Junior Skylar VanNatta served the field hockey team well last weekend on two plays similar to stopping a game-winning drive in the red zone by a sack in football.
She halted scoring opportunities on penalty corners in the last seconds of regulation against Ohio and Michigan State by charging at the ball to force overtime.
“Our team has a lot of confidence in her,” head coach Cristy Freese said. “They know how hard she’s going to work to get out there, and they know they don’t want to do that job.”
But what got her recognition Tuesday was what she did on the other side of the field.
VanNatta was named the Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Week after assisting on the game-winning goal against Ohio Friday, and scoring Central Michigan’s lone goal against Michigan State Sunday.
She said the play that was employed to win the game against Ohio had not been used previously, though the team had been working on it since the first day of practice.
“The inserter intentionally hits the ball to my strong side, and I take it and sweep to the post,” VanNatta said. “(Jordyn Brengosz’s) responsibility is just to run in and hit the ball, and she was right there, and it was a wide-open channel and it worked out very nicely.”
The first goal of VanNatta’s career tied the game against Michigan State, though it was initially credited to her teammate.
It was so congested in the striking circle, only she could describe what transpired.
She said Bailey McKeon took the initial shot, Erin Dye took a shot, and only after Abby Roth took a shot would she get a chance to knock it in after the ball bounced off the post.
“I was just there to put it in,” she said. “It was nice to get up in the circle and actually play some offense. You could tell we all wanted that goal … you could see people diving for the ball. We didn’t let it come out of the circle.”
VanNatta had been moved from left back to left midfielder after the first half of the Ohio game because the Bobcats were exposing the left side, Freese said.
“It’s a lot more running, yes. But it’s a lot more fun as well,” VanNatta said. “I’m just trying to get the hang of playing offense and trying to contribute to the team a little bit more.”