UML River Hawks

River Hawks field hockey wins NCAA championship.

River Hawks Defeat Shippensburg 1-0 in NCAA Final

LOUISVILLE, KY. – It is only fitting that the UMass Lowell field hockey team completed its own triple crown while in Louisville, Ky.  In addition to their two previous championships this season – Northeast-10 Regular Season and Tournament – the River Hawks can now add NCAA National Champions to their list of accomplishments.

No. 1 UMass Lowell completed a perfect 24-0 season, the first undefeated National Champions in school history, with a 1-0 victory over No. 2 Shippensburg (21-2) in the NCAA Final played in Trager Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville as part of the NCAA DII Fall Championships Festival on Saturday afternoon.

One shot was all UMass Lowell needed to take home the second National Title in program history, as senior midfielder Liz Day (North Andover, Mass.) recorded the only shot on goal for the River Hawks and lone goal of the game.  The River Hawk defense and goalkeeper Melanie Hopkins (Harwich, Mass.) held down the fort for the rest of the tilt, keeping Shippensburg scoreless to preserve the win.

“Defense was the difference for us today,” said Head Coach Shannon Hlebichuk, who captured her second title in nine years at the helm of the program.  “I know it’s cliché when they say offense wins games but defense wins championships but that was certainly the case today.  We have a powerful offense – scoring over 100 goals this year – so our defense has kind of been overlooked.  But for them to come out in a National Championship game and play the majority of the minutes in our defensive end and to stay composed and disciplined and not panic?  That was awesome to watch.  They deserved that win.”

UMass Lowell took advantage of its first penalty corner of the game, as freshman midfielder Rachel McCarthy (Reading, Mass.) inbounded the ball to senior forward Sammy Macy (Tewksbury, Mass.) at the top of the circle before she found midfielde Day on the right middle of the circle to put the River Hawks up 1-0 in the 22nd minute of play.  The shot would prove to be the difference-maker in the 1-0 game.

Hopkins made a pair of stellar saves on Shippensburg’s 10th penalty corner of the game, batting away the Raiders’ initial shot and stopping the rebound, as well, in the second half, stopping all six shots she faced, including four in the second stanza.

When the River Hawks couldn’t convert on their fourth penalty corner of the game, with just over 11 minutes left in regulation, Shippensburg had a breakway down the field, stopped by senior Jaime Hadley (Chelmsford, Mass.), once again preventing the Raiders from tying the game.

With just over six minutes remaining in the tilt, sophomore defender Sarah Wilcox (Old Town, Maine) made a diving defensive save after Shippensburg’s 12th penalty corner, saving the equalizer from finding its way to the back of the cage.

“Most of the game we were able to keep their girls out to the side and when we couldn’t, our goalie Mel made amazing saves when we needed her,” said Hadley.  “That one ball that was pretty much on the goal line, Sarah Wilcox stepped up and cleared that right out.  It was perfect, exactly what she should have done and they didn’t get that goal.”

UMass Lowell captured its 24th victory of the year despite Shippensburg owning advantages in penalty corners (12-4) and shots (13-3).  Hopkins’ six-save shutout, her 18th of the year, broke the NCAA DII record for goalie shutouts in a single season, only adding to the impressive list of accomplishments for this year’s team and student-athletes.

Day, Macy, Enaire and Hopkins were all named to the NCAA All-Tournament team for their standout efforts to lift their team to victory.

After making it to the previous three National Title games, UMass Lowell was finally able to take home the National Championship trophy and cap off their perfect season.

“Four years of working so hard, to end it on this is just amazing,” said Hadley.

“To go 24-0 and have a perfect season – it’s just unreal,” added Enaire.  “It’s the best feeling in the world.”