Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Hopewell Can't Solve Matoaca
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Oct 4, 2013, 08:47

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — The Blue Devils field hockey team has focused on slow and steady climbs this season. They know they can’t expect to be contenders right away, but gradual improvement can be made to lead up to that point.

After suffering two consecutive losses by a combined 11-0 score, Hopewell’s squad started to gather themselves together. They learned how to improve defensively and gain more possession on offense.

And those lessons turned into a win in their third game of the season which has followed with two losses, although by only a 5-0 score. The problem with the Blue Devils’ season has been the lack of offensive zone possession time and as they readied to face Matoaca, it was a point of emphasis.

However, just 3:30 into the game, the whistle blew and the Warriors had found a tally to take a 1-0 lead. Nearly six minutes later, Matoaca struck again, both by the Warriors’ Jackie Cheely.

It only got worse for Hopewell from there as the Warriors found the net six times in the 30-minute first half, giving the Blue Devils’ squad fits all afternoon long. Team captain Brittany McConnell said they simply were not prepared to handle the way Matoaca plays.

“They were connecting passes really well,” McConnell said. “I don’t think we really prepared ourselves much for that. They really brought that to us.”

And it showed in the stat book.

While time of possession is not an official stat, one did not need a stopwatch to know Matoaca held well over 50 percent of the possession. But what made them effective was what McConnell alluded to — cross-field passes.

It’s something this Hopewell team had not seen before and it put them entirely on their heels as they seemed in awe of the Warriors’ creative ability. Matoaca playera had a sixth sense on the field, barely lifting their heads up as they found open teammates in front of them or to the flanks.

Spreading the attack allowed the Warriors to attack the Blue Devils’ net with relative ease, earning 12 corners in the first half alone. Perhaps the highlight strike was fired by Cheely on her third goal of the half.

Standing about 20 feet away from net she received a pass from teammate
Karen Ryan before blasting one past Hopewell’s Taylor Scott for a goal. And when the halftime whistle blew, the Blue Devils trudged to the sidelines, staring at a 6-0 deficit.

The six goals seemed improbable because Hopewell has tallied just once all season — in their lone victory.

But as the second half began, there was new life in the team and it started with Colby Sealey.

Sealey sensed the game was out of control and aimed to change the momentum by taking the attack to the Warriors. When receiving the ball, Sealey immediately turned and ran up the field, leaving Matoaca’s defenders in her dust.

“I just went across the outside instead of the middle,” Sealey said of the packed in Matoaca defense. “And then I tried to stay to my non-stick side.”

Once Sealey found success, her other teammates followed.

Kara Hayes helped solidify a defense which was under siege during the entire first half, taking on defenders and deftly dekeing by others to clear the zone. Her runs from the defensive zone seemed to help light up the offense as well.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

Following a half where they compiled just two corners, they doubled it in the second with four, including a sequence with three consecutive. McConnell said the ability to not turn the ball over allowed for more offensive success.

Instead of turning the ball over before crossing the 50-yard line, Hopewell created steam toward net by completing short passes and making coinciding runs. The offense also led to a more stout defensive effort in the second half, blanking the Warriors in the process.

“We never gave up,” Sealy said of her teammates. “We went to the ball and talked more. We also connected our passes better.”

And that’s something this team can take going into the final part of their schedule.

Instead of succumbing to the pressure, the Blue Devils responded to it and played a talented Matoaca team to a stalemate over the final 30 minutes. Instead of continuing to do what didn’t bring success in the first half, they adjusted in the second.

No one better exemplified this approach than the team’s captain.

McConnell put herself in a more defensive role in the second half, allowing her to track back and mark up on Matoaca’s offensive players. Her speed and quick poke-checks with her stick allowed her to jar balls loose and help the Blue Devils to some fast-break opportunities.

However, McConnell sees her whole team improving which is most important to their success in the future.

“As a team, we are doing really good,” she said. “We played hard, but we need to learn not to turn back into the middle of the field. Once we learn that, we’ll be alright.”

Building a successful team takes time and slowly this Hopewell team is learning. With players like McConnell and Sealey on the squad, teammates can learn from their successes and implement it to their own game for future results.

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