An offensive clinic has Shippensburg University field hockey riding high after stomping Millersville University Tuesday, 6-1.
The Raiders’ high-flying offense connected early and often in the team’s statement game of the season, taking down the defending Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Champions with authority. Earlier on Tuesday, The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division II Coaches Poll dropped Shippensburg (4-1) to No. 3 below Millersville (2-1), something that obviously did not sit well with the team, as SU tallied five first-half goals, the most goals MU has allowed in a game since 2008.
Perhaps most satisfying was Shippensburg’s transition game, which charged right through the Marauders’ defense. The key piece for SU was the emergence of freshman Jazmin Petrantonio, who set a single-game NCAA record, racking up six assists against the No. 2 Division II team in the country.
“She [Petrantonio] is very comfortable in any position,” head coach Tara Zollinger said. “She has really great distribution skills, and I think that this game really highlighted those skills because of the way we were feeding the ball to her.”
Petrantonio’s consistent thru-balls and picturesque passing plays kept MU defenders guessing where the ball was going to go. Just two minutes into the game, Petrantonio found senior Kylie Huffman’s stick off a penalty corner, who clapped it into the corner of the net to give SU a lead it would retain for the rest of the game.
Tenacity on the ball from the Raiders’ midfield and forward players kept constant pressure on Millersville, and SU struck again quickly on a breakaway off a 30-yard pass from Petrantonio. Streaking into the offensive zone, senior Mary Spisak used her speed and strength to create some space between MU defenders, where she received the ball in stride and crushed home a top-corner shot on her first goal of the season.
Corner plays have been a huge focus for coach Zollinger this season, and SU continued to create opportunities off them throughout the first half.
No. 22 Brooke Sheibley capitalized off another penalty corner to sink her first of the season, something she would repeat later in the game.
The moment of true shock set in for the Marauders when Petrantonio launched a sky ball over the Millersville defense, landing perfectly for Emily Barnard, the top scorer in Division II. Barnard made no mistake with the perfect feed, burying the ball and Millersville’s hopes at a comeback.
The Raiders locked in a 5-1 lead at halftime, looking poised to run the Marauders right out of Shippensburg. The second half was much more tightly contested, though, with Millersville beginning to take some chances up field to cut Shippensburg’s sizeable advantage.
As the second half wore on, the push for the Marauders just could not crack two-time All-American goaltender Ally Mooney, who blockered away Millersville’s chances at a comeback. Petrantonio eventually put the final dagger into the Marauders, dribbling between multiple defenders to slide a pass across the goal mouth to Barnard, who collected her eighth goal on the season.
The offense appears to have finally hit its stride early in the season, with the players beginning to touch on that chemistry that has made this team so successful.
“They had a mission to capitalize on the opportunities we’ve been creating,” Zollinger said. “We play a passing game, so passing games require connection, and connection takes time to develop.”
The Raiders have out-shot and out-chanced each opponent they have faced this season, but the team has struggled a bit converting on the myriad of chances its midfield and forwards are creating.
Scoring six goals on a solid defensive team like Millersville must aid the confidence SU has built throughout this short season.
That team confidence was apparent once again Saturday, where the Raiders put up another five goals against a tough Slippery Rock University squad.
SU pushes on for its first PSAC match of the season against Mansfield University on Saturday.