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East Stroudsburg leans on defense during championship run

2015 Division II Field Hockey

Merrimack’s Mary McNeil (right) fights against Ashley Chioda of East Stroudsburg in the championship. BRAD BOWER / NCAA PHOTOS

The Results

CHAMPIONSHIP

East Stroudsburg 1, Merrimack 0

SEMIFINALS

East Stroudsburg 6, West Chester 2

Merrimack 1, Stonehill 0

ELITE 90 HONOREE

 Sydney McCarthy, East Stroudsburg

Sandy Miller understood her team’s potential after East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania’s two season-opening wins in September. They had rolled past Stonehill College, a Division II semifinalist the previous season, 5-1, before routing another NCAA championship qualifier, Adelphi University, 4-1.

“I think we have something pretty special here,” Miller, the Warriors’ coach for more than 30 years, told her team.

That outlook was drastically different from previous years. East Stroudsburg was just 6-12 in 2012, but changes Miller implemented to improve her team’s conditioning in order to better facilitate a relentless, in-your-face style eventually started to take hold.

A defense that failed to record a single shutout two years earlier amassed eight in 22 games in 2015 and limited opponents to 0.77 goals per game. And the offense, which scored 14 more goals in 2015 than it did two years earlier, led Division II with a 3.05 scoring average.

On Nov. 22, 4:48 into overtime of a scoreless NCAA championship match against Merrimack College in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, two-time first-team All-American Ally Roth drilled a penalty stroke into the lower left corner of the net to punctuate the Warriors’ remarkable run with a 1-0 victory and the program’s first national championship.