Capitalizing on penalty corners is a point of emphasis for the Sacred Heart Greenwich field hockey team each practice, as it works to perfect its variety of plays off corners.
As Greens Farms Academy can attest to, it was evident today, just how much time and effort the Tigers put into their penalty corners.
Sacred Heart took six penalty corners during its FAA matchup against visiting Greens Farms Academy and the end result was six goals. That’s right, the Tigers were perfect on their corners and rode such excellence to a 7-0 victory – their sixth straight shutout win.
“I’m very happy for the team,” Sacred Heart coach Alex Gheorghe said. “When we score everything on corners, it makes a difference. It was a beautiful game from our team.”
Sporting a record of 10-3, Sacred Heart has shut out Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, Loomis Chaffee, King, Milton Academy, Hotchkiss School and Greens Farms over sensational six-game stretch.
In today’s game against the visiting Dragons, the Tigers took a 3-0 lead into the second quarter, then held a commanding 6-0 halftime advantage.
“It was a good game for us, we started off strong in the beginning,” said Sacred Heart senior midfielder Caroline Nemec, who captains the team along with senior midfielder Erin Griffin. “We wanted to get the ball up in the corner and in their half and try to get the ball in the goal as early as possible.”
Caroline Nemec recorded three goals and three assists, Kate Nemec, a junior, tallied one goal and three assists and junior midfielder Delfina Gonzalez Lobo scored twice to pace the surging Tigers.
“The transferring of the ball was great,” Gonzalez Lobo said. “Getting the ball from the back to the front really fast and connecting helped us. By trusting each other and getting that ball movement, we were able to generate corners and take shots.”
During the Max Field Hockey High School National Invitational Tournament in Pennsylvania last month, an event featuring the premier teams in the nation, Sacred Heart lost three, hard-fought one goal games and came back from the tourney knowing that it needed to sharpen up for future matchups.
“After the Max Tournament, we’ve been working on corners a lot and getting them off. It’s the thing we work on here at Sacred Heart,” Gonzalez Lobo said.
The team has also focused on its ball passing/ball movement.
“Getting it to the sides and going back through the middle and back outside, we really work on connecting those passes,” Gonzalez Lobo said.
Stick handling the ball down the field into Greens Farms’ zone, junior Vivi Caruso got past a pair of defenders on her way to knocking a short shot into the cage, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead with 13:42 remaining in the first quarter.
At the 6:56 mark of the opening period, Caroline Nemec banged home a shot off the Tigers’ first penalty corner of the game, making it 2-0. Gonzalez Lobo tipped in a shot off the stick of Caroline Nemec on Sacred Heart’s second corner, putting the home team on top, 3-0 with 2:50 to go in the first quarter.
SHG continued its momentum and precise corner execution in the second quarter. Caroline Nemec set Gonzalez Lobo up for a tally off a penalty corner 1:47 into the second stanza, then Caroline scored on a corner, with her sister Kate earning the assist, putting GFA in 5-0 hole with 12:18 still left.
Kate Nemec scored with 6:48 to go in the second quarter off, yes, another corner, to seal the first-half scoring. In the second half, Caroline Nemec completed her hat trick.
“The tournament (MAX Field Hockey) was a really good opportunity for us to see a lot of challenging teams and see what we need to work on better,” Caroline Nemec said. “It’s been great this year, we all work really well together and it’s been good. All the lines are pretty good with moving it through each other and just connecting across the field.”
Theresa Harkins played in goal for the Tigers, getting the shutout win. Sacred Heart entered the game off a tough 1-0 road triumph against NEPSAC rival Hotchkiss.
“They’re a tough team and very physical, but we knew we wanted to be a good contender and be tough,” Caroline Nemec said of the Hotchkiss game. “We knew it was going to be a long-fought game. We were working as a team, connecting and we were able to put it all out there on the field.”
Each game, everyone on the Sacred Heart squad plays, as its Varsity A roster features only 12 players (1 substitute).
“Their resilience and their commitment toward every single game is very impressive,” Gheorghe said of his team. “They take it very seriously.”
Saturday, Sacred Heart will make the short trip to Greenwich Academy, where they will renew their longtime rivalry with GA, which is also in the midst of a strong season. The game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
“We’re super excited and we can’t wait to play them,” Gonzalez Lobo said. “They’re our biggest rivals and everyone is super hyped.”