By Matthew Snyder
PACIFICA – Mired in a difficult start to the season, in which the St. Ignatius field hockey team lost its first three games without scoring a goal, head coach Maisa Badawy decided to devote significant portions of recent practices toward drills focused on finishing scoring opportunities.
That extra work paid off on a blustery Monday afternoon at Fairmont Park, where the Wildcats scored early and often en route to a thorough 9-0 non-league victory over visiting Marin Catholic of Kentfield.
“The team was working so hard, but they just weren’t finishing,” Badawy said. “For the first two weeks of the season, everybody wanted somebody else to take the final shot, but you have to shoot to score.”
Senior midfielder Fiona Blumenthal took heed of that advice and found the back of the net in just the second minute of play.
The Wildcats (3-3) poured in two more goals off corners within the first five minutes before building an 8-0 lead at the break.
Marin Catholic struggled to create any concerted offensive chances against St. Ignatius’ frenzied, pressing defensive scheme. Led by junior midfielder Alex Robertson, the Wildcats frequently won possession in midfield, which fueled their incisive counterattacks, several of which ended in goals.
“I was very impressed that the girls were so goal-hungry during the first half,” Badawy said.
With such a large halftime lead, Badawy said she instructed the team to focus on creating passing combinations, which it steadily worked on for the first five weeks of practice.
Though the Wildcats scored just once in the second half, they continued to dominate play, and created a couple fluid passing movements, one of which ended in a shot caroming off the post.
“There was some real mature play that we saw in the second half — a lot of give-and-go’s, vision, use of the field and just a lot of maturity, which really impressed me,” Badawy said.
Senior Hailey Carter, who scored the lone second-half goal, merited much of her coach’s praise.
One of three senior team captains elected by the team before the season, Carter showed an impressive defensive effort on top of her offensive production during the early portions of the second half, when SI sewed the game up.
“Hailey is a captain for a reason,” Badawy said. “She’s hungry from whistle to whistle, she never lets up and you never see her walking around on the field. She’s not the most vocal captain, but she leads by example, which is why I think her peers voted for her.”
That hunger might partially stem from a desire to make up for lost time. Carter suffered a broken thumb toward the start of the 2011 season, which ruled her out until 2012.
She picked out the team’s 1-0 victory on the road against Presentation on Wednesday as one of the keys for the team’s recent revival. In its three wins, SI has outscored its opponents 14-0.
“I think our fitness level has increased, and we’ve just worked together really well,” Carter said. “We’ve just kept on pushing.”