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Yu shines on defense for Oakland Mills field hockey

Oakland Mills junior goalie Lizzie Yu made 82 saves against Atholton when the two teams squared off this fall.
Oakland Mills junior goalie Lizzie Yu made 82 saves against Atholton when the two teams squared off this fall. (Photo submitted by Dennis Yu)

Lizzie Yu likes a challenge, and she faces plenty of them.

The Oakland Mills junior is on a team that just last week finally had enough players for a 7v7 scrimmage. Many of the eight freshmen on the Scorpions' squad are playing for the first time. There is no JV team.

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Although young and inexperienced, Oakland Mills began this season against the county's top-tier teams; they stand at opposite ends of the field hockey spectrum, and the results haven't exactly been pretty.

Oakland Mills is 0-3 and has yet to score a goal.

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Yet, through the lopsided scores that have marked the team's early season games, it's Yu — the Scorpions' goalkeeper — that has people talking.

She's amassed 140 saves in those initial three games this fall. She had 41 saves against Marriotts Ridge and 82 saves against Atholton. The latter performance drew raves from Atholton coach Martie Dyer.

"She's amazing. She's absolutely amazing," Dyer said. "I have a strong forward line that just pounds and pounds and this girl never gave up. … She gave us fits."

"They definitely took a lot of shots," Yu said in regards to the game against the Raiders. "I think they spent the whole time in the circle, especially in the first half."

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Yu is the Scorpions' secret weapon on defense. While she has only played field hockey for three years, she has been an ice hockey goalie for 12. The rules of the two games are different, but it boils down to stopping the ball or stopping the puck — something she excels at.

Her 5-foot-2 size works against her more in field hockey, with the size of the goal she's guarding being significantly larger. An ice hockey goal is 72 inches by 48 inches, while a field hockey goal is 12 feet by 7 feet.

"I'm short and I don't exactly take up a lot of space," she said. "The angles are different [between the two sports] and I had to relearn the angles for field hockey."

Also, she can't cover the ball in field hockey. Goalies are only allowed to clear it away.

Every hockey team — ice or field — needs a keeper, but not everyone is up for the task. While it can be boring when the play is at the other end of the field, when the play is at your feet, it can be downright frenetic. It is in those chaotic situations where Yu's agility and quickness work to her advantage.

She can dive, get back up, do a split save, dive again and get on her feet all in a matter of seconds during the commotion that can occur in front of the goal line.

"Lizzie has a natural talent and she is pretty fearless, which is great," said Oakland Mills coach Wanda Reid. "Her timing is spot on and she is good under pressure."

Reid is in her first year as a varsity field hockey coach, but she brings with her a wealth of knowledge about goalkeeping. She was one as a player, and she has coached goalies for 12 years.

She ranks Yu as one of the top two goalkeepers she has ever worked with.

Yu tends goal not only for the Scorpions field hockey team, but also for the Montgomery Blue Devils — a girls ice hockey team — and the Oakland Mills/Hammond/Wilde Lake high school club team — a co-ed ice hockey squad.

She first was introduced to ice hockey when her family lived in Connecticut. She became fascinated with the sport and ice hockey became a priority when her family moved to Georgia.

"I don't remember why I wanted to be a goalie, I just did. I've stuck with it ever since," she said.

A goalkeeper needs the right mentality. "You can't be afraid of getting hit," Yu said.

And you can't take the outcome personally.

"I used to, but I realized that every goalie gets scored on. That's the goal of the game; it's going to happen."

That attitude allows Yu to compartmentalize. "I take every game one shot at a time; one save at a time. I am in the moment, thinking about what is happening right now."

Right now, Oakland Mills is working on being the best team that it can be in all aspects. The Scorpions are taking what they have learned so far and applying it to future games.

"Nobody enjoys walking away from a field after an 11-0 or 12-0 loss. It doesn't feel good, but the team is bonding and growing," Reid said. "Oakland Mills might not be a top team in the county, but I want Lizzie to be recognized as a top goalie in the county. She works hard and has a heart for this sport."

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