Field Hockey Selected to First NCAA Division III Tournament
(Posted November 7, 2004)
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Huntingdon, PA - For the first time in the program's history the Juniata College field hockey team has earned a berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Juniata, which was ranked ninth in the most recent STC/NFHCA Division III poll, will play Cortland State University on November 13 at 1 pm. The match will be held at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt. If the Eagles win Saturday, the Regional Championship match will be held on Sunday at Middlebury also at 1 pm.
Juniata received one of two at-large berths available for the 18-team Championship Field. Thirteen conferences have been awarded automatic qualification for their champions into the 2004 championship. Three teams were selected from Pool B, which consists of independent institutions and institutions that are members of conferences that do not meet the requirements for automatic qualification. Finally, two berths were reserved for Pool C, which are institutions from automatic-qualifying conferences that are not their conference champions and the remaining teams from Pool B. The Eagles earned one of the two Pool C berths.
Juniata finished the regular season with a record of 14-3, just one victory shy of matching the program record for wins in a season which was established last season. Juniata earned its second-consecutive Commonwealth Conference postseason berth, but fell in the conference semifinals by a 2-1 score to Lebanon Valley in a match that was decided on penalty strokes. Juniata's four losses in 2004 are the fewest the team has had in a season since the 1991 team finished the year 8-2-1. Juniata was ranked as high as seventh in the Division III poll this season and last week placed six players on the Commonwealth All-Conference Team. Senior forwards Grace McCluskey (West Perry/Elliotsburg) and Billie Rickenbaugh (East Juniata/McAlisterville) joined senior goalkeeper Melonie Sappe' (Dallas/Shavertown) and midfielder Janine Hartman (Whitehall/Whitehall) on the first team. Junior Elise Zimmerman (Cumberland Valley/Boiling Springs) and freshman Kim Wagner (Middletown/Middletown) were second-team picks. Wagner was tabbed as the freshman of the year as she led Juniata in goals and points in her first campaign. Eagle Head Coach Caroline Gillich was chosen as the conference coach of the year.
Juniata's opening opponent Cortland State enters play with a record of 15-2. The Red Dragons have NCAA experience as they will be competing in their sixth-consecutive NCAA Tournament, the third-longest stretch of any team in the field. Cortland is also a three-time Division III National Champion, having claimed the title in 1993, 1994 and 2001. If the Eagles advance, they will play the winner of a match between host Middlebury College (15-1) and Wesley College on November 14. Middlebury is the defending Division III runner-up and the third-ranked team in NCAA Division III. The Panthers also earned an at-large berth after losing its conference championship match in overtime. Wesley earned an automatic berth by claiming the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Championship.
The NCAA Division III Semifinals and finals will be held November 19 and 20 on the campus of Westfield State College in Westfield, Mass.
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