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Only four defenders are allowed in the field hockey circle at the start of a penalty corner.

Credit: Son Nguyen

Penn field hockey’s defense has an odd piece of gear with a very practical purpose.

To help them out when defending penalty corners, the Quakers sport clear masks, which cover their faces almost entirely. 

In field hockey, a defensive penalty corner is called when the defense commits a foul in the circle, which spans 16 yards around the goal. 

During a penalty corner, four defenders are allowed to stand in the goal behind the goal line, preparing to protect it from the other team’s offense. The offensive team is allowed to place as many players as they want around the circle. 

For the offensive side, corners are a very opportune moment to score. One offender inserts the ball from the goal line, and then the rest of the offense tries as hard as it can to overpower the defense and hit the ball into the goal.

As soon as the ball is inserted, the defenders are allowed to run past the goal line to try and prevent the other team from scoring.  

“We stand in different spots based on the scouting done by our coaches for each individual team we play, so we try to read the ball,” junior defender Reese Vogel said.

It is in the defenders’ best interest to run out of the goal as soon as the ball is inserted because if the ball hits them anywhere on their bodies, it would constitute another foul.

“That foul means another corner could be called or even a stroke, which means they could just shoot one-on-one with the goalie,” Vogel said. 

Corners can be quite stressful for a defense, especially since only four players and the goalie are faced by as many 10 offensive players. 

“It’s pretty intimidating at times. It really gets our adrenaline going. The other team is literally trying to hit the ball through you, and that ball is hard,” Vogel said. “It is agreed upon that this is the shot that has the most potential power behind it.”

The Quakers’ masks, however, have helped to mitigate some of the fear that comes with facing a corner. Before defensive corners, the players put the masks on to protect their faces. For Vogel, taking a pause to put on the mask helps prepare her for the stressful moment to come.

“It’s a little weird, but for me it’s a great moment to center myself and get focused for what is about to come at me,” Vogel said. “Obviously, it’s a safety precaution, but it really makes me feel better about running towards a ball hurdling towards my face.”

When the corner is over, Penn’s defense takes off its masks and gets right back into the game.

“If the defense is successful in stopping one of these corners, we get really excited and have a new sense of confidence,” Vogel said. “It’s a powerful feeling.”