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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Formation change sets Bombers back on track

With losses piling up and a lack of offense, the field hockey team has adopted a new strategy to score goals early and often.

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Sophomore forward and midfielder Katie Kennedy strikes the ball during a game against the University of Rochester on Oct. 12 at Higgins Stadium. Kennedy is tied for second on the team in goals this season. STEVEN EPISCOPO/THE ITHACAN

After a string of six losses in which the Bombers lost by a combined margin of 18-4, Head Coach Tracey Houk put in a new 3-2-1-3 formation that bolstered the team’s spiraling offense.

The Bombers’ new formation, which moves the sweeping defender up into the scoring circle as an extra attacker, is more balanced than the formation the team has used in the past.

Houk said she implemented the change to create more balance on offense after a tough 1-0 overtime loss Oct. 8 against Washington and Jefferson College.

“The formation has definitely given us more support within the circle with the extra person,” she said. “And it also allows four people to come up and support our midfield, which pushes up on our attack.”

As part of the new strategy, sophomore defender Emily Lash alternates with senior midfielder and defender JulieAnne Butare, as the “up-back” defender who moves into the circle when the Bombers are on offense.

The alignment creates a “teeter-totter” movement on the Bombers’ defense. When the ball is moved up on the right side, Butare or Lash will move up to guard the ball as an extra midfielder. This creates a three-point zone behind the hybrid defender. The center fullback shifts over to cover the vacancy on the right side, while the far side defender moves over to fill the center.

Lash said the new formation has bolstered the attack and given the  young defense more time to adjust.

Junior goalie Kelly Singleton said the new strategy puts less pressure on the back line while maintaining a formidable counter attack at the same time.

“The change that works really nicely from my vantage point is that we as a defense no longer have to mark man-to-man until the opponents get to the 45-foot line,” she said.

It took the Bombers another game before they adjusted to the change in strategy, as they fell to the University of Rochester 5-0 Oct. 12 for their second straight shutout loss.

After another two days of practice, however, the Bombers’ offense looked re-energized. The team beat St. John Fisher College 2-1 on Oct. 14 in a game that became a turning point in the season.

The formation’s crisp passing angles and rebounding opportunities were also on full display in the team’s 4-0 victory against SUNY-Morrisville on Oct. 18.

Senior forward Heather Kozimor scored both goals for the Bombers in the win against St. John Fisher College and leads the team this season with five. She said the offense was more in sync during the games against the Cardinals and the Mustangs.

“Getting a couple of goals under our belt and finally getting a win got us back into playing how we need to play, and we feel a little more confident out there,” she said. “We took a lot more shots in the Morrisville game, too, and things just went our way.”

The Bombers outscored their opponents 6-1 in the two games and registered 49 shots on goal. But the team could not sustain the momentum on offense, falling to Utica College 5-1 on Sunday and losing to SUNY-Geneseo 3-2 yesterday at Higgins Stadium.

Kozimor said though the South Hill squad has been eliminated from playoff contention, it still hopes to end the season on a positive note.

Lash said the Bombers’ new formation will help them score earlier in their final home game against the Elmira College Soaring Eagles on Sunday.

“It will create a lot more confidence with the offense knowing that they can put the ball in the net,” she said. “Now that we’re finally understanding how to use this formation, it can be an advantage.”