Australian goalkeeper holds strong in Rutgers defense
Residing between an attacking player barreling down the field and the goal is a team’s line of defense — the goalkeeper.
Being called upon in the most critical moments of the game, the Rutgers field hockey team’s Shevaun Hayes served as her team’s anchor on the field since arriving on the Banks in 2013.
After earning a start in all 19 games last season, the junior goalkeeper spearheaded the Scarlet Knights’ defensive unit through all nine games this season. With 38 saves on the season, she bolsters a .644 average save percentage, according to bigten.org.
The Melbourne, Australia, native is a long way from home — 22 hours total — but remained a solid force on Rutgers’ back end. On top of two shutouts this season so far, Hayes tied her single-game high with 13 saves against Northwestern last Friday.
Defending against the Wildcats' offense poses a daunting task. As a team, Northwestern leads the Big Ten in points, goals, corners and goals per game, while ranking second in shots.
The conference leader in shots and shots per game also calls Evanston, Illinois, home, as well as the Big Ten's runner-up in points and goals.
Despite suffering a 5-1 loss at the hands of the Wildcats, head coach Meredith Civico was proud of the performance her keeper put up amidst the constant, hectic pressure from a relentless Northwestern offense.
“(Hayes) had a really solid game against Northwestern. You know, 13 saves is a lot of saves to make and she was under a lot of pressure and I thought she performed well,” Civico said. “We’ve got to be solid in front of her. We can’t allow teams to come in and get second and third shots and that’s what happened.”
Also coming off of a very physical, turbulent 2-0 loss against No. 18 Michigan on Sunday, Hayes remained composed through several one-on-one offensive breakaways and held the Wolverines scoreless through the tumultuous moments.
Being the last force standing between an attacking player and the goal is a heavy weight to bear. But Hayes handles the responsibility with an unwavering poise.
“Actually, (my mind) goes completely clear,” the goalkeeper said. “I just think the simplest things like, you know, stay with her, count back the time. I make sure I take my time with her so my defense comes back and helps. … But basically, it’s a clear slate. It’s mostly just keeping it simple and focusing on the ball — that’s the main thing.”
As the Knights’ netminder, Hayes has an acutely clear view of her teammates and their positioning on the field. During games, her communication with field players proves to be invaluable in ensuring that each position and area is adequately covered through a fluent balance.
This crucial standpoint comes with the duty to set a calm, composed tone that permeates through the defensive, midfield and offensive lines. Such a stance holds the power to dictate the team mentality and energy throughout match play.
“With the mentality of communicating to my players, I have to be strong, I have to be composed,” Hayes said. “I start in front and then work myself back with the players keeping on top of it so that they know what they’re doing, they have confidence in me, they have confidence in themselves and the position on their ball.”
Not only does Hayes have a unique perspective on the field, but off the field as well. She comes the longest way from home out of the team’s six international players.
The 14-hour time difference augments a tough obstacle to maintain communication ties with family. With 3 p.m. Friday games in New Jersey equating to 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings in Australia, the live stats game tracker is nevertheless on and active in the Hayes household when this Knight takes the cage.
With many sacrifices and responsibilities tailored to her decision to leave her home country and come to Rutgers, the factors behind Hayes’s choice surpassed the offer she received on paper.
“Everyone was just so nice and it was just a good atmosphere,” she said on her initial visit with the team. “It was just a feeling I had.”
For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @Kaylee_Pofahl and @TargumSports on Twitter.