Penalty corner plays key to UMass offensive attack
The No. 7 Massachusetts field hockey team’s offense looked strong again in its 5-1 win over Hofstra on Sunday, and there was one important aspect that has been a recurring key to the Minutewomen’s play throughout the season: penalty corners.
UMass (7-2) scored three of their five goals on penalty corner plays against the Pride (3-6) and 16 of its 26 goals on penalty corners, according to UMassAthletics.com.
UMass coach Carla Tagliente said she has been very pleased with the team’s execution on penalty corner plays this season.
“It’s been outstanding,” Tagliente said. “It’s not a stat that’s charted. It’s not charted in the NCAA, but I would venture to guess that ours is pretty much in the top five in the country.”
After Thando Zono and Kim Young, the team’s main hitters on penalty corners last year and two of the team’s leading scorers, graduated, somebody on the team had to step up and become the team’s new main hitter.
Sophomore midfielder Brooke Sabia stepped into that role, and has scored seven of her team-leading 11 goals on penalty corner plays so far this season, including the opening goal of the game against Hofstra.
Sabia said the key to good penalty corner play is having everyone involved execute their roles properly.
“The key to (penalty corners) is definitely having everyone on the right mark, you could say,” Sabia said. “Having the push-outs be good, the traps be good, everything just has to fall into place.”
The Minutewomen have found other players stepping up in other roles on penalty corner plays as well, such as freshman midfielder Charlotte Verelst, who has been a solid inserter and has gotten all four of her assists on penalty corner plays, and senior midfielder Alexa Sikalis, who has been a good stopper and has gotten six of her team-leading seven assists on penalty corner plays this season.
“I think everyone’s kind of stepping into the role and executing the role that they’ve been given, just as I’ve been executing the role as the main hitter,” Sabia said. “It’s just, honestly, teamwork I think.”
However, while the team has done well executing its penalty corner plays, it has struggled in drawing penalty corners in the offensive end. UMass currently ranks 38th in the nation in penalty corners per game (6.56) behind past opponents Boston College, Syracuse, Connecticut and upcoming opponent New Hampshire.
Sabia said in a game like the one against Hofstra, when the Minutewomen outshot their opponents 28-5, they should have drawn more than just the nine penalty corners that they had on Sunday.
“For how long we’ve had it in our offensive end this game, we should be having a lot more corners,” she said. “That’ll come with time, though, and practice.”
Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be followed on Twitter @jgms88