Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Henderson Shines In Blue Devils' Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Aug 27, 2014, 08:16

Taylor Henderson leaves her net and halts a Poquoson scoring chance by alertly kicking the ball away.
HOPEWELL One year ago, Hopewell's field hockey team slugged through a difficult season in which the team was unable to capture a win. However, they knew it was not because of a lack of talent, just poor execution which could be turned around the following season.

In their first game of the 2014 season, the Blue Devils traveled to Lafayette High School and suffered a 3-0 shutout loss. Yet, the loss came with a bright spot since Hopewell had suffered a mercy loss to them last season. It was the confidence boost the team needed heading into their home-opener just one day later, except the circumstances would change.

Playing in back-to-back games is tough enough especially so early in the season but Hopewell also did not have its full compliment of players. With no substitutes available due to injuries, the Blue Devils faced a tall order against Poquoson.

In fact, it was the Islanders who dominated the pace of play for the first five minutes of the contest, keeping possession inside the Hopewell defensive zone. Yet, the Blue Devils never lost their defensive shape and smothered each passing sequence before it had a chance of being executed. And the key reason Hopewell was able to keep Poquoson off the board early in a game they dominated was because of the play of Katie Hamilton and Taylor Scott.

Both defenders blanketed the Islanders' offensive wingers, but Poquoson would soon figure out how to best attack the Hopewell defense. A 13th minute goal was scored on a beautiful feed from the near post to right in front of goal for a one-time blast. Two minutes later and Poquoson would add another goal and before long, the rout was on.

The Islanders would tally five first half goals and score a sixth in the 44th minute, inciting the mercy-rule and handing Hopewell a 6-0 loss for their second-consecutive loss.

"This was a little bit of a rough one because we had a game yesterday as well," Hopewell head coach Laura Stables said after the game. "We just want to improve because I know they had a little bit of rough season last year. I know we can improve and we can score some more goals and continue to grow as a team."

And one of the reasons why the Blue Devils can see a future in which it can contend comes down to the play of their goalkeeper Taylor Henderson.

Much like last season, Henderson played on her head almost the entire game, thwarting chances before they happened and saving numerous shots throughout the contest. In fact, it was common-place to see Henderson help out her defense and come out of net to intercept dangerous crosses before kicking them out of play.
Colby Sealey was one of the rare Hopewell offensive bright spots on the night with her speed and ball control.

However, her best sequence of an 11-save game, came late in the first half of action when Poquoson's offense had gained some traction. Playing on a different surface than they were used to, the Islanders took some time to adjust and fired long passes into the attacking box.

Those passes resulted in two point-blank scoring chances for the Islanders, but Henderson was up to the task. Henderson deflected the first shot with her right pad before then stopping another with her left. It was an impressive performance from the second-year starter.

"I thought we saw bigger saves today from her than we saw even yesterday," Stables said. "I am always looking toward the positives and she was one of those today."

But it didn't just end with Henderson's play, but also continued with a few others on a team which is relatively young and has a few returners.

While Hopewell could not generate much offensively that was the issue last season and it continued in the home-opener with no registered shots they had moments of brilliance and it started with Haley Hemphill and Colby Sealey.

Hemphill, the team's co-captian, showed off some on-the-ball skills with her ability to not only cleanly receive passes, but immediately work her way up the flanks with tremendous speed. It was her team-work with Sealey which helped create a few of the Blue Devils' rare offensive forays into the final third.

It's another reason Stables thinks Hopewell is just one goal away from becoming more of an offensive threat this season.
Megan Shumate attempts to stop an Islanders' offensive player from reaching the circle on a scoring chance.

"I definitely think that given some more fresh legs working in there with them, we can get that goal," Stables explained. "We can get that elusive first goal of the season and then we can get started."

However, one thing Stables does not need to wait to get started is an improved defense.

Unlike last year when Hopewell would break its defensive shape at times during an opponent's attack, the Blue Devils maintained their shape for much of the contest against Poquoson. The tightly configured defense helped to slow the Islanders' attack for the early part of the game before a little bit of tiredness set in combined with a strategy change for the Islanders.

For a coach looking for bright spots and areas to work on before the next game Sept. 9, it is a step in the right direction for the program.

"I just want them to start to have that consistency," Stables said. "In the past, I know this team hasn't had that consistency ... even consistency as practice always starts at this time to always giving the same effort."

Although Hopewell has dropped their first two games of the season, the effort is there for everyone to see. They are adapting to a new coach and a different system which has allowed them to show glimpses of what they can become over the current campaign.

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