By Blake Moore
ADA — The Ohio Northern women's lacrosse program tied the school record for wins in a season during the 2019 campaign after displaying exceptional growth and development on and off the field under fourth-year head coach Beth Hemminger.
In 2019, the Polar Bears posted a 7-9 overall record and a 3-5 mark in the Ohio Athletic Conference to finish sixth in the final league standings. Their overall wins total tied the school record established during the team's inaugural season in 2016, while their three conference victories tied the top mark set last season.
"Our program is headed in the right direction, and we definitely took important steps toward the future this season," Hemminger remarked. "This team was resilient all season, overcoming injuries and close losses, due to our leadership and athletes stepping up when needed. We really came together as a team and continued to push each other on and off the field, which is how we will continue moving forward as a program."
Additionally, Northern broke several single-season team records during its fourth season.
On the offensive end, ONU registered program records with 183 goals, 51 assists, and 234 points during the 2019 season.
Junior attack Betsy Naugle (Moon Township, Pa./Moon Area) guided the record-setting offense after recording team-highs with eight tricks and 36 goals, which established a new junior class record. She also ended second on the team with 46 points, third with 10 assists, and fourth overall in shots with 54.
Meanwhile, this year's squad also rewrote the record books with 165 draw controls, 198 saves, an 11.31 goals against average, and allowed the fewest goals in a single season.
"If you look at the stats, we had seven players with 10-or-more goals during the season, which gave us multiple options on the offensive end," Hemminger noted. "We had several freshmen step up and make plays that led to goal-scoring opportunities. We were also able to move the ball around effectively throughout the year - becoming more versatile and less stagnant offensively - which gives us some momentum heading into next season."
"Defensively, (junior goalkeeper) Kelli Hill (Worthington/Thomas Worthington) really came into her own this year. She is extremely good at reading an opposing offense and has grown into a vocal leader for our backline. Also, it is hard to put into words how important (senior) Emily Hershberger (Jackson Township/Jackson) is to our defense. She has been the most consistent player over her four years at Ohio Northern, a good example for our younger athletes. With their leadership, our defense was able to grow and become stronger throughout the season."
Ohio Northern boasted a school-record four All-OAC honorees for their individual performances during the 2019 season. Hill garnered Second-Team All-OAC kudos, and Hershberger, junior Maddie Storr (Clarence, N.Y.), and sophomore Sydney Skelding (North Plainfield, N.J./Dublin) each earned Honorable Mention status.
Hill was named to the All-OAC squads for the first time in her career.
This season, the junior posted a 6-9 record in 15 starts for the Polar Bears, logging a program-record 890 minutes in net. Hill also established a new single-season program record and led the OAC with 192 saves and ended second in the conference with a 52.5% save percentage.
In addition, she set junior class records with an 11.74 goals against average and 47 ground balls and tied the school record with 22 saves in a single contest against Baldwin Wallace.
Through three seasons, Hill has appeared in 44 games with 16 starts for 1,746 minutes in goal. She currently ranks second all-time at Ohio Northern in minutes played, saves (323), and victories (6) and sits third in program history with a 12.03 goals against average.
Hershberger received her program-leading third All-OAC selection after receiving Honorable Mention status in 2017 and 2018.
In 2019, Hershberger led the Polar Bears and finished 12th in the league with 24 caused turnovers. She also recorded a senior class record 35 ground balls this year to end second on the team.
She became the first ONU women's lacrosse player to record 100 career caused turnovers in the season finale against John Carroll. The senior will graduate as the program's current leader with 100 career caused turnovers and 150 career ground balls.
Storr became a two-time all-conference honoree with the announcement.
In just 13 games, Storr led Ohio Northern with 82 shots, 50 points, and 16 assists, which established a new single-season program record. In addition, she finished second on the team with 34 goals, tied for third with 14 caused turnovers, and contributed 32 draw controls and 25 ground balls.
The junior also tied the ONU single game record with 10 points and set junior class records in assists and points.
She is currently the program's all-time leader with 93 goals, 115 points, 210 shots, 165 shots on goal, 102 draw controls, and nine man-up goals.
Skelding was a first-time All-OAC honoree following her sophomore season.
The North Plainfield, New Jersey product finished second on the team with 74 shots, 11 assists, and nine free-position goals while ending third with 30 goals and 41 points. She also added 13 ground balls, eight draw controls, and four caused turnovers to the Polar Bear efforts.
In two seasons, Skelding has started all 26 contests in which she has appeared. She owns 60 goals, 21 assists, 81 points, 144 shots, and 102 shots on goal in her career, which all rank among the program's top-10 leaderboards.
In the classroom, the Polar Bears were equally impressive as five players received Academic All-OAC kudos. Storr joined juniors Rachel Shipman (Noblesville, Ind.), Ann McArn (Bay Village/Western Reserve Academy), and Eli Carter (Lebanon) and sophomore Hannah Cornelius (Worthington/Thomas Worthington) with the award.
Shipman, McArn, and Carter each earned their second consecutive honor while Storr and Cornelius received their first awards.
Shipman, a junior exercise physiology student, started all three games in which she appeared this season.
The junior scored two goals and recorded two assists for four total points. She added 11 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers, and three draw controls to aid the Polar Bear efforts.
Through three seasons, Shipman has recorded 47 goals, 72 points, and a school-record 25 assists. In addition, she has collected 93 career ground balls, 66 caused turnovers, and 33 draw controls.
She also owns two single game records at Ohio Northern with five assists and 10 points, which were set in 2017 against Heidelberg.
McArn, a third-year pharmacy student, scored a career-high 19 goals to finish fifth on the team. She added an assist, 34 ground balls, 15 caused turnovers, and a team-leading 45 draw controls, which established a new junior class record.
She currently owns 34 career goals, two assists, 36 points, and 38 caused turnovers. Her 94 career draw controls rank second in program history, and she currently ranks sixth all-time with 82 ground balls.
McArn is also a one-time Academic All-OAC honoree in women's soccer.
Carter, a junior athletic training major, tallied 11 goals and two assists for 13 total points this season. She started 15 contests and appeared in all 16 games and contributed 13 ground balls, four caused turnovers, and two draw controls.
The junior has started 37 contests and appeared in 46 total games in a Polar Bear uniform. She owns 34 career goals, six assists, 40 points, and 28 ground balls.
Cornelius, a sophomore defender studying criminal justice, made 15 starts and appeared in all 16 contests for Ohio Northern. She recorded career-highs with 16 ground balls and seven caused turnovers in 2019.
The sophomore has started 17 games in 28 total appearances and recorded 23 ground balls and eight caused turnovers in her career.
Ohio Northern kicked off the 2019 campaign with an 18-3 rout over nonconference foe Hiram at Dial-Roberson Stadium.
Following a tight-knit, 12-11 overtime loss to Ursuline, the Polar Bears embarked on their annual Spring Break trip to North Carolina. Ohio Northern split two games on the southeastern sojourn, which included a 19-2 victory over Greensboro (N.C.) to set the program's single-game scoring record.
In the nonconference slate, ONU also claimed victories over NAIA foe Siena Heights (Mich.) and Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association rival Trine (Ind.).
After dropping their conference opener to OAC Champion Mount Union, the Polar Bears won three of their next four league contests. Northern edged Heidelberg 12-9 and rolled past Muskingum 18-5 to kick off April before knocking off Marietta 18-4 for their final win in 2019.
"It is great to see the growth in our student-athletes and our program since we started four years ago," Hemminger stated. "Other coaches are beginning to take notice, and their teams are now preparing for us differently than in the past. We get each team's best every time out, which is exactly what we want as a program - a hard-fought game."
"Next year, we will have several returning players with plenty of experience battling for roles on the team. There will also be several freshmen who can make an immediate impact, especially on the defensive end, making us excited for the future."