Late in the game against Loomis last Friday, Andover Field Hockey’s defensive line forced a Loomis forward into taking a rushed shot, which Post-Graduate (PG) goalie Olivia Golini ’16 easily blocked to preserve Andover’s one-goal lead. The play highlighted the strength of Andover’s defensive unit, which has not let up a single goal through three regular season games.
Golini is the last line of defense for Andover’s defensive line, comprised of Captain Kelly McCarthy ’16, Hannah Cregg ’16, Elizabeth Welch ’18, Meggan Rodriguez ’17 and Elizabeth Holubiak ’18.
One reason why the defense has been so successful is the trust between the defensive line and Golini. Olivia Keefe ’17 said, “Our team is very confident in [Golini]. She makes insane saves in practice and is very aggressive when the other teams have breakaways.”
Three-year veteran Lauren Overly ’17 said, “[Golini] is such an amazing goalie. She guides the defense with her communication, and she really goes the extra mile to save the ball. Her dives and splits are ridiculous.”
As the sweeper of the defensive line, McCarthy shores the gaps when opposing forwards manage to slip through the rest of the defense. McCarthy has played sweeper for the last two years and uses her experience and vision to clear the ball out of the defensive zone.
Andover’s midfield also plays a large role in stifling opponents’ offensive momentum. Quick passes out of the defensive zone relieve the pressure from Andover’s offense and allows the unit to recover.
Even forwards contribute to Andover’s defensive efforts when possible. “We approach offense and defense as two aspects of the game which every person contributes to,” wrote Elizabeth Welch in an email to The Phillipian.
In addition, Andover adapts to the game as it progresses. While it starts with a more conservative tactic, it often pushes the defensive line closer to midfield later in the game. “[We] try to play more defensively early on in game, pushing forward as the game goes on,” said Golini.
While Andover is encouraged by the defensive results thus far, Head Coach Kate Dolan pushes the team to continue improving. “We are just trying to get better at simple things: communicating, trying to go right more and playing better defense,” said Coach Dolan.
Andover will focus on improving very specific areas of its game and linking its defense and offense via fast break drills. “Offensive players practice re-defending, and defensive players practice fast breaks. We also are always working on our play in the circle, both offensive and defensive,” said Elizabeth Welch.
Due to the fact that its opponents will improve throughout the season, the small adjustments that the team makes will be crucial for success in the playoffs. A strong regular season performance will pay dividends in November.
“We always try to make the tournament – that’s our goal when we start out,” Coach Dolan said.
Although Andover has a long season ahead, the integrity of its defense bodes well for its playoff chances.