Senior Bradford keeps N. Carroll attack in top form Field hockey: Concerned about offense before the season, North Carroll has raced out to a 4-0 record thanks to impressive teamwork and a scoring outburst by Jessica Bradford.

Field hockey

Local sports

September 20, 1998|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

North Carroll field hockey coach Denean Koontz said before the season that she had concerns about her team's offense. The Panthers had lost their top scorer from last year's 9-3 team, and Koontz wasn't sure who was ready to take over.

Jessica Bradford gave Koontz the answer. Bradford scored six goals as No. 8-ranked North Carroll has opened its season by outscoring opponents 15-3 en route to victories in its first four games.

North Carroll and Bradford both started quickly. The Panthers opened with a 3-1 victory over Liberty, helped by Bradford's two-goal effort. She then scored the game-winner in a 1-0 win at No. 5 Francis Scott Key.

The senior then scored one more in the Panthers' 2-0 victory against South Carroll before adding two goals in Thursday's 9-2 rout of Middletown.

Koontz likes how hard Bradford has worked to help the Panthers' offense.

"She's given us the punch early in the season," said Koontz. "We needed that punch. She's a senior, and she's a captain, and she realized that somebody's going to have to put the ball in the cage."

Bradford already has matched her goal total from last year and said the only change in her game, if there is any, is better stickwork. Bradford shrugs off compliments, saying she's just doing her job.

"I don't think I really stand out," said Bradford. "I don't really care how we score goals or who does as long as it gets in the cage."

Bradford has scored several of her goals off rebounds, and Koontz likes how hard she has worked around the cage.

But another reason for North Carroll's success has been the strong play of the midfield and defense. The defense has been stingy all season, junior goalie Devan Bosley has gained confidence and the midfield continually gets the ball to the offense.

The whole team is clicking, something that Koontz feels is vital to its success. The team's ability to play as one showed up big during the victory at Key last week.

The host Eagles outshot North Carroll, 13-6, and kept the ball in the Panthers' end throughout the second half, constantly driving into the circle. North Carroll allowed 15 penalty corners in the second half. In addition, they gave up five corners in the final two minutes, but the defense choked off every Eagles threat and kept Key scoreless.

"They work hard," said Koontz. "They hustle and they don't like to lose, and the biggest thing is this team plays together."

Several of the Panthers said the same things. Many of the juniors and seniors played together a few years ago on JV and believe that's what helped this team jump out of the gate.

"It's a tight bond, not just technically but emotionally," said midfielder Erin German. "We're such good friends, we play as one."

In addition to Bosley in goal, senior German, midfielder Meredith Gill and sweeper Katie Holmes all have played well early in the season.

The strong defense takes pressure off an offense that's still trying to find itself. The midfield's efficiency easily gets the ball up to the offense in scoring positions while the forwards are doing a good job of creating and taking advantage of scoring chances.

Koontz and her players caution that it's early and they're not ordering championship rings just yet. But if they continue to play this way, the Panthers could be tough to beat.

"I thought we were going to do well," said Bradford. "We get along so well on and off the field. I guess we all kind of think the same way."

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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