Field Hockey: Johnson fills spot left by injured Garland

September 27, 2010 — by Synthia Ling and Ren Norris

Senior Colleen Garland was set to be an important leader in the center back position—the last player in the defense before the goalie. However, during a preseason tournament in the end of August, she broke her left finger and was forced to sit out while it recovers.

Now, sophomore defender Hannah Johnson has had to step up and fill the empty spot. She played as center back during the rest of preseason and will now remain there for league games during the regular season until Garland can return midseason.

“I’ve had to work a lot harder, just be brave on the field and suck it up,” said Johnson. “It’s a lot of fun, but it is also tough and a lot of pressure. I felt awkward having to tell people what to do in the beginning, but it’s getting better every game.”

Gaining more experience, Johnson has performed well and is improving as a strong defensive leader.
“It was a big spot to fill, but Hannah has been doing a great job stepping up,” said senior co-captain and attacker Vanessa Block. “She’s really solid back there and saves us a lot with her strong block tackle, and has become a key player to the team.”

With this new and unexpected defense dynamic, the team faced off against two powerful opponents during the first week of the competitive season.

At an away game at St. Francis on Sept. 23, the team fell 0-2. The game was scoreless until the Lady Lancers scored off a penalty stroke in the second half, and in the last two minutes of the game, scored again when ball was tipped in. Two days earlier on Sept. 21, the team lost to Gilroy, but felt they performed better with an intense game ending a close 1-2. Gilroy scored towards the end of the first half, and then again in the beginning of the second half, but the team hit back when midfielder and co-captain Ren Norris scored off a pass from Block during a short corner.

“The main difference between [the St. Francis] game and the Gilroy game was that we underestimated our opponent,” said head coach Staci Ljepava. “We were just slower to the ball and didn’t play our game. Having a tough game earlier in the week broke us down a little bit, but it was a good experience for us and we’re going to keep working so they next time we face them, we will come through strong.”

Knowing that they were going against one of the top opponents in the league, the team was aware of the difficulty of beating Gilroy and played stronger.

“I think we matched Gilroy equally in many ways,” said Ljepava. “Our positioning on the field was great, man-for-man we were able to contain their more difficult players. We just played our game and came out with goals we wanted to achieve—we played to the outside lanes, we marked up efficiently, and we stayed patient on defense.”

Despite these tough games, Johnson has been playing impressively as centerback while Garland watches on.

“Hannah has done a really great job, and she really stepped up,” said Garland. “It’s been really hard for me to have to sit on the sideline and watch, especially with it being my senior year. But we have to focus on our attitude and the basics, and if we do that, we can definitely win league and CCS this year.”

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