None of Katie Ward’s three goals in Georgetown Visitation’s shutout of Bullis Tuesday were quite the same. The first was a flick to the right post, and the final tally was a reverse sweep past Bullis’s senior goalkeeper.
It was her second goal, in which she drew the goalie out and lifted it behind her into the net, that best represented the changing state of high school field hockey.
A national rule passed before this season now allows players at the high school level more freedom to use “aerials”— where the player scoops the ball and sends it overhead into open space, flicks it over an opponent’s stick or, as Ward did, lifts it into the goal.
Before the change, players had to touch the ball first on a restart or carry the ball before they lifted it. It’s a lot harder to lift the ball while moving, Bullis Coach Julie Delinsky said.
Now, players can lift the ball over defenders’ heads on a long hit possession or over an opponent’s stick when charging up the field. Georgetown Visitation opted to use an aerial on one of its offensive corners Tuesday, instead of the usual driving shot favored at the high school level.
“It’s a great way to move the ball up the field, whether it’s taking it from the backfield and lifting it into space or taking a shot on goal,” Georgetown Visitation Coach Karen Zarchin said. “To have that skillset at this level is a huge advantage.”
The Cubs (8-2, 4-1 Independent School League) initially focused only on defending aerials. Zarchin had heard that Bullis (6-3-2, 3-1-1) was using the skill and wanted to be prepared to stop Bulldog midfielders like junior Jessica Mays who will air dribble the ball down the field.
Adding aerials to an athlete’s “toolbelt of skills,” as Delinsky referred to it, also helps prepare players for the pace of college hockey. She’s incorporated aerials into Bullis’ warm ups to allow the players to become comfortable with knowing when and how to lit the ball.
It’s a trick that involves field awareness, control of the ball and most importantly, the ability to perform with defenders closing in.
“Their player did that under pressure,” said Delinsky of Ward’s second goal. “For a high school player to have that composure is pretty impressive.”
The prevalence of club field hockey in the area helps with the learning curve when it comes to rule changes such as this, Delinsky noted, and the move will only grow in popularity as more teams begin adding it into practice.
“Overall, you already see them a couple times in a game this season,” she said. “And for this to be the first year with that rule change and you’re already seeing them a couple of times, it’s only going to grow more and more.”
There have been a few jokes and jibes directed at Fairfax Coach Amber Beaudoin’s “car analogy.” Beaudoin herself grants it’s a cheesy image — but one that’s a spot-on parallel to the Rebels team makeup and season to-date.
Within the context of extended metaphor, the players are car parts and Beaudoin is the mechanic. Each “part” serves a specific purpose or function. And some days, the ignition turns over more easily than others.
“[The players] just kinda take that [image] and run with it,” Beaudoin said. “They bring it up frequently, so I know it’s getting through to them.”
No. 10 Fairfax (11-3, 6-0 Liberty District) is the only local squad to take on No. 4 South County and emerge with a victory. The Rebels are getting it done with a varied cast of contributors. Nine different Rebels have notched goals, and twelve players have tallied assists.
With 10 goals, the team’s leading scorer — senior Emily Freeman — accounts for only 26-percent of Fairfax’s offense.
Much of the output has come from situational substitutes like defender Lizzy Naka. The junior has proved a veritable Swiss Army Knife on the Rebels back end.
“We’re all working hard in practice, and I’m going to play the kids who are the hardest workers,” Beaudoin said. “If you earned it during the week, you deserve to try it out against the other team.”
When there’s a breakdown, Fairfax’s “spare parts” are expected to come off the bench and perform at peak capacity.
“If something’s not working, I think the kids respect that they’re going to get their chance,” Beaudoin said. “I need them to come off the bench, and it needs to be seamless.”
She compares her philosophy concerning role players to baseball. But in lieu of lefty specialists and pinch hitters, the Rebels plug-and-play fliers for penalty corners and fresh legs in the midfield.
“The [subs] know when they’re in there, ‘it’s my chance, it’s my turn to make the car go,’” Beaudoin said.
After an 0-2 start Glenelg has reeled off 11 consecutive victories. . . . Westfield has tallied 28 goals over its last four games. Fairfax remains the only local team to beat No. 3 South County, and the Rebels are a perfect 6-0 in conference play. . . . Georgetown Visitation cracks the bubble following a decisive 3-0 win over Bullis.
1. Glenelg (11-2) LW: 1
2. South River (12-2) LW: 2
3. Westfield (13-2) LW: 4
4. South County (11-2) LW: 3
5. St. Stephens/St. Agnes (10-2-1) LW: 5
6. Broadneck (10-3) LW: 6
7 Atholton (9-2) LW: 7
8. Severna Park (9-2-1) LW: 8
9. Wootton (11-0) LW: 9
10. Fairfax (11-3) LW: NR
Bubble: Georgetown Visitation (8-2); Sherwood (11-0), Foxcroft School (9-0-2)