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Franklin Pierce reeled off a 59-game winning streak and claimed five women’s soccer titles in a six-year span

From 1994 to 1999, the Hawks took home five NCAA women’s soccer titles. The 1994 champions are pictured here. NCAA photos archive

A small town in southwest New Hampshire may not seem the most likely setting for a soccer dynasty, but in the 1990s, a combination of northern Europeans mixed with New England high school recruits turned Franklin Pierce women’s soccer into a juggernaut.

During a six-season stretch from 1994 to 1999, the Ravens went 119-3 and won the NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Championship five times. A loss in the 1998 national semifinals was the only blemish that kept them from a six-peat.

Included in that run was an NCAA-record 59-game winning streak from Sept. 10, 1996, to Nov. 21, 1998, in which Franklin Pierce outscored the opposition 316-35 with 35 shutouts. But how did Rindge, New Hampshire, become the center of Division II women’s soccer? 

When current Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian arrived at Franklin Pierce in 1990, he opened an international pipeline that continued as Jeff Bailey took over in 1996 and managed the program to its historic high point of 59 consecutive wins.

The offense started with a national team goalkeeper from Finland who was tired of stopping balls and wanted to score goals of her own.

“I didn’t enjoy playing goalkeeper anymore, and I had a coach on the national team that told me I would never play in the field,” Pauliina Miettinen says. “I wanted to prove him wrong, and at Franklin Pierce I was going to be able to play in the field.”

Miettinen would go on to set NCAA offensive records with 65 assists and 309 points, while her 122 goals were an NCAA record when she graduated and are still second in Division II history.

Paired with Anne Parnila and Pauliina Auveri, both of Finland, along with Granite State native Christy Santiago, the Ravens had a dynamic attack and averaged more than five goals per game during the winning streak. The backline, meanwhile, was anchored by Finns Sini Pietila and Jenni Kapanen, Maine’s Jami-Ellen Ladakakos, and Brenda van Stralen of the Netherlands, the most outstanding defensive player in the 1996 and 1997 NCAA championships.

“When we took the field, we had a certain swagger,” said van Stralen, who later was head coach for 15 seasons at Division I Saint Francis (Pennsylvania). The Ravens shut out their three opponents, 7-0, to win the 1996 national championship for the three-peat. The challenge was stiffer in 1997, when Franklin Pierce had to survive quadruple overtime against Adelphi in the regional final, winning 2-1 on Auveri’s shot in the 148th minute. The Ravens then came back from 3-2 down to win in triple overtime, 4-3, over Cal State Dominguez Hills in the semis when Miettinen beat her defender to the far post in the 127th minute.

Despite the players’ obvious skill on the field, Franklin Pierce’s resiliency was more impressive given that the team camaraderie off the field was nonexistent.

“We actually didn’t get along at all. We hated each other,” Miettinen recalls. “We would not talk to each other, other than on the field. But we were so competitive and wanted to win that all those things didn’t matter.”

Franklin Pierce fell in the 1998 semifinals to Lynn — the same team that beat the Ravens in the second game of 1996 to end their 40-game winning streak. The Ravens bounced back to go 20-1 in 1999 and win their NCAA-record fifth national championship and remained a national power into the 2000s, with national championship game appearances in 2003 and 2007.

Division II Women’s Soccer

Consecutive wins:

59 - Franklin Pierce (Sept. 10, 1996-Nov. 21, 1998)  
46 - MSU Denver (Sept. 5, 2004-Nov. 19, 2005)  
40 - Franklin Pierce (Sept. 6, 1994-Sept. 6, 1996)  
39 - Western Wash. (Sept. 4, 2016-Oct. 26, 2017)  
32 - Central Mo. (Aug. 31, 2017-Sept. 16, 2018)

National championships:

5 - Franklin Pierce (1994, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’99) and Grand Valley St. (2009, ’10, ’13, ’14, ’15)  
3 - Barry (1989, ’92, ’93)  
2 - UC San Diego  (2000, ’01)

 

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