With a championship atmosphere in the air, three Eastern teams advanced into the NCAA Division III national tournament by defending their 2008 MAC Freedom Conference titles on Nov. 7. Field hockey, volleyball, and women’s soccer all won their second MAC championships in Eastern’s second season in the conference. All three teams received key contributions from underclassmen during their stellar performances in the final matches. Field hockey and volleyball electrified the home crowd, while the women’s soccer team stunned its nationally-ranked opponent’s crowd with an upset.
Known for their explosive offensive unit, the Lady Eagles’ defense came up huge on Saturday. Eastern, ranked 20th in the nation, used two second half goals from first-year players to defeat King’s College, 2-0. The win was the second consecutive Freedom Conference Championship that the team has brought to Eastern. With this victory, the Eagles earned an automatic bid into the 2009 NCAA Division III national tournament.
The game was far from easy, hower, because King’s refused to give up. Throughout the entire game, the Monarchs kept Eastern on its toes. Coming into the game, Eastern had averaged a little fewer than three goals per game. The team had put up three or more goals on the scoreboard 11 times during the season. When it came to the offensive department, the Lady Eagles could get the job done.
King’s was able to keep The Lady Eagles’ offensive unit at bay, but not for long.
Eastern finally found some room in the Monarchs’ defense with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Sophomore Yvonne Herbster was able to rip a shot, but the Kings’ defense was able to collect the save. First-year Kelby Bolton was at the right spot at the right time to hit the ball in the back of the cage to finally give the team its first score.
Bolton’s goal may have put pressure on the Monarchs’ defense but, five minutes later, Eastern was able to put the game out of reach with another goal. This time, senior Elya Troup was able to find first-year Brittany Moyer for the score.
The Eagles’ defense stood firm the entire game and allowed King’s only four shots in the entire game. Junior goalie Laura Ressler picked up her sixth shutout of the season.
Senior back Leslie Messick earned Championship MVP Honors with her outstanding play in anchoring the back line for Eastern.
Eastern takes a 10-game winning streak into the NCAA Division III tournament.
Saturday found the Eastern women’s soccer team standing on a familar stage. Having won conference championships in 2007 and 2008 the Lady Eagles knew just what was needed to get the job done. With that said, the away match against Freedom Conference top-seed Manhattanville could have easily ended the streak–but it didn’t. Eastern was able to upset the Valiants, 1-0.
The win earned the team its third consecutive championship title–one from the PAC and two in the MAC. The team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals last season, becoming the first Eastern team ever to reach the Elite 8 in the national tournament.
Revenge was on the agenda for Eastern after Manhattanville defeated the team, 3-0, during the regular season, which knocked Eastern into third in the conference standings. The Valiants had been red-hot, winning 13 consecutive games coming into the championship match.
Minutes into the match, both teams missed chances to score the first goal. As the game went on, scoring opportunities started to fade. In the 42nd minute of play, Eastern finally got on the board with sophomore Tess Beckwith’s eight goal of the year. It looked to be one of the most important goals of Beckwith’s collegiate career, thus far as the Eastern defense was able to hold the Valiants’ offense scoreless the rest of the game.
First- year goalkeeper Alysia Goodman earned Championship MVP honors, recording six saves en route to the shutout.
With the last match of the day, the women’s volleyball team continued their stellar play with a win over second-seeded DeSales to complete the Eastern championship sweep.
Eastern took the first set, 25-17. The team was able to produce 19 kills in the set, one more than the Bulldogs tallied in the entire match.
Sophomore Mary Poole helped Eastern make a statement early with her dominate play in the opening set. The middle blocker collected a match-best 13 kills on the day, eventually earning MVP honors.
The second set was no different for Eastern. The Lady Eagles’ defense stood strong to prevent any chance of a DeSales comeback. First-year Kelly Groff and sophomore Nikki Kummerer both stood out defensively for the Eagles in the second set and each reached double digits in digs in the match. The team cruised to a 25-12 win in game two.
In the third set DeSales did not stand a chance. Poole’s solid play, including four kills in a six-point span, helped Eastern win the set 25-14.
All-American sophomore Courtney Reinhold finished with a match-high 14 digs and 12 kills, while fellow All-American sophomore Maria Horning paced the Eastern attack, which finished with a .429 hitting percentage. Horning added 39 assists of her own.
Last season Eastern advanced to the Sweet 16. With the win on Saturday, the Eagles, ranked 23rd nationally, advanced to the NCAA tournament for the tenth time in the past 11 years.