Rutgers corner plays prove paramount to success

<p>Sophomore defender Devon Freshnock credited corner plays for the Knights’ success in their most recent win over Lafayette.</p>

Sophomore defender Devon Freshnock credited corner plays for the Knights’ success in their most recent win over Lafayette.

Field Hockey is a game of opportunity and execution. 

No play better describes that than a corner. It’s an opportunity that has to be taken advantage of, and it’s a focal point at Rutgers field hockey practices. 

“They’re absolutely crucial,” said head coach Meredith Long. “In tighter matchups, it’s the team that makes the mistake in defense and being able to capitalize on it in your attack offense — that can be the difference maker.”

It’s a play that can easily change the momentum of the game if executed to perfection. It may seem simple, but it’s far from it. 

In order to get a corner, there has to be a penalty committed by the defensive team within the circle. This includes, but is not limited to: a player or goalie stepping on the ball, pushing the ball out of bounds, hitting someone with a stick, the ball going too high in the air causing danger to another player and the ball hitting a player’s foot.

On the offensive side of a corner, the injector, the trapper and the striker are the three main people involved in the play. 

Senior midfielder Jenn Staab sums up her job perfectly.

“I’m a stick stopper for the baller,” Staab said of being a trapper. “It’s my job to get the ball to the striker to score the goal.”

In addition to those three big roles, the majority of the offensive team is around the circle performing each of their own roles, depending on the play called out by the coach. Two players stay back by the centerline to prevent a possible breakaway.

To get started, the referee will blow the whistle signaling the injector to hit the ball into play. The ball must be hit using a “push pass.” Once the ball is hit, the defense can move in. 

The injector starts the play by putting the ball in play to the trapper. By rule, the ball must touch one of the other player’s sticks before it can be shot. 

The trapper then has the option of stopping the ball, so the striker can hit it or find another teammate for the shot. Most of the time, the striker will load up and shoot the ball.

As a striker, it is imperative to finish the play strong. This past weekend against Lafayette, sophomore Devon Freshnock did just that. 

“I’m a hit or a drag at the top of the circle,” Freshnock said. “I was just able to finish really well.”

Finishing is the main problem teams will encounter when taking a corner. If a team is inefficient at finishing, it will struggle to win close games.

On the defensive side of the corner, the main goal is to get the ball out of the circle, preferably to the side of the field. If it is hit back out of play in the circle, the corner is replayed. 

Four players are on the goal line, not including the goalie to defend the set piece. The rest of the girls are forced to the centerline. Two players, usually in the goal, help the goalie and block other players from getting the ball. 

The other two players are known as the “flyer” and the “trailer.” They are usually outside the goal and always on the side the offensive player is hitting the ball from. No players can move until the offensive player hits the ball. 

The flyer goes after the ball, trying to block the offensive player who received the pass. The trailer blocks the second pass made by the receiver of the original pass. 

Once the ball is passed for the first time, the defense may move and the girls on the centerline run in and aid in blocking and getting the ball out.

For the Knights, it’s all about being as efficient as possible to get the goal.

“We focus on our proficiency with the skills involved in an attack penalty corner,” Long said. “We have to be fast and precise when taking them, and in doing so, drag or hit as quick as possible.”

The offense must execute a corner play quickly and efficiently, so the advantage remains with the defense. Little extra time is provided because players run back from the centerline.

When it comes down to it, converting on corners can be the difference in a game.

“They are extremely critical,” Staab said. “Execution of corners helps your team win.” 

For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @TargumSports for updates. 

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