By Michael Otero
“New year, new team.” That’s what Head Coach Raenee Savin had to say about her team’s 3-0 start to the season with two of the three wins coming against top three ranked teams in Division II.
Before the start of the season, the Pioneers were slotted sixth in the NE-10 Conference coming off a 10-8 season. Opening up their 2016 campaign, the Pioneers rolled over Bentley University 3-0 thanks to some stellar defense and precision from their sharpshooters. The Pioneers allowed a measly six shots all game while they converted three of their own and their goaltending stood strong. “We have depth at midfield, our defense has been solid and our goaltending has been strong,” said Savin. When all four units: attacking, defense offensive line and goaltending are in sync, the Pioneers are tough to beat.
Another team that is tough to beat is West Chester University of Pennsylvania. On their home field for the first time, the Pioneers valiantly fought the favored No. 3 ranked Golden Rams and delivered the knockout punch; defeating them 5-2. “We have a tremendous amount of confidence in each other and that extends off the field as well. It’s just a great group of girls to coach,” said Savin.
In this matchup, the Pioneers were led by sophomore forward/midfielder Emily Miller who notched a hat trick. After Miller put the Pioneers up two goals early, their lead was cut in half. Later in the game, all three units seemed to be on the same page again as sophomore midfielder/defender Bailey Martin made a humongous save to keep the led in LIU’s favor. Goals in the second half by Miller and sophomore forward/midfielder Tarryn Morris locked up the Pioneer victory.
The Pioneer offense was stellar; accumulating 14 shots, five of which found the back of the cage. On the other side, the Golden Rams were suffocated by the Pioneer defense which allowed just six shots. For her performance during that match-up, Miller earned NE-10 Player of the Week honors.
Now, beating the No. 3 ranked team in the country is special, but beating the No. 3 and No. 1 ranked teams in back-to-back games is nothing short of incredible. That’s exactly what the Pioneers did. The Green and Gold paid a visit to East Stoudsburg University, a team they have had success with in recent memory, and played a great all-around game.
“We’ve been successful against East Stroudsburg over the recent years. We were their toughest game last year,” said Savin. In 2014, they beat the Warriors 4-1, but last season they lost a tight contest by a score of 3-2. So they play the Warriors tough and this game would be no different.
The lone goal of the contest came just after halftime from senior forward/midfielder Melissa Quintanilla. The Pioneers didn’t have many scoring opportunities in the match as they were outshot 16-3. They bent but they did not break. Senior goalie Ericka Parks played a pivotal role, saving four shots in earning her second shutout in three games.
Wins over the No. 3 and No. 1 ranked teams look good on a resume, but Savin has something bigger in store for her squad. “Our goal is to win the NCAA Tournament. Our seniors tasted success playing in the NCAA finals in 2013 and 2014. Now they wan to win it all. We are all motivated to make this happen.”
In addition to the Pioneers successful week, they also climbed the ranks of Division II teams as well. They now sit at No.7as voted on by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association.
The Pioneers offense is playing at an incredible clip to start the season; scoring nine goals in three games for an average of three goals per contest which is good enough for third in all of Division II. Their defense has also pitched two shutouts in three contests and allowed just two goals.
If things keep going like this, Savin and Co. will keep climbing the ranks and not just be a threat to make the NCAA Tournament, but make some noise in the tournament.