No. 2 Syracuse excels in executing and limiting penalty corners

first_img Published on October 6, 2015 at 12:13 am Contact Sam: sjfortie@syr.edu | @Sam4TR Five Syracuse players stood inside the cage wearing masks.  They hunched over, waiting for Virginia’s Katie Kelly to inbound and begin field hockey’s most hectic and arguably most important play, the penalty corner.Before every penalty corner, SU’s defense mimics a chest thumping and humming combination similar to actor Matthew McConaughey’s from “Wolf of Wall Street.” Goalie Jess Jecko then yells, “Nothing in! Nothing in!”Kelly passed the ball in. Jecko, who reviewed hours of the Cavaliers’ penalty-corner tendencies, looked at the angles of players’ feet. The post player defended against an inside pass. The right and left “covers” sprinted to defend the side spaces. And everyone followed Laura Hurff, “the flyer,” who sprints 16 yards to the circle’s top to get in the way of Tara Vittese’s hard hit shot.Vittese’s awkward, forced shot sailed back across the end line. The Orange ripped off the goggle-like masks, worn only for that play, and sprinted back into play. Another defensive penalty corner won.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOnly once in 11 games has Syracuse drawn less penalty corners than its opponent. The penalty corner is vital, Lies Lagerweij said, because it’s one of the best scoring opportunities in field hockey. No. 1 Connecticut, the nation’s highest-scoring offense (6.55 goals per game), is third in penalty corners drawn (9.18). The No. 2 Orange (11-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast) aims to allow three or fewer penalty corners per game, Lagerweij said, and to convert on about one-third of attacking penalty corners.“It’s a huge piece of the game,” SU head coach Ange Bradley said.On the other end, the team earns penalty corners by drawing fouls, usually when the defender hits the ball or obstructs the offense in the circle. Emma Lamison leads the team in penalty corners drawn, a stat the Orange keeps itself.The team practices drawing penalties with one-on-one defensive drills.“They also work on getting the ball up off the turf,” Bradley said. “… 3-D skills. Against a defense, (the players) read the body position and play the ball off them (to draw fouls).”After the whistle blows, the penalty-corner team gathers in a circle at the top. Alyssa Manley peers at the sideline, watching for coaches to signal the play with different letter combinations on green-and-white sheets. There are 30-50 plays, players estimate. Manley relays the play and the six or seven players, depending on the play, spread along the shooting-circle arc. Usually Emma Russell plays the “insertion” from the end line, passing to the “stick-stopper,” usually Serra Degnan, at the top of the circle.As Russell passes in, the four masked defenders — outnumbered by the seven or eight offensive players — leave the goal.The stick-stopper receives the pass and distributes to the “castles,” players standing closely on each side, who are running the play. Degnan learned the position in the spring; how to grip the stick for control, left hand on the handle and right hand inches above the stick’s blade, and how to roll the right hand over the ball to make a touch pass without topping it.“It takes a lot of time to learn,” Degnan said. “It looks really simple, but it’s hard. For each different person who hits it, they like it at different speeds … There’s a lot of different aspects that, if you don’t get it right, the shot’s going somewhere else.”According to the shooter, Degnan has to vary her passes. Some, like Alma Fenne, prefer a fast-rolling ball and others like a slow-roller.Then, the shot.Just as the opposition’s goalie drops, Jecko does as well. They do that because, for the goal to count on the first pass off the insertion, it must hit the 18-inch-tall backboard at the bottom of the goal. On offense, all the Orange can do is shoot and hope to score, or a rebound presents another opportunity.Syracuse has drawn 85 penalty corners this season and allowed just 33. Still, the team has converted on less than the team goal of 33 percent.“We’re good,” Bradley said. “But we’re not yet where we want them to be.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img