a perfect record with 20 wins and demonstrated both their defensive and offensive prowess by winning by two or more goals in sixteen of those contests. Shippensburg will be led again by head coach Tara Zollinger, who has guided the team to three of their five NCAA Division II titles. Despite graduating top goal scorers Jazmin Petrantonio and Jenna Sluymer, Shippensburg will likely be a tough contender again this season. They retain players such as goalkeeper Lindsay Tripodo, who had the second best goals against average in all of Division II as a freshman, and welcome several international freshmen.
Behind Shippensburg with another dominating performance was the Division II runner-up, West Chester. Try as they might, West Chester could not sink the Raiders last season. The pair met twice in the regular season as well as in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Confererence (PSAC) championship and the NCAA Championship. Each time, the Golden Rams could not find enough to defeat the Raiders. Besides those four meetings, West Chester only lost one other time during their 17-5 season, falling to East Stroudsburg. In contrast, in 2019, Wester Chester defeated Shippensburg twice in the regular season and went on to claim victory over Saint Anselm in the NCAA Title game.
Returning for West Chester is sophomore Valerie Van Kuijck from The Netherlands after being named the 2021 PSAC Rookie of the Year. Despite playing a majority of the season as a midfielder, Van Kuijck managed to score 21 goals as a freshman. The Rams will also see the return of Dara Spavlik, coming back as a graduate student after a breakout senior year.
Another top team last season was East Stroudsburg. The Warriors finished the regular season ranked fourth in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division II Coaches Poll, and ran all the way to the tournament semifinal where they fell 2-1 to Shippensburg. East Stroudsburg has been performing, but they haven’t won the tournament since 2015, and their last championship game appearance was in 2018. They also dropped the PSAC tournament title to Wester Chester after winning it in 2019. East Stroudsburg is combatting some huge turnover in their roster with 17 incoming freshmen, so it’ll be interesting to see the direction the team will take this season.
Assumption went 20-2 last year, losing only its first and last games of the year to West Chester. The Greyhounds outclassed their opponents most of the year, including an early season 1-0 win over East Stroudsburg and a Northeast-10 (NE10) Conference title, but fell in their first NCAA Tournament game. They demonstrated a stout defensive line, with senior defender Jenna Graf and senior goalkeeper Kylie Garigulo earning First Team All-American honors last season. The pair also won NE10 Defender of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year, respectively.
Being the smallest of the three divisions, Division II has less volatility. Shippensburg and West Chester have been the recent top contenders, but one can’t count out teams like Saint Anselm, Millersville and Adelphi. In the past ten NCAA tournaments, Millersville is the only program other than Shippensburg, West Chester or East Stroudsburg to win a National Championship.
Stay tuned as Division III 2022 Season Predictions will be released this week.
Photos courtesy of Bill Smith, Shippensburg University, West Chester Athletics and Assumption Athletics