March 10, 2010

She's quick with a stick

RACHEL LENZI

— By

Staff Writer

Hannah Huntress underestimated her strength.

At a USA Field Hockey clinic last week in Cambridge, Mass., Huntress entered the ''Speed Shot'' contest, which measured the speed of a field hockey drive.

Huntress gripped a field hockey stick and lined up a few yards in front of a cage. She looked down at a white ball on the ground, then began her backswing to drive the ball. Seconds later, a radar gun mounted behind the goal clocked Huntress' shot at 66 mph.

The average high school field hockey player's drive is somewhere in the 40 mph range, according to USA Field Hockey.

Huntress, 14, will be a freshman at Thornton Academy, and according to USA Field Hockey, Huntress had the fastest drive of the day among all the women who signed up for the ''Speed Shot'' contest at Harvard University, which had more than 700 participants, male and female.

''I went in and hit 66 miles an hour the first time,'' said Huntress, a Saco resident whose mother, Lisa, coaches track and field at Thornton Academy. ''The people working thought it was a misread. I hit 66 the second time, 64 the third time and 59 the fourth time. I was shocked I hit that, because I knew I could hit the ball hard, but not that hard.''

The drive in field hockey is a hitting delivery that relies not so much on upper-body strength as it does on technique and leg strength.

Proper technique includes keeping an eye on the ball, proper placement of the ball, correctly gripping the stick, a square stance with knees bent, loose wrists and a strong follow-through.

''You get more power in your drive with better technique,'' said Thornton Academy Coach Lori Smith. ''I tell my players, the power of a hit can come from your legs, but I really think it's about technique.''

Huntress attended the clinic Aug. 14 on the advice of Smith, who e-mailed her players to inform them of the clinic.

''I didn't even know they had a competition for (drives),'' Smith said. ''I've held distance competitions on my team, to see who can drive the ball hardest, but I never measured hits for speed.''

Jeff Gamza, the director of media and communications for USA Field Hockey, said ''Speed Shot'' is a contest introduced in June at the National Futures Championship in Virginia Beach, Va. USA Field Hockey plans to have ''Speed Shot'' at all of its national events and clinics.

The results of the competition at Harvard motivated Huntress, who is a defender on Thornton's freshman team. ''I was kind of shocked, but it made me improve myself when it came to my hits,'' said Huntress, in her fourth year of playing field hockey.

Smith believes playing on the freshman team rather than the varsity will help Huntress' development as a player.

''On the freshman team, she'll get a lot more playing time because I have a very large (varsity) roster of about 21 players,'' Smith said.

''Her leadership skills will come out better and her confidence will come out better playing on the freshman team.''

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

rlenzi@pressherald.com

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