Hopewell Falls To Springers
By Ryan Lazo
Sep 20, 2013, 10:07
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HIGHLAND SPRINGS — Whatever could go wrong did go wrong for the Hopewell Field Hockey team. Their starting goalie suffered an injury earlier in the week. Numerous players had to play out of position.
And to top it off, they arrived for their game at Highland Springs late, giving them just over 10 minutes to warm-up before the start.
Those are enough circumstances to make any team plop themselves on the ground and wave the white flag. However, the Blue Devils did not give up and instead battled the Springers throughout the contest.
It’s an effort Brittany McConnell, one of the team’s four captains, was both upset and excited about.
“I think we really put ourselves down,” McConnell said after a 3-0 loss on the road. “But we just have to learn from our mistakes and not go in with the negativity.”
But as a team captain, McConnell was just being harsh on herself and her team.
In truth, the Blue Devils (1-3) took command of the game from the opening whistle, leaving the Springers gasping for air as they continually marched down the field. The time of possession battle was not only completely in Hopewell’s favor, but much of the time they were on the offensive side of the field.
Unfortunately, that’s where part of the Blue Devils’ problems occurred.
Getting into the offensive zone seemed easy enough as McConnell routinely raced by Springers’ midfielders like a Ferrari next to a horse and buggy.
However, once in the zone and surrounded by Highland Springs’ (1-4) fullbacks, she would pass the ball where it would eventually be stolen from her teammates who had trouble controlling the ball while in possession.
McConnell says it all comes down to execution and how they better themselves in practice for their next game.
“I kept my stick on the ground and dragged it like this,” she said while demonstrating the stick positioning. “Everyone else lifted their sticks up which hurt us. But I think we can (get better) by working on it practice.”
But that’s only a minor tweak to a team that looks as if it has settled down defensively.
After surrendering 11 goals in their first two games of the season, they have surrendered just three in their last two, a sizeable improvement from earlier this season. Take one look at the field and it’s easy to see the difference.
Instead of being caught in one-on-one battles, the Blue Devils’ fullbacks swarmed the attackers by closing out passing lanes, leaving the Springers’ offense with nowhere to go. And no one better represented this relentlessness than midfielder Ieasha McCumber.
McCumber seemed to be a blur on the field with her feline-type quickness, closing down on Springers’ wingers quickly.
“I was all over,” McCumber said of her style of play. “Wherever the ball was, I was going. I needed to help pick up the slack.”
But even McCumber’s energy could not stop Highland Springs from taking a lead they would not relinquish in the 26th minute of action.
After three consecutive penalty corners, the Springers managed to attempt a shot on goal which was promptly stopped. But the sigh of relief quickly ended when the rebound found its way in, giving the Springers the 1-0 lead.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
And after they tallied, it seemed Hopewell’s players slouched their heads and did not pick themselves back up until after the Springers’ tallied their third goal with nine minutes remaining. Blue Devils’ sweeper Jazzmyne Jones protested the call, saying the ball never crossed the line.
The call stood and suddenly Hopewell was awakened.
A team which seemed to sleepwalk during the second-half, allowing Highland Springs to have 17-to-4 advantage in penalty corners while having only one themselves in the half, showed some heart and desire.
Kara Hayes, one of the Blue Devils’ fullbacks, challenged any and all attackers who came into the offensive zone. Kelsey Conley, another Hopewell fullback, launched long passes toward her wingers as the Blue Devils’ finally looked dangerous offensively.
While Highland Springs’ players tired, Hopewell did not. McConnell said it’s a credit to their conditioning, but she again expressed disappointment in the team’s mental resolve.
“We had to hustle,” McConnell said of her team after surrendering the lead. “We didn’t and we kinda gave up.”
But even McConell acknowledged that when put into perspective — with everything that went wrong — her team battled and were in the game throughout, leaving her and her teammates knowing there are better days ahead.