National Champions: Hens earn first Div. I title in field hockey

Delaware's players pose with their trophy after winning the NCAA Division I national championship in field hockey on Sunday. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Delaware’s players pose with their trophy after winning the NCAA Division I national championship in field hockey on Sunday. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — With every goal they accomplished along the way, Delaware’s field hockey players always insisted they weren’t satisfied yet.

They didn’t want to stop at just winning another Colonial Athletic Association title or making the NCAA Final Four.

On a memorable Sunday afternoon, the Blue Hens proved once and for all why they always knew they were capable of more.

Going up against a storied North Carolina program, Delaware withstood the Tar Heels’ rally and then got yet another clutch goal from Greta Nauck to shock UNC, 3-2, and win the Hens’ first NCAA Division I national championship in the sport.

The eighth-ranked Hens (23-2) are the first Delaware team to capture a national title since the UD football team won the NCAA FCS crown in 2003.

They are the first UD women’s team to claim a national crown since the women’s lacrosse squad won its third straight national title in 1983.

“It’s a mix of believable, but also unbelievable,” said senior co-captain Meghan Winesett. “I think people undermined us all season and we proved people wrong when we beat Louisville, Duke and Princeton.

The Hens' Greta Nauck celebrates her game-winning goal late in Sunday's contest. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

The Hens’ Greta Nauck celebrates her game-winning goal late in Sunday’s contest. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

“To come out and beat a six-time champion, it probably won’t hit me for a while, but this has been one of the most amazing days ever.”

“I can’t describe this,” said Nauck. “It’s a good feeling, it’s just amazing. We love to prove people wrong. That’s what we did today, that’s what we’ve done the past few weeks.

“And Delaware isn’t an underdog anymore. It doesn’t matter what other people say, it’s what we believe in. And we believed in ourselves the whole season.”

The Heels (20-6) overcame a 2-0 halftime deficit to tie the game at 2-2 when Megan DuVernois scored with just 7:24 remaining.

But the Hens, playing in their first national title game, were not to be turned away.

Delaware’s Taylor Lister stole a UNC pass out of the air and drove into the scoring circle. She then crossed the ball to Nauck, who was charging in toward the goal.

Nauck simply had to flick the ball into the open side of the goal for the game-winner with just 5:56 on the clock.

The leading scorer in the country, the goal was Nauck’s 33rd of the season, extending her school-record total.

The Hens' Meghan Winesett controls the ball against North Carolina in the national title game. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

The Hens’ Meghan Winesett controls the ball against North Carolina in the national title game. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

The Tar Heels quickly called timeout and pulled their goalie in favor of an extra field player. But UNC never seriously threatened again.

As the final horn sounded, the Hens stormed onto the field, deliriously piling on top of each other. A relatively large contingent of UD fans and parents were on hand for the contest, played at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Complex.

“Wow, what a beautiful job they did again,” said coach Rolf van de Kerkhof. “Cinderella, not Cinderella, 2016 is the year for the Blue Hens. We knew it from the get-go.

“We don’t want to be arrogant, but we believed in ourselves when some other people didn’t. We just said ‘Us against the world’ and we have grown because of it.”

Delaware won its final 19 games with its last loss coming on Sept. 11 against Princeton. The Hens outscored their opponents 100-39 but all four of their NCAA Tournament victories came by a single goal each.

Playing her usual aggressive style, junior goalie Emmeline Oltmans was named the Tournament MVP. She finished with seven saves on Sunday and 10 total in the Final Four.

Nauck, Lister and Oltmans joined senior Maura Zarkoski as NCAA All-Tournament Team honorees.

Delaware jumped out to its 2-0 lead as Nauck scored just 9:32 into the game and Winesett followed with a goal with 5:11 left before halftime.

But North Carolina struck early in the second half, pulling to within 2-1 on a goal by Lauren Moyer just 2:50 in to the period. The Tar Heels, who were playing in the national title game for the 17th time, then tied it with 7:24 remaining.

In the end, however, the final goal — and the trophy — belonged to the Hens.

“We got here and we knew we were going to win the national championship, so we had to go out strong,” said Winesett. “We played our game today and I think that spoke for itself. We’re very unselfish, the whole team. That’s how we play Delaware hockey. We trust everybody at all times and that’s what got us the win today.”

“We fight together, we win together, and we did it again today,” said van de Kerkhof. “We were never in doubt that we would come out here being winners. I’m just so excited for this team. They believed in it and they went for it.”

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