By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

The Lock Haven field hockey team had a pretty strong presence in 2000, winning its way to the 2000 NCAA Division II championship.

But to have a couple of All-Americans fall in your lap the next season? That's exciting.

Head coach Pat Rudy is having none of the speculative talk, however. She has seen high expectations disappear in a flash in her seven years at the helm.

"Last year, we had reflected on our 1999 season, where we had a long winning streak, and we were focusing on the one big game with Bloomsburg," she says. "Weaker teams came along and upset us."

That all turned around in 2000. Thanks in large part to midfielder and corner striker Shanna Vitale, the Eagles overcame past doubts and now nest on top of the Division II heap.

"We really were very, very focused and emphasized taking it one game at a time, not looking past our opponents," Rudy says.

And they didn't, beating Bentley 2-0 in the final.

"We focused on the process," Rudy says. "We were trying to focus on our performance instead of what we wanted to attain by the end."

That, in 2001, might be another title. South Jersey scoring sensation Laura Baranski (Collingswood, Pa.) and scholastic All-American Kellie Kulina (Hummelstown, Pa.) join the mix along with a pair of important transfers: Kimberly Siple (Oxford, Pa.) from Old Dominion and Mandy Sullivan (Sipers, Pa.) from the independent varsity team out of Houghton College.

"We have a good tradition and good facilities, and that's a really big drawing card," Rudy says.

The Eagles' talent rivals many Division I colleges, and their Oct. 9 tangle with Bucknell of the Patriot League will be the team's barometer for the rest of the season.