Devils Fall Short To Dale
By Ryan Lazo, Sports Editor
Oct 25, 2013, 08:56
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — Brittany McConnell and Ieasha McComber stared out at the green grass in front of them. They turned their heads back and looked toward a fence adorned with their number, flowers and ribbons.
As seniors, it would be the last time they took to their home field as a member of Hopewell’s field hockey team. Their final opponent would be rival Thomas Dale, a team they suffered a shutout loss to just one week prior.
It was that game where both McConnell and McCumber said their teammates did not have the right attitude, going into the match expecting to lose. However, this time the Blue Devils team seemed inspired even after allowing a goal just 52 seconds into the match.
“Keep your heads up, blue,” McConnell shouted right after the Knights’ blast found the net.
The team responded to their captain’s plea, never once showing a sign of frustration or a sense of surrendering. Instead, Hopewell (1-9) battled throughout the game although it was not enough in a 9-0 loss.
The Knights’ high-powered offense proved to be too tough to handle for the second week in a row. Their ability to not only read the play in front of them, but know where each other would be put them a step ahead of Hopewell.
It also didn’t help to be facing a team with a player like the Knights’ Maddie Kendrick on Senior Day. Kendrick’s ability to get a stick on long crosses, combined with the far-reaching blasts of Maddy Smith is a weapon the Blue Devils could not counter.
Yet, McComber could not have been more pleased with the effort after last week’s non-competitive loss.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
“I’m real proud. It was good,” she said. “I think we could have had a little bit more communicating, but besides that everyone was playing hard.”
And that’s the type of lasting impact both McComber and McConnell want to leave with the Blue Devils.
McConnell did not always play field hockey, preferring to play soccer which she will play in the Spring for Hopewell. But to help fuel some of her competitiveness, she took on the challenge of learning a new sport.
Her transition was as seamless as they come.
McConnell became a leader for the Blue Devils squad because of her work ethic and her ability to get the best out of her teammates even though she was just learning the sport. Yet, her knowledge of soccer and the positioning one puts themselves in to create dangerous chances helped her adapt quickly.
After two years on the team, McConnell still is frustrated with some of the struggles she had.
“It was really hard transitioning because you can’t shield,” she explained. “That’s what I do in soccer and it took me awhile to understand that part of the game.”
McComber, also a Hopewell soccer player, was a rock defensively for the Blue Devils this season. When the opposition would attack, like the Knights did throughout the game, McComber routinely tracked back and marked up on a player, cutting off on the angles.
Once she gained possession, McComber raced up the sidelines hoping to either tally for herself or set up a teammate, but Hopewell managed just one goal this season. It’s the one area she said needs improvement going into next season, specifically discussing the need for firing shots at goal.
In fact, the Blue Devils did not register a shot on goal against Thomas Dale during the game and allowed the Knights to have 20 corners. The truth is the Blue Devils would have their chances — they have fast players with good stick-handling — but thinking rather than reacting limits their advantage.
And it’s easy to see this is a team which will be better next season.
Colby Sealey’s lightning quick moves and ability to control the ball is a dangerous weapon in the open field. Kara Hayes’ ability to maneuver out of dangerous defensive positions helps Hopewell recover from an opponent’s offensive attack.
In addition, Taylor Henderson has turned out numerous highlight saves over the course of the season, continuing her play against the Knights. Henderson saved 21 shots on the game while being under siege for the full 45 minutes.
Yet, at the end of the day there is only one aspect both McComber and McConnell want their team to focus on for next season.
“I want to see them have fun,” McConnell said. “I really do have fun playing this sport and they should too.”