On the first day of the season, Millersville’s field hockey team put up a whopping six goals – a feat that took them three years to repeat. How long did it take them to rack up the scoreboard to that number again? 15 days.
The lady Marauders used their home-field advantage against the Mercyhurst Lakers on Thursday in their 6-0 win, looking eerily similar to their opening game just over two weeks ago. Dominating the entire game, Millersville outshot the Lakers 23-10, keeping Mercyhurst goalie Jess Wess plenty busy. After all, Wess had to worry about the 12 Millersville players who have scored at least one goal so far this season.
“It’s pretty balanced,” said Millersville’s head coach Shelley Behrens, about her team’s widespread stat sheet. “It can be a pretty ominous thing for someone else.” It was ominous alright for the Laker goalie. She felt the pressure under 20 minutes into the first half.
Millersville’s first strike was from the stick of Alicia Youtz, a defensive player not afraid of putting shots on goal – not to mention in the goal – with 17 minutes left to go in the half. Four minutes later, senior Samantha Ruane capitalized on a corner as she tapped in the ball from an Emily Litchford pass, increasing the score to 2-0.
But from then until the first buzzer sounded, the pressure was on Millersville’s keeper, Lauren Sotzin, as Mercyhurst attempted to put up some numbers of their own with eight shots and eight corners in the first frame. Their eight shots actually outweighed Millersville’s seven, but Sotzin didn’t budge, closing the door on every Laker opportunity with the support of her solid defensive squad. “(They) do a great job,” Behrens said about her key defenders.
In the other 35-minute period, the Marauder’s offense decided to take the game back into their own hands. If their first two goals were just an appetizer, then senior Paige Morrison delivered the main course on a silver platter, making the ball thud against the back of the cage just four minutes in. For the side dish, Sarah Bomberger, after executing a near-perfect corner, faked a shot, then passed it to defensive man Lauren Gerhart who slapped the ball in making Mercyhurst’s hopes dissipate even further as they looked up to the 4-0 score. Millersville was hungry for more and junior Mary Atkins and the rest of the Millersville offense didn’t feel like waiting for dessert.
With time winding down parallel to the Lakers’ chances, Atkins, after being fed the ball – no pun intended – from Millersville’s co-assist leader, Brittany Anderson, scored her first goal of the season and her team’s fifth goal of the game.
A to-go bag was needed for the rest of the onslaught, with sophomore Katelyn Zapp also tallying her first goal of 2012 with four minutes left in play. Litchford notched her second assist with her pass to Zapp, finding herself alongside Anderson at the top of Millersville’s assist leaderboard.
And so the meal was finished; the check had been paid, and Mercyhurst was left with a plate full of nothing as the final score piled up to 6-0 in favor of the Marauders.
About her team’s offensive surge in the second half, coach Behrens had this to say: “No starters, just finishers,” she said. “That’s been our mentality.” Behrens had plenty of reasons to enjoy watching her team play, but her number one priority isn’t about filling up the stat sheet or winning games as they did on Tuesday. It’s about the team. “Together, we’re going to keep the team first,” she said. But how does she manage to keep her entire group so tightly knit and focused on one common goal? After all, even the Marauder coach asked, “How hard is it to please one lady?” “Taking 24 girls and asking them to put the team first,” she began, “that’s a very hard thing to ask this day and age.” According to the coach, though, her bunch of female college athletes takes their motto as serious as she does. “They have truly dedicated themselves to their teammates,” Millersville’s coach lauded of her team. “I’m really proud of what they do on and off the field.” Not only that, she added, “they’re having a lot of fun.”
Dedication, teamwork, fun – whatever Behrens has her team focused on for 70 minutes game in and game out, it’s surely brought positive results: three straight shutout wins, an unbeaten record against PSAC East opponents, and a 5-2 overall record.
“For us, right now, it’s working,” said Behrens, whose team matches up for a tough test against number two-ranked Bloomsburg a week from Wednesday on National Field Hockey Day.