The Slippery Rock University field hockey team was ranked fifth in the nation last week by the Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association for Division II national poll.
The ranking is the first for The Rock since the 2014 season, where they spent two weeks in the national rankings. This is the first time in team history that the women have been placed within the top five ranks. Slippery Rock head coach Julie Swiney said that her team’s two wins against third-ranked West Chester and number five Kutztown were the main reasons why her team climbed into the national rankings.
“I think that we surprised a lot of people,” Swiney said, in her eighth season as head coach for The Rock. “Beating two teams with strong reputations that [West Chester and Kutztown] both have was a big reason why we got ranked. I think nobody expected it so it made such a big impact.”
Swiney said she acknowledged her team had a disappointing season last year and that a large part of why her team is looking so good in the standings this year (8-5 overall/3-2 in conference) because of the chemistry her team has on and off the field. Swiney continued by saying that a large part of her team’s success this season is that they have been able to compete for the full 70 minutes and not have any lapses.
The Rock fell to Mansfield University on October 3rd with a final score of 4-0. Swiney said that the reason why her team lost to a team like Mansfield [who was winless in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) until they beat The Rock] was because her team suffered numerous lapses throughout the game. The league, in general, is so tough and competitive that if a team “lapses” for even a second they can lose the game, Swiney said.
“Every team in the league can beat any team on any day and I truly believe that,” Swiney said. “In the last 3-4 years that has become more and more true and it is just a battle every single time.”
A large part of the Green and White’s success this year has come at the hands of some of Swiney’s younger talent on the team. Freshman Kayla Ulrich has contributed a large part to her team’s success this season, Swiney said.
In 13 games played, Ulrich is ranked fifth in the PSAC with 9 goals (.692) and eighth in shots with 51. She currently boasts 3.92 goals against average percentage.
Ulrich said that being such a big impact for her team as a freshman is a “really good feeling.”
“Coming into the season I didn’t think I was going to make such a big impact on the team,” Ulrich said. “But without the help of my teammates, we definitely would not be having the success that we are having.”
Ulrich said her team’s defense has contributed a lot to the eight games her team has won. Ulrich highlighted teammates senior Kayla Mack, junior Liz Wolfe, and sophomore Jordan Barnes as a huge force controlling The Rock’s defense.
“They definitely make the team what it is because you can’t have an offense without a defense,” she said.
Ulrich said that adjusting to competing at the college level from the high school was a challenge. The speed of the game and the increase in the amount of running that occurs is one of the biggest differences, she explained. The increase in the level of skill that the competition has was also a difference but was expected, she said.
“The PSAC is very intense,” Ulrich said. “But like Coach Swiney always says, ‘anyone can win and anyone can lose, so give it your all.’”
The Rock will look to enter the final weeks of the regular season trying to clinch a spot in the PSAC playoffs. They will host two more home games, one against Mercyhurst University on October 17th and the other against East Stroudsburg University on October 21st, the latter being the team’s senior day. Slippery Rock must first travel to Seton Hill University on Wednesday to take on the Griffins in a PSAC matchup. The game is set to begin at 4 p.m.