The women’s field hockey team’s season of immense accomplishment

Alex Geli
Staff Writer

The team had one of the biggest turnarounds in the school’s field hockey history.

“To me, we not only lost a game that Saturday evening in the PSAC Championship, but we gained this past fall, (and) what we gained and will take with us will be so much greater.”
Millersville’s field hockey coach, Shelly Behrens, had an “emotional” final meeting with her team right after they were notified that they didn’t do enough during their fall season to receive an NCAA bid. After reaching the PSAC Championship game, you could imagine Behrens was flabbergasted after hearing the bad news. But, for Millersville, it was only a minor scratch on their resume this season, which was chock-full-of good news.
Here’s a rundown of the lady Marauders’ record-breaking 2012 fall season: after finishing their 7-11 season last year on a bad note, Behrens’ squad turned it around and achieved a 14-7 record; within those wins, they reached the PSAC playoffs, which held some of the top teams in the country – let’s just say that Millersville wasn’t intimidated; they forged their way to the title game only to fall short to second-ranked West Chester. After their success, they pulled in some other accomplishments – some by players and some others by one coach in particular.
If you would ask that certain head coach about her two awards, she would accredit them to, not herself or her coaching job, but to everyone who wore black and gold on game day.
“First off, the PSAC East Coach of the Year award and Womensfieldhockey.com’s Division II Coach of the Year award, those are great,” commander-in-chief Behrens said, “but to me, those belong to our team (and) our program.”
That’s right, after turning the team around and accomplishing the unexpected, the fifth-year coach brought in those deserving awards, which spotlighted the entire season in her opinion.
“They are reflections of us,” she said, “and that I am so proud of all our players for how they represent Millersville.” Hammering in her ‘no I-in-team’ mindset that her team took under their wing and ran with, she continued, “For our team, it is never about one person; it is about all of us. It has been very flattering and humbling, but we are all in it together as a program.”
Under Behrens’ wing in her five-year stint thus far at Millersville, the team has managed a plethora amount of success on and off the field – especially in 2012.
In her first two years, she led the team to tally more wins than they’d had for the past 10 years. Not only racking up more wins on the field that Millersville’s field hockey fans were accustomed to, Behrens focused on her players’ success at the desk. During the 2009 season, her team attained a 3.41 GPA, thus earning a National Academic Team Award – something that they have accomplished twice since Behrens had guided them.
Continuing her success at improving her crew one year at a time, Millersville posted a 9-11 record in 2011, which was the winningest season since 1996. Then, in 2011, Millersville proved that they could rumble with the big shots, as they did the unthinkable since the 1990’s: beat perennial power Shippensburg.
“(There has been) so many great accomplishments for a group that no one expected anything from,” Behrens said. “So many people have been able to see how athletic our team is, how competitive they are and their fight to never give up.”
Now, Behrens, who is the first Millersville field hockey coach to be honored with either of her two awards over the season, has assumed control of her ladies’ direction and is on the up-and-up with plenty of academic and athletic accolades provided by her players – one of whom being senior Maria Thompson.
Thompson became MU’s first winner of the PSAC Championship Scholar Award in 2012 with, not only being a four-year starter who boosted this past year’s defense to accumulate a school-best 10 shutouts, but a 4.0 GPA through 91 credit hours.
“I was actually caught off guard when I found out that I was receiving the award,” the scholar said. “Millersville field hockey has not reached this level of competition in quite some time; therefore, I did not know that the award existed!” Thompson continued, “After getting over the initial shock, of course I felt honored to be able to represent my team and Millersville University as a whole in this way.”
There it is again: “team.” With such a selfless attitude permeated throughout the Marauder squad, how could anyone take credit for the actual work they put in? For example, between classes and field hockey, the elementary education major works to put herself through school at the Dean of Education’s office.
Well, Thompson tried her best.
“I think it’s a combination of several things that helps me stay balanced and focused on school, sports and work all at once,” she attempted. “I do not really sit around just ‘lounging’ when there are projects to finish, tests to study for, and papers to write. When our team travels to games, we are all pulling out homework to work on during the trip.”
It was only a matter of time as Thompson segued into giving props to her whole team.
“This team is comprised of very well-rounded, level-headed young women, and even if we did not have the season that we did, I would still be proud of my team for that reason alone,” she described. “Off the field, they do work hard in their academics and at their jobs. They volunteer their time for community service projects and other events that take place on campus.”
How about on the field? Well, they’re latest season wasn’t too shabby. That very same group of gals extended their season further than they’ve had since 1989, while making perennial PSAC threats like No. 4 Bloomsburg and No. 2 Shippensburg flip over and play dead.
With the help of goalie Lauren Sotzin, midfielder Sarah Bomberger, sophomore Rachel Dickinson, freshman Megan Donlan and their surrounding squad mates, Millersville’s field hockey team propelled their way to extraordinary heights – No. 3 in the final Penn Monto/NFHCA Division II Coaches Poll to be exact.
Sotzin, who turned away a career-high 104 shots, was named to the All-PSAC East second team. Bomberger also was given that honor in her second year, not to mention being named All-America second team. Dickinson, after being deemed PSAC East’s Freshman of the Year and National Rookie of the Year, was once again garnished with recognitions – this time, it was not only being named All-PSAC East first team, but All-America first team by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association and Womensfieldhockey.com as well. Another defender in Donlan followed the steps of her predecessor, Dickinson, as she was called unto the All-Rookie Squad.
Yes, there were many accolades, awards and records – too many to name in fact – in the recent fall season, but what team captain Thompson says flirts with the fact that this is only the beginning of Millersville’s success under Behrens’ reign.
“All of these individual awards simply help illustrate how much our team has grown in only a year’s time,” she said. “As a senior, I am looking forward to what these ladies are going to be accomplishing next year.”