Inside the penalty stroke


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Seven yards is not a very long distance. It’s less than one tenth of the length of a field hockey pitch. And if you’re standing 21 feet from the goalkeeper with the ball on your stick and no defense in the vicinity, it’s a huge advantage.

In Sunday afternoon’s victory, Iowa’s Karli Johansen converted a penalty stroke en route to a 5-1 win. As she does every time she takes a stroke, she gathered herself and stood to the left of the ball while facing the goalkeeper.

“Just basically calming down and getting my heart rate back down,” the native of North Vancouver, B.C., Canada said. “I just take a deep breath and really focus on footwork and hitting the back of the net.”

Hit the back of the net she has. Johansen has scored on three penalty strokes this season, which leads the No. 19 Hawkeyes in the 2013 campaign.

Fellow senior Marike Stribos, who converted a penalty stroke against Pacific on Oct. 13, has a similar attitude about the opportunities. She says focus is key when taking the stroke.

Johansen and Stribos are the only Iowa players to convert on strokes this year, and they have overlapping philosophies on the opportunities.

“Everyone has her spot, so basically you just pick the one you’re best at,” the native of Brussels, Belgium, said. “Sometimes, it’s the scout — if the goalkeeper is better on one side or the other.”

However, Johansen doesn’t focus on the goalie much.

“I pretty much go to the same spot every time,” she said with a chuckle.

On Sunday, goalkeeper Kelsey Boyce also saved a stroke from Cal-Davis’ Hannah Drawbridge. Drawbridge lifted her chest-high shot to Boyce’s right side, and the fifth-year senior dived to push the ball away before getting up with a big grin, visible through her black mask.

Boyce has only allowed one penalty stroke into the net this season — Sept. 15 in a 2-0 loss to then-No. 10 Stanford. The native of Califon, N.J., was not available for comment after Sunday’s victory, which moved the Hawkeyes to 11-6 overall.

However, backup goalkeeper Alexandra Pecora gave a look inside the mind of a goalie on the stroke.

Like her teammates, the freshman said focus is key, in addition to not biting on anything the shooter might do to trick a keeper.

“I try to look at nothing else but the ball because a lot of field players try to fake you out, look opposite directions,” the native of Marlton, N.J., said.

One may think a goaltender may hate facing a penalty stroke because it requires such a small reaction time to make a save.

But Pecora relishes the situation.

“I enjoy it, I like the pressure of it. It’s kind of hit or miss. You’re either going to get it, or you don’t, so I like that aspect of it,” Pecora said. “It’s a lot more pressure, and I like that a lot better. Even though making a normal save is cool, just that high-pressure situation is fun.”

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