2016 marks the fourth year in a row that field hockey has won the Centennial Conference championship. Next up? Nationals.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Ursinus College field hockey team captured the Centennial Conference field hockey tournament championship. The Bears took down No. 7 Franklin & Marshall in thrilling fashion, besting the Diplomats 2-1 in overtime.
Sophomore Bridget Sherry blasted home a penalty stroke, giving the Bears the crown, and giving them an NCAA Division III tournament birth.
“Our big team goal was to defend our title as the Centennial Conference Champions, which we were able to do today,” said senior standout Amber Steigerwalt. “We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this without taking each game one game at a time.”
Led by head coach Janelle Benner and captains Steigerwalt and Annie Kopera, the Bears finished up the regular season with a 14-4 record, which included a few tough, hard-fought losses to some of the top teams in the nation.
The Bears started off the season with a trip to 17th ranked Rowan, where the Bears prevailed 3-0. Coming home, the competition didn’t get any easier, as the Bears hosted sixth ranked William Smith, but the Bears were able to pull out a 3-1 home victory. After losing 4-1 against eighth ranked Messiah, the Bears went on a three-game winning streak, before losing to the sixth-ranked Diplomats in 1-0 contest.
The Bears then went on a five-game winning streak, which ended at the hands of 10th ranked TCNJ. The Bears then fell to Division II West Chester, the Bears’ fourth and final loss of the regular season. The Bears ended the 2016 regular season on a four-game winning streak, highlighted by a 5-2 drubbing of 12th ranked Muhlenberg.
The Bears finished the year with a 9-1 conference record, giving them the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the Centennial Conference tournament.
The Bears began their title defense with a semifinal clash against the Dickinson Red Devils. Down 2-1 earlier on, the Bears roared back to defeat the Red Devils by a score of 5-2. Senior Colleen Leahy, junior Brooke Overly, Kopera, and Steigerwalt scored for the Bears. This set up a rematch with Franklin & Marshall in the conference final.
Steigerwalt got the Bears on the board first, but the Diplomats were fast to react and tied the game three minutes later. It was a defensive struggle the rest of the way between two evenly-matched teams before they entered overtime, where the Bears would prevail. According to the Ursinus athletics web page, this marks the 12th conference title in the last 13 seasons.
“We are just really excited for our four-peat this year and hope to be able to continue to find success this season,” said Steigerwalt.
Currently, the Bears are ranked sixth and are looking to win a national title. Last season, the Bears made a final four run, but ultimately fell in the national semifinals.
“We can definitely use our last playoff run as motivation for us to get even further this year,” said Steigerwalt. “We were able to find success and make the national semifinal game.”
While the Ursinus roster is loaded with talent, Ursinus has specifically benefitted from the tremendous plays of Steigerwalt and Torrence, who were both selected to play in the Victory Sports Tours/National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division III Senior Game.
Steigerwalt was a second team all-American last season, a first team all-region honoree, and has been named to the all-conference team on two occasions. Torrence has also received three-time all-conference honors, three-time all-region honors, and is a two-time All-American.
“It is such an honor to further represent this team,” said Torrence. “I would not have received any of the honors if it wasn’t for my teammates and coaching staff.” These two seniors have played a huge role in the Bears’ successes over the past four years, and will be key for the Bears as they look to make another deep tournament run.
The Bears return to action in the upcoming NCAA Division III Field Hockey Championships. The date, time, location and opponent have not been announced. The Bears’ opponent, whoever it may be, is surely going to have its hands full with this very talented and experienced Ursinus team.