Muhlenberg Wins ECAC Championship

The five members of one of the best Muhlenberg field hockey classes ever had their marks all over their final game.

Rachel StrowEmily Boyle and Taylor Smith each scored a goal, and Sarah Barbakoff and Claudia Theriaultwere key parts of a record-setting defensive effort as the Mules defeated Kean, 3-0, to win the ECAC championship.

The win gave the quintet a four-year record of 49-26, second in program history to the seniors who won 50 games from 1989 to 1992.

"After all the seniors have been through together it was awesome for us to win our last game," said Strow.

Muhlenberg finished the season with a record of 18-3, shutting out nationally ranked opponents in both the semifinal and final. The 18 wins broke the previous school record of 14, and the team's 11th shutout this year also set a program record.

Boyle was named tournament MVP, while Strow and Smith joined juniors Laura Holdman and Emma Rosenthal on the all-tournament team. 

In contrast to their overtime quarterfinal win against Albright and their last-second semifinal win against Alvernia, the 16th-ranked Mules took the drama out of the championship game with early goals in both halves. Just 5:17 into the game, Strow collected a diagonal pass from Boyle at the left post and fired a shot past the Kean goalie for her school-record 21st goal of the season.

The 20th-ranked Cougars (18-4) came close to tying the game with 15 minutes left in the first half when a shot hit the post. Late in the half, Strow put a shot past the goalie again, but a back swept the ball away before it crossed the goal line, and Muhlenberg took its 1-0 lead into halftime.

It didn't stay 1-0 for long after the teams resumed playing. Boyle put in a rebound 2:59 into the half, and only 50 seconds later Smith converted a pass from sophomore Stephi Rydgren to extend the lead to 3-0.

Held to three shots to that point, Kean attempted a comeback but could not solve the Mule defense and Rosenthal, who made four saves for her 12th career shutout.

Boyle finished the season with 11 goals and 10 assists, becoming the first Muhlenberg player to hit double figures in both categories. Her 16 career assists tied for third in program history.

Strow (49), Boyle (32) and Smith (30) ended up as the first trio of Mules to each score 30 points in a season; prior to this year the team had never had two teammates reach the 30-point mark in the same year.

The postseason tournament win was the first for Muhlenberg since the 1989 Middle Atlantic Conference playoffs.

"It was incredible to end a season with a championship after we have worked so hard all season," said Smith. "Most teams at this level don't get the opportunity to end their season with a win, and that was something we were able to do today."

"I think it was really special for us to win a championship our senior year because our entire team has worked so hard this season," added Boyle. "We have become best friends on and off the field - winning a championship together is just icing on the cake. It's nice to have a championship title to add to our season. Plus, ending our field hockey careers with a win is always fun."