Field hockey learning on the go

Although the College’s field hockey team was riding high after a 10-0 defeat of Richard Stockton College last week, head coach Sharon Pfluger was still looking to see her young squad show a distinct sign of maturation.

The desired feature was a sense of patience and, according to Pfluger, it came to light as the Lions took down Farleigh Dickenson University-Florham 4-0 on Sept. 25, making them 6-1.

“The possession and the patience in the scoring were key,” Pfluger said. “We had a lot of opportunities, especially in the second half, but we weren’t cashing in on them. I feel like we were persistent, though. We didn’t lose our cool, we were steady, we kept trying, and every time a ball slipped through, it was definitely threatening.”

The numbers back up Pfluger’s assessment that the Lions had a fair share of chances to get the ball in the back of the cage. The final stat line showed that the Lions were able to get off 22 shots during the course of the game, while the Devils only managed one.

It took a few games for Pfluger’s squad to hit their offensive stride, but now that the girls are unifying to form one cohesive flow, the Lions are getting hot.

“They are always working hard, always working together, which has been something we have been working on all season with a young team,” Pfluger said. “I think a lot of things are clicking for them right now.”

Many of the Lions’ key offensive players this season have been freshmen who are still adjusting to the college game.

“College field hockey is a lot different and a much faster pace than high school, but the upperclassmen are really nice and have been very helpful on and off the field,” freshman forward Erin Healy said. “All of (the freshmen) also worked really hard in preseason to adjust to the higher level of play.”

The pair of goals that the Lions tallied in the first half were a fitting symbol of how the first-year players and the upperclassmen are starting to mesh.

The first goal was scored by Healy, who received a pass from junior forward Caitlyn Jenkins. The following goal, which came less than four minutes later, saw a change in scenery as it was Jenkins doing the scoring and Healy kicking out the assist.

“I think it’s really coming along,” Pfluger said. “We felt that we had a very good group of young, talented kids that came into the mix, but they really had to learn so much, and in the fall season, you don’t have so much time to get ready, so I think the mesh between the veterans and the young kids is starting to show now and they’re starting to get it.”

The second-half offensive production continued to show the signs of patience and maturation as senior defender Alex Okuniewicz took a pass from freshman midfielder Erin Waller, positioned herself and then got solid connection to send the ball past the goalkeeper, making it 3-0.

Junior defender Christy Wham then added her second goal of the year as she scored with little over a minute left in the contest.

The balanced attack on offense in this contest is a sign that has especially encouraged the injured Leigh Mitchell.

“I think we have had a lot of people stepping up and playing consistently for the team,” the senior forward/midfielder said. “We needed people to fill some shoes from last year and from injuries, and it’s great to see younger girls stepping up to the plate and giving great performances.”

The No. 10-ranked Lions will return to play at home this Saturday, Oct. 1, for a tough test against No. 3-ranked Messiah College.

The Lions crushed FDU and Stockton. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Long)