Field hockey wins first national title with upset win over North Carolina
Managing Sports Editor and Staff Reporter
Since its last Division I National Championship in 1983, six athletic directors have been through the university. Only holding the position for six months, Chrissi Rawak can already say that she’s witnessed one national title.
The Hens, who had not advanced past the first round of the field hockey NCAA tournament since 1982, defeated North Carolina, 3-2, in the national championship Nov. 20. When asked after the game if she had any doubt that this team could go where no other Delaware team had gone for 33 years, Rawak adamantly expressed her belief in this team.
“To be honest, no,” the first-year athletic director said. “Watching this team and when I spent time with Rolf [van de Kerkhof] at the beginning of the year and listened to how he built this program and the talent he had and the commitment, there wasn’t any doubt. They were locked in and they were focused. They played like an unbelievably unselfish confident team.”
The No. 8 Blue Hens capped off a remarkably historic 2016 season with their upset over the No. 4 Tar Heels. They finished the year with a 19-game win streak and 23 wins, both school records.
Delaware picked up two goals in the first half from NCAA scoring leader Greta Nauck and senior Meghan Winesett. Facing a Tar Heels offense that averages 3.37 goals per game, Blue Hens goalie Emmeline Oltmans pitched a shutout through 35 minutes.
“At halftime I was really thinking that they [North Carolina] have to do anything to get the ball through and score because they’re down two,” Oltmans said.
That’s exactly what six-time national champion UNC did — they scored only three minutes into the second half courtesy of Tar Heels leading goal scorer Lauren Moyer. North Carolina continued to control possession for the next 15 minutes before they tied the game on a Megan DuVernois deflection from Malin Evert.
Through 23 of the 35 minutes in the second half, Delaware had relinquished their 2-0 lead while North Carolina seized all the momentum. Despite losing two of their top players in Ally Pollack and Lisa Giezeman due to injury, the Blue Hens “rose from the dead,” as they have time and time again this season.
With just five minutes left, Nauck tallied the game-leading and championship-clinching goal, her 33rd of the season. Forward Taylor Lister intercepted a Tar Heel pass and then worked her way down the right sideline before crossing it in the direction of Nauck, whose tip-in extended both her national lead in goals and program record.
“We started this process back in February,” Head Coach Rolf van de Kerkhof said. “Nine months in the making. Immensely proud of my staff, my players.”
The senior class of Winesett, Esmée Peet, Maura Zarkoski, Marjelle Scheffers and Kayla Devlin leave a lasting legacy, including four conference championships and the program’s first-ever national championship. Yet star players Nauck and Oltmans return next season, leading a team that will be expected to once again contend for the national title.
“The program keeps building,” Rawak said. “What I’m working hard to get all our coaches to do is building programs, not just teams. That builds sustainable success. That builds that winning culture. We’re just getting started, but we’re gonna enjoy this one.”