The Shippensburg University field hockey team currently stands at 3-3 (0-0 PSAC) and is in seventh place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) through their first six games of the season.
The offense has struggled through some inconsistent play, getting shutout two times but also exploding for eight goals in Friday’s win over Mercyhurst University.
The Raiders began the season with 4-0 and 3-1 wins over Belmont Abbey College and Queens University. The offense was clicking and they were playing like they have over the previous three seasons, all of which ended with a NCAA Division II national championship.
However, the team began to struggle over their next three games, all against top teams in the PSAC (Millersville, Kutztown and West Chester). In this three-game stretch, the offense sputtered and scored only a combined two goals. The team lost all three of those games.
During the Raiders’ cold streak, the offense was not able to consistently get the ball deep in the opposing team’s zone. As a result, they were not able to put up a high number of shots. The Raiders averaged 8.7 shots per game and 5.3 shots on goal per game.
The Raiders currently are sixth in the PSAC in shots per game (16.33), a statistic they historically have dominated in previous seasons.
Shippensburg’s offense typically plays an aggressive, attacking style of play where they dominate the opposing team and put up over 20 shots per contest. This season, they have not been able to do that on a consistent basis.
However, something clicked for the Raiders in Friday’s 8-0 win over Mercyhurst. The Raiders scored eight goals while putting up 26 shots, including 17 shots on goal. Junior Jazmin Petrantonio tallied six goals, tying the SU school record for most goals in a single contest.
Petrantonio has the ability to take over games offensively as she did much of last season (including scoring four goals in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament). She led the PSAC in goals (28) and points (62) last season while helping the Raiders’ become one of the most high-powered offenses in all of Division II field hockey.
One of the things that makes her a special player is the ability to use her stick skills to weave her way through the defense. After her dominant 2018 season, teams have begun to game-plan against her and to prevent her from being able to get deep into their zone.
Before Friday’s contest against Mercyhurst, Petrantonio had been held to three goals and three assists in five games to begin the season. She was only taking 4.2 shots per game, which is down from 6.2 shots per game she was taking last season.
Everything worked against Mercyhurst and Petrantonio led the way in the offense’s explosion. If the Raiders are to make another championship run this season, they will need Petrantonio to be more like she was on Friday against Mercyhurst, when she took 12 shots and scored six goals.
Another difference between the rest of the season and how the Raiders played against Mercyhurst was the passing. Four of the Raiders’ eight goals were assisted, something that needs to happen more often. The Raiders currently have only seven assists this season, good for fifth in the PSAC.
With conference play beginning Saturday against Bloomsburg University there are some things the Raiders have to improve upon. Friday’s dominant 8-0 win over Mercyhurst is a good sign that the team is beginning to get back to form and that the struggles the team had earlier in the season are behind them.