By Darren Lum
There is always a belief in on-field success for the Red Hawks varsity field hockey team.
At the start of the season Red Hawks coach Steve Smith said as much when asked about the team’s chances for success.
His unwavering optimism was rewarded by the Hawks winning the Kawartha Championship on Tuesday Oct. 15 with a 1-nil win over the Mustangs of Crestwood.
The Hawks earned their Kawartha finals berth with a 1-nil (goal scored by Ava Smith) Kawartha semi-final victory against third place St. Peter Catholic Secondary School which pitted them against the Crestwood Mustangs in the final.
It went to two extra 7.5 minute periods. The Hawks forward Bella Smolen scored the eventual game winner in the first extra period and the team held on for the title win which was backed up by goalkeeper Danaya MacDuff.
Smith described MacDuff’s play as “great” for the tournament where she earned two shutouts.
“She was instrumental. She kept us in all of our games. She saved a short-corner goal. We had it come off of one of our defender’s stick and up top corner. She just reached up and back and batted it out of the air” he said.
Her strong play has been an important aspect of the team’s success with how the team pushes the ball attacking and pressuring their opponents. This style of play can often lead to transition attacks which can provide scoring chances for the Hawks’ opponents.
Coach Smith was happy for tournament goal scorers Smith and Smolen. It was the second for Smith and the first for Smolen. It couldn’t have come at more of an opportune time for Smolen and the team.
“[Smolen’s] been working hard all year. She was frustrated … she’s had a couple of shots where she had the ball go over her stick. She was really frustrated. So it was really nice to see Bella and Ava both score” he said. “It was good for them because the pressure was on them a little bit as forwards to produce.”
By the time this Echo is published the team will have competed at the COSSA (Central Ontario Secondary School Association) Championship on Tuesday Oct. 22 at Sir Sanford Fleming College. See results in the next Echo.
All three teams from the Kawartha Championship advanced to COSSA including the top team from Quinte and Hawks long-time field hockey rival the North Hastings Highlands High School.
The title earned the Hawks a game against the third place finisher of Kawartha as opposed to playing NHHS in the opening round. The COSSA winner will advance to the all-provincials.
Facing the same Kawartha schools provides Smith and his players a familiarity to game plan for but doesn’t assure them of anything he said.
“It doesn’t mean it’s any easier” he said. “Anything can happen during those days. Whatever team shows up will be the team that will be victorious.”
When asked about the team hitting its potential he said “There’s always room.”
On Wednesday Oct. 16 the team held an indoor practice to simulate the turf conditions they play on for COSSA. Turf offers a quicker pace of play.
One area the team was busy with before the COSSA Championship was working on finishing offensive attacks.
“We struggled this year with getting the ball actually in the net” Smith said. “All of our wins in this tournament were 1-0. We’re still struggling and so we’re going to be doing a lot of drills tonight dealing with shots and how to maybe get a little more offence.”
The team’s focus will be on getting more shots on the opposing team’s net including employing strategy for more action around the net focusing on the strong side – referring to the flat side of the field hockey stick.
“A lot of times the girls pass because they want someone else to score” he said. “They’re just so selfless. It’s unselfish play. They’ll do the extra pass instead of just taking a shot.”
Smith said one of the factors related to their challenges is how teams in the Kawartha league have very mobile goalies who are aggressive and challenge the shooters.
“Instead of going North-South we’re going to start going East-West with some of our balls” he said.
With files from Steve Smith