The Shippensburg University field hockey team suffered its first loss of the season, a 1-0 tightly contested game against Millersville University, on a hot Wednesday afternoon at Robb Sports Complex in Shippensburg.
The Raiders (2-2) controlled the time of possession for much of the game but they struggled to turn that advantage into shots on goal.
The team managed to only put up five shots in the first half and, as a result, failed to take advantage of holding Millersville (3-0) to only one shot in the first half.
“We [Shippensburg] did lead statistically possession-wise, we had the majority of the possessions,” Raiders head coach Tara Zollinger said after the game. “But possession doesn’t win you games, the goals do. So, we need to find a way to be able to put it in the back of the net.”
Shippensburg struggled in the third quarter, and Millersville quickly jumped on the opportunity by getting nine shots up. The Marauders also had five penalty corners in the quarter, and it was only a matter of time until they were able to take advantage.
In the 42nd minute, Kate Strickland jammed home a rebound opportunity to score the lone goal of the game on either side. The play began with a corner opportunity for Millersville that resulted in a shot on goal. SU goalie Megan Lay made the save, but was unable to keep the rebound attempt from reaching the back of the net.
“We caused a corner and, on that corner, Meg Lay made three saves in a row, but you can only make so many saves when the rebounds are just sitting there,” Zollinger said. “I feel like they [Millersville] did a good job of putting away the rebounds that kept coming back.”
Redshirt sophomore Megan Lay made some tremendous plays in net throughout the third quarter to keep the Raiders in the game. She made eight saves, seven of them coming in the third quarter.
“She’s really stepped up her game over the summer and in through the preseason has just been gaining confidence with each practice and is really growing into a key communicator back there, which is really important in that position,” Zollinger said of Lay. “She had a really tremendous game and saved a lot of shots, but I think our defense needed to do a little bit better of a job cleaning up their rebounds.”
Playing in her first full season, Lay has done a good job thus far of being a solid, commanding presence in net. In four games this season, she has allowed only five goals while recording 15 saves. Her save percentage is 0.750.
The Raiders’ offense is encountering a problem it has not faced in recent years: They are not taking a lot of shots compared to the competition in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). Shippensburg is currently sixth in the PSAC in shots per game (16.75).
When comparing their numbers from last season, when the team finished second in the conference in shots, it is a drop of 3.01 shots per game. So far this season, teams are taking more shots and putting up more offense. Last year’s leader in shots was West Chester (21.25 per game), and this year’s leader is East Stroudsburg (28.60 per game). This might just be an early-season trend that will even out as more games are played, but for now the Raiders are lagging behind the competition in terms of the number of shots they are taking per game.
Shippensburg has plenty of talent throughout their roster, as shown by their NCAA Division II field hockey national championship each of the last three seasons.
Even after a loss like the one suffered against Millersville, there should not be much reason to worry.
The Raiders, according to coach Zollinger, will be keying in on a few aspects of their play on the field that they will need to improve as the season goes along.
“We are all about growth, it’s not where you start it’s where you end. We take it day by day what we can grow and learn from,” Zollinger said. “I think this game provides us a great opportunity to reflect early on in the season and be able to assess where we are at now and to pick a few things in the defense and the attack that we want to improve on.”
On Saturday, the Raiders lost another tightly contested game, 3-2, in overtime against Kutztown (4-1). SU fell behind 2-0 after the first quarter of play before clawing back in the game throughout the second half.
Junior Jazmin Petrantonio tied the game in the final minutes on a penalty stroke goal. It was her third goal of the season.
However, the Raiders wound up losing in overtime on a goal by Rachel Dusman in the 69th minute.
For the second game in a row, the Raiders’ offense struggled to put up a lot of shots on goal. They took 10 shots, with six of them being on goal, and were outshot in the first half 7-3.
With conference play not beginning for the Raiders until Sept. 28, they have some time to work on making the necessary improvements before the heart of their schedule begins.
Up next for the Raiders is a Wednesday afternoon game at 1:30 p.m. against PSAC rival West Chester (3-0) at Robb Sports Complex.