Rebecca Snyder key in ESU’s field hockey title
It was Rebecca Snyder’s heads-up play that opened the door for a national championship.
The former Whitehall graduate was playing field hockey for East Stroudsburg University in the NCAA Division II National Championship game last fall when she spotted fellow senior Ally Roth in the clear 25-yards ahead and hit her with a pass that allowed the forward to split two Merrimack defenders, the second one committing a foul which led to a penalty stroke that Roth converted for the overtime winner.
The 1-0 win was the first NCAA Championship in field hockey for the school, and their first national championship in any sport since Men’s Gymnastics in 1983-84.
With the Warriors down a player in the overtime session, Snyder, a midfielder, had the ball and was trying to bide some time until they got back to even strength. Snyder said that the game was a back and forth affair since the opening whistle, and she just wanted to keep possession of the ball so the Merrimack Warriors (their nickname as well) couldn’t take advantage of the six on five.
During this run of keep away, Snyder delivered a pass up toward the circle to Roth, the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division II Atlantic Region Player of the Year, whose subsequent penalty shot after getting fouled delivered the NCAA Division II Championship to East Stroudsburg.
The moment the ball went into the cage, emotions began to swirl, and the realization that your team is a national champ hit each player like a wave.
“It was a bit unreal,” said Snyder. “I never expected to go out my senior year winning a national championship.”
However, the Warriors were certainly trending that way the last few seasons. In 2014 they were 11-9 and made it all the way to the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference (PSAC) semifinals against West Chester, losing 6-0 to the Rams. This past season they met the Rams again in the semifinals, but this time the prevailed, 3-1.
In that revenge match, Snyder scored a goal in the first half to give ESU a 1-0 lead. They went into intermission tied 1-1, but the Warriors outshot the Rams 16-6 in the second half with goals by Paige Harrold and Marisa Miro to catapult the Warriors into the national championship game.
That win put them against Merrimack for the title, a team they knew little about, having never faced them before. Snyder said it was up and down the whole game, a defensive struggle until Snyder’s heads-up play helped them raise the trophy.
Snyder’s midfield play garnered her a number of honors in 2015. She was named to Synapse Sports All-America second team and was an All-PSAC second team selection. She finished the season with 6 goals (third on the team), 9 assists and 21 points (also third.) Her 9 assists placed her third in that department among PSAC players, and was 13th in D-II in assists per game (0.409).
The senior started all 22 games this season, a streak of 61 consecutive games played which began her sophomore season.
Snyder has been a midfielder since her days at Whitehall where she played for current coach Jennifer Bodnar. She graduated in 2012 and was part of another outstanding team her senior season, with that squad finishing 20-4-1. Snyder said that being a midfielder offers a good vantage point in her role as a playmaker.
“I like to be able to see the ball and set up plays,” said Snyder.
Snyder said the road to the championship began on day one. As they gathered for their preparation for the upcoming 2015 season, she said that the team dynamics were “one hundred times different.”
“More than any other year, we acted like a family than just players on the field,” she said. “That really helped us to be successful.”
They also created a slogan, further enhancing that tight-knit bond they were developing. She said that establishing a heathy culture is vital to creating a winning atmosphere and 2015 was proof of that. That was borne out in their record-setting win total (19) and their PSAC and NCAA Championships, both firsts for the school.
Combining athletics and academics is always challenging, and Snyder said that this season they were only traveling on the weekends which helped tremendously with her studies.
Snyder is studying Exercise Science and plans on getting her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. She’s also keeping an open mind about coaching the sport she loves and will always keep a door open in case the urge strikes.
“I want to keep field hockey in my life,” said Snyder.