Getting defensive

Showing determination and toughness, Severna Park senior Corinne Manuel has developed into a top goalie and is key to the Falcons' state championship run

Field hockey

October 18, 2006|By Alejandro Danois | Alejandro Danois,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Severna Park senior Corinne Manuel started playing field hockey as an 8-year-old, she chose the goalie position for one simple reason.

"I really didn't want to run," she said.

Donning the goalie pads and guarding the net, however, Manuel found that being her team's last line of defense was not as easy as it looked. The turning point for her occurred during a middle school game of seven-on-seven when she dove at a hard shot to the side of the net and deflected it away.

"I'd never dove for a ball before and suddenly I became very aggressive," Manuel said. "Field hockey started to really be fun and it was a great feeling to protect the goal and help my team by keeping the score low."

She has developed into one of the best at her position. Manuel, who posted 14 shutouts, saved 90 percent of the shots she faced and allowed a mere seven goals in 19 games last season, was the only goalie named first-team All-State, and her performance was instrumental in the Falcons' Class 3A state championship run.

"Corinne has a lot of determination and mental toughness," Severna Park coach Lil Shelton said. "She loves field hockey, never comes out of the goal, fights ... for the ball and works hard because she wants to be good."

As a sophomore, Manuel played sparingly as the varsity team's backup goalie, but she gained invaluable experience. The starter, Dee Crovo, mentored her, often watching from behind the goal in practice when Manuel manned the net. Crovo would yell out pointers to her.

While on the sideline, Manuel studied the way Crovo defended the net, and the two worked together perfecting footwork and blocking drills during practice.

"Dee was an amazing goalie, and to have someone of that caliber be my mentor helped me tremendously," Manuel said.

Last year, against North Carroll in the regional finals, Manuel made the play that cemented her reputation as the state's best field hockey goalie. With the score tied in overtime, the officials awarded a penalty stroke to the Panthers.

Mandy Pickard, North Carroll's center midfielder and the All-Metro Player of the Year who'd already scored two goals in the game, lined up for the stroke as Manuel studied her body language.

Manuel also noticed that North Carroll's goalie was pulled downfield in anticipation of the winning celebration.

"Settle down," Manuel said she whispered to herself. "If she scores, we won't get a chance to go to the state. I'm not going to let it go in."

Manuel ignored the ball and focused on Pickard's eyes and her body position, trying to read where the shot would go.

"I was 90 percent sure she was going to my right," Manuel said.

Pickard executed a hard, precise shot that rocketed toward the upper-left corner of the net. Manuel went airborne and made a difficult stick save that was followed by a swell of cheering from her teammates. The North Carroll goalie scrambled to get back in position, and a few minutes later, the Falcons scored the game-winning goal.

"That was an outstanding feat and her defining moment," Shelton said.

When she's not making saves, Manuel often can be found making music. She plays the guitar, piano, banjo and harmonica and writes a lot of her own material. She is a member of the band Blues Project, which has played a few gigs in the area.

On the field, she and the top-ranked Falcons continue to strike the right notes. Against South River earlier this year, she made several difficult saves to secure a hard-fought, 1-0 victory.

"We all play at a high energy level and when we come together as one, it looks beautiful," Manuel said.

In addition to keeping balls out of her net, Manuel takes pride in directing her team's defensive positioning and cheering a nice dodge or blocked tackle from one of her teammates.

"As a goalie, you have the best vantage point on the whole field," Manuel said. " ... I really like the command of directing the defense, and the rush you get from saving a ball is indescribable."

As Severna Park shoots to repeat as state champions, Manuel believes that her teammates deserve more credit than they receive.

"One of the most difficult things for me to do is to be alert, attentive and stay focused on what's going on throughout the whole game," she said. "Our defense is so good at keeping the ball out, I don't get to defend against a lot of shots."

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