Houck finds the goal on first hit


Ask Westminster senior field hockey star Tinah Houck how many goals she has this season and you'd have to wait for a reply.

"Coach Hooper," she yells, "how many goals do I have this season?"

"Ten," co-coach Sue Hooper replies, "and one assist."

The 10 goals and one assist is far and away tops in this field hockey-rich county. Houck, however, would much rather talk about the Owls' 8-1 record in their quest to repeat as Class 4A state champs.

"I don't really keep track of how much I score. I just like playing," Houck said.

"Right now, we're playing pretty well. We had that one loss to North Carroll, but got them back a week later. We have a lot of seniors with a good front line and a strong defense."

Houck finds herself between that good front line and strong defense -- playing an offensive link position similar to a midfielder in soccer. The team's near-flawless defense -- which opened the season with five straight shutouts -- allows her to run with the front line on most occasions.

"The link position plays both offense and defense, but I'm more of a forward link and rush with the front line," she said.

Most of her goals have come off penalty corners, where she is the first hitter.

"She's got a real hard first hit," Hooper said. "We've been using her as a first hitter on corners and her size [5 feet 11] and the speed of her hit really throws people off. When players see her hit the ball, they seem to want to get out of the way rather than try to stop it."

Westminster co-coach Brenda Baker says it's somewhat rare to have so many goals coming from the first hit on penalty-corner situations. Houck's hard shot and quick release is the difference.

"Most of the time, the rebound shot is usually the one teams score on because the goalie doesn't know where it's coming from," Baker said. "Tina is just so strong and gets that first shot off real fast. She's really shined as a goal scorer this year."

Most field hockey players aren't as tall as Houck, and she uses her height as an asset.

"She handles her whole body very well and is strong in hockey all the way through," Hooper said. "She's very smooth with her dodges and gets a lot on her hits."

Baker added that Houck is the ultimate team player.

"If we didn't tell her to take those first hits, she'd just as well watch one of her teammates try to score," she said.

Along with field hockey, Houck is a forward on the Owls' basketball team and plays the home position in lacrosse. She first began playing field hockey in gym class at middle school and has played competitively her four years at Westminster.

"I thought it was something different and very challenging," Houck said. "It has given me a lot of confidence in everything I do."

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