Column: Under radar, field hockey performs
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 23:10
This week I’m going to change it up a bit and talk about something different. Normally, from week to week I focus on a specific game or team in the professional world, but this week I want to concentrate on more of an unknown sport.
The UConn field hockey team is one of those teams that is truly underrated. This may partially be because no one really understands the sport. I get it. It’s confusing, a rather slow and low-scoring game and it’s overlooked and masked by other fall sports around campus. If I hadn’t grown up watching my sister play and played myself for six years, I would have been in the same boat as the majority.
I will be the first one to admit that playing this sport is much better than watching it, but the UConn team puts on a great performance. The Huskies are 12-2 this season and have defeated numerous highly ranked teams including the defending national champions of the NCAA Tournament. This team makes winning look easy.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me talk about the basics of the game. There are two 35-minute halves. There are 11 players per side on the field including the goaltender. There are four basic positions: forward or attack, midfield, defense or back and goal. There is a flat side and a rounded side on the field hockey stick. The ball must be passed or dribbled with the flat side of the stick only, so it differs in a sense from ice hockey. The only way to score a goal is if you are in the striking circle. The striking circle is essentially a half circle that connects with the end lines; the goal cage is on the end lines, so unlike lacrosse, which has a small circle surrounding the goal, players must go inside of the circle to score.
A penalty corner occurs when the defense creates a foul in the circle. The set up of a penalty corner is quite bizarre. On penalty corners, four defenders join the goaltender inside the goal cage. The team on offense has one player on the end line who passes the ball to teammates positioned around the striking circle.
The offense has an open opportunity to score, however before they take a shot on goal the ball being passed must go just outside of the striking circle and completely stopped before a shot is taken.
Typically outside the circle one offensive player will be positioned lower to stop the ball with the stick, while another offensive player is close next to her ready to hit the ball at the goal. To make this open shot on goal more of a challenge, one of the four defenders in the goal rushes the ball in attempts to stop the play, while the other three mark the offense.
The most typical complaint by those who watch field hockey is that too many fouls are called and slow the game down. I’ll admit the rules of the game are very specific which allows more room to fouls to be called. The most common fouls include advancing the ball in any other way besides using the stick (typically hitting the ball with your feet), hitting, hooking or interfering with an opponents stick, obstructing or shielding the ball from an opponent with your body or hitting the ball above the knee. These rules seem too specific and picky, but the more advanced teams have less fouls called, making the game a bit more smooth and competitive.
Field hockey is one of the best teams at UConn. Covering the team for two seasons now has only reinforced this belief. They are No.5 in the nation. The Huskies are also undefeated in their conference, making them a dominant force in the league. Although their season is almost over, you should check out one of their games. I can guarantee you it will be better than watching our football team.