No. 5 Field Hockey survives thriller against Richmond
Senior Carissa Vittese seals win in penalty strokes
Tied 1-1 at the end of the second overtime period, the No. 5 Virginia field hockey team’s fate against Richmond seemed up in the air. The Cavaliers had, for the most part, outplayed the Spiders between the goals, but Richmond senior goalkeeper Anna Zarkoski had been nearly flawless thus far. If Virginia were to claim a victory, they would need to best her in penalty strokes.
Zarkowski, who had 17 saves in the game, lived up to expectations in penalty strokes, letting just one shot out of Virginia’s original five opportunities into the net — freshman forward Caleigh Foust was the only Cavalier to maneuver past her. Virginia junior goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone was able to keep pace, however, sending the game into a sudden death series of penalty strokes.
“Shootouts are incredibly stressful – you just have to go out there and forget everything else,” Johnstone said. “I used to fly into the shots and get eliminated in two seconds, but I’ve been working on it. Now I tend to go out and hold, and hold to make a decision. I like to play off them and not give anything away.”
Foust missed the first shot the Cavaliers took in the second portion of penalty strokes, but Johnstone kept the team alive with one final save before senior back Carissa Vittese sealed the Cavalier victory with a successful shot.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Vittese said. “I really did not want that game to go to penalty strokes at all … I was going to try to fake out the goalie and get her to commit to a certain side. I kept trying to fake with my stick to make her drop so I could pull around her and put the ball in the net.”
In a game that lasted 100 minutes — not counting the extended penalty stroke period — the Cavaliers (5-0, 0-0 ACC) had opportunity after opportunity to pull ahead, but Zarkowski and the Spiders (0-4, 0-0 CAA) held strong. Even in the seven-on-seven overtime periods, the Cavaliers were given a man advantage twice for a total of four minutes due to Richmond penalties, but both times proved futile.
“Their goalie had 17 saves, so we had to keep the attack on but weren’t able to put it away,” coach Michele Madison said. “[Our team] is so used to scoring that they kind of forgot how hard you have to work to score.”
The Cavaliers got on the board first in the 23rd minute when freshman midfielder Lucy Hyams corralled a rebound on a failed penalty corner and snuck a ball behind Zarkoski. The Spiders countered just a minute later, however, when junior midfielder Rebecca Berry launched a shot from the top of a circle before the Cavalier defense could set.
“They broke off – that was [Berry], a really good player – and she came running across the top and had a great reverse shot,” Johnstone said of the Richmond goal. “I couldn’t see it coming because they blocked me out, but it was a great shot.”
The Cavaliers outshot the Spiders 28-21 and were granted 15 penalty corners against the Spiders’ 10. Johnstone logged nine saves in the game, and the Cavaliers were also awarded one defensive save.
Richmond has lost every game this season by just one goal, this representing their third defeat of the year decided outside of regulation. The Spiders have consistently performed well on defense, but have struggled with scoring goals, which was more than evident in last night’s matchup.
“We knew they were going to be desperate to win – they’ve had two overtime losses already,” Madison said. “I give a lot of credit to them. They kept throwing different defenses at us, and we had to make a lot of adjustments.”
A crowd of 471 attended the game, the highest on the season — several high school groups were in attendance in addition to the game being an Orange Passport event for the ‘Hoo Crew. Though many fans did not stay around for the entirety of the two and half hour game, the ones who remained saw one of the most exciting Virginia field hockey games in recent memory.
“I think that was the biggest crowd I’ve had in four years,” Vittese said. “I was a little more nervous, especially seeing some of my friends out there.”
The Cavaliers will travel to the Northeast this weekend to take on Vermont (0-4) on Saturday and Maine (2-3) on Sunday. The Cavaliers are off to their best start in three years and will look to continue that success next weekend.
“We’ve had a great start,” Johnstone said. “Hopefully we’ll keep that going and keep that rolling into next week. It’s good to get better and better with every game, which I think we’re really doing.”