The Slippery Rock University field hockey team finished the season with a record of 9-10 after losing in the quarterfinals of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoffs.
It was an up and down season for SRU, but senior midfielder Kelsey Gustafson thought it was an excellent one.
“Overall, I would say the season was a success,” Gustafson said. “Even though the result of the playoff game wasn’t what I had wished, I had never been so proud to walk off the field with my head held high, and with ROCK written across my chest.”
They opened the season on the road in Massachusetts, where they won their first two games of the season. They then came home to open up conference play by defeating Seton Hill University, and began the season at 3-0.
The Rock then proceeded to lose their next four games, and six of their next seven to fall to a season-worst record of 4-6 through 10 games. Their only win in that stretch was against East Stroudsburg, who was ranked fifth in the country at the time, 2-1.
Starting with game 11, the Green and White began their best stretch of the season. They reeled off five wins in a row, all of which were conference games, to get themselves into position to make a push for the playoffs. Three of those wins came in overtime. The five game winning streak matched the longest winning streak in the program’s history.
Their last three games of the season were all against PSAC playoff teams. The Rock dropped all three to close the regular season at 9-9, which marked the first time since 1998 that they have not had a losing regular season record. They entered the playoffs as the sixth seed and had to travel to Shippensburg to face the third seed in the PSAC quarterfinals. After giving up a goal just over a minute into the game, the Rock fell 1-0 to close out their season at 9-10.
This playoff appearance marked the third time in the last four years that SRU has made the playoffs, and their nine wins was the fourth most in school history.
The team also received some individual honors. Gustafson and Kaili Simmons were selected to play in the national senior All Star game in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 5, and Gustafson was also named to the first team all-PSAC squad.
Gustafson lead the team in both goals and points (five goals, 11 points), while redshirt senior forward Allison Shade was second in both categories (four goals, 10 points). Sophomore forward Megan McKay led the way in assists (five) and shots (32) for the season.
Gustafson said she is going to miss her teammates the most.
“Playing Rock hockey has been my life for the past four years and there is not one thing that I won’t miss,” Gustafson said. “Besides not playing field hockey, what I am going to miss most is my teammates. You form such a close bond on and off the field, just like one big family.”
While the Rock had many offensive contributors this season, the team’s strength was the defensive side of the ball. Junior goalie Carlee DuMars played every minute in net this season and made 87 saves. She recorded a 1.35 goals against average, good for seventh in the country in Division II. She also had three shutouts and a .763 save percentage.
SRU’s defenders tied for the lead in all of Division II with 19 defensive saves for the season. Redshirt defender Baylee Childress led the team with nine defensive saves, which was fourth in the nation, while Gustafson chipped in with six saves.
“Looking back at the season, I am very proud of the team,” SRU head coach Julie Swiney said. ” While we would have liked to win a few more games, have a winning record and win our playoff game, there is no doubt that it was a successful season for the program.”
Despite many key contributors graduating this season, Swiney is still optimistic about the future.
“I believe we have the talent to continue moving forward as a program and hope that underclassmen step up into leadership roles,” Swiney said.