Reverse stick maneuver not coach’s favorite

First Posted: 11/5/2014

Jean Lipski remains hesitant about the growing use of reverse stick maneuvers in field hockey.

But the Lake-Lehman coach had no complaints about the two plays sophomore forward Sarah Sabaluski pulled off from her weak side Tuesday night to help the Black Knights to a 3-2 overtime victory over Southern Lehigh in their first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament appearance in nine years.

Sabaluski used the technique to get off the hardest shot of the night, scoring the goal that forced overtime, then also went to the reverse side to deliver the soft-touch pass that led to game-winning goal by freshman Makayla Adams.

The win sent Lake-Lehman into the state Class AA quarterfinals.

“Ironically, I am not a reverse stick person,” Lipski said. “I’m old school and I keep telling the kids, ‘don’t do reverse sticks, get your feet around, get your feet around,’ over and over.

“And, when she made that goal, we all just looked at each other like, ‘okay, we’ll take it.’ We’ll take the reverse stick shot. It was a beauty; it couldn’t have been nicer.”

Sabaluski was moving through the right side of the circle with a delayed call for a Southern Lehigh infraction pending when she hit a laser of a shot, low through traffic and into the cage for a 2-2 tie with 5:58 remaining.

“I saw an open shot and I took it and it went in,” said Sabaluski, a sophomore forward. “It was a good solid hit. My hits are pretty strong, but my reverses normally are not that strong. That one just hit the sweet spot.”

Advancements in stick technology, and increased skill training that have coincided with it, have in some ways reduced the emphasis from almost exclusively right-sided, strong-sided play in field hockey. Stronger players have added variety to the moves they can do with the equivalent of a backhand move – although the actual back of the stick cannot be used in field hockey, adding the challenge of rotating the stick.

Harder shots with the reverse move tend to rise more if not struck just right, adding a point of emphasis for officials to quickly blow those dead as dangerous play unless they are direct shots on goal.

“The reason I don’t like them is because so often they can go high and people can get hurt,” Lipski said. “We’re not here to hurt people. I don’t care what team you’re on.

“I told Sarah, ‘I would rather you get your feet around, but I’ll take that one.’”

Sabaluski said she knew the officials would not have allowed that shot past so many defenders if she had not kept it down.

“If it would have raised, it would have been coming out and we wouldn’t have gone into overtime,” she said.

Sabaluski missed the start of overtime. She received a green card after a collision with 35 seconds left in regulation and was sitting while Lake-Lehman played short for the first 1:25 of an actual-filled, 7-on-7 session.

When Lake-Lehman earned consecutive penalty corners, Sabaluski was there to help produce the game-winner. She came up with a loose ball after Kate Supey got Lake-Lehman back into the circle. When she did, Sabaluski spotted Adams all alone near the right post and slipped a soft pass to her with the reverse stick, assisting on Adams’ first career goal.

“I just redirected it for my player because I saw her right on post real low,” Sabaluski said. “I know my players are on the post. I have complete confidence in my teammates.”

Kirsten Cope joined Sabaluski and Adams as goal-scorers in the win. Taylor Alba had an assist. Tiffany Malinowski made six saves, including five during the last 5:32 of regulation and 7:14 of overtime play.

Lake-Lehman is scheduled to play in Saturday’s state quarterfinals against Villa Maria.

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