Switching circles: Softballer Brittany Hook fills void for Penn Manor field hockey
Despite having no prior experience playing field hockey, Penn Manor's Brittany Hook has transitioned from ace softball pitcher to goalie with much success. Video by John Buffone.
Penn Manor’s Brittany Hook is adept at pitching shutouts. Before this season, however, she had never thrown a shutout on the pitch.
Yet this past August, the Comets’ esteemed softball pitcher joined the ranks of Penn Manor’s field hockey team, suddenly partaking in a sport she previously had never played.
One might surmise that Hook is merely passing the time until spring practices arrive, when the velvety thud of ball-finding-mitt can be heard echoing around John G. Herr park near Manor Middle School once again.
After all, one does not simply walk-on at a premier program in the field hockey hotbed of Lancaster County and expect to vie for playing time — let alone to receive the starting role inside the goalie cage.
“The whole team was begging me to play,” said Hook of the circumstances leading up to her first-ever field hockey season, in this, her junior year of high school. “They needed a goalie and I was finally like, ‘Why not try something new?’
“I had no experience playing field hockey. None. But, I caught on really fast. I really like it.”
With last year’s starting goalkeeper Allison Schaefer — a three-year stalwart between the pipes — now at Liberty University, the 2015 PIAA State semifinalists out of Millersville had a dire need for an upperclassman in goal.
Enter Hook, whose field hockey potential was recognized immediately by Comets’ head coach Matt Soto as early as her freshman year at Penn Manor high school.
“We’ve been working on her for that for a couple years,” Soto admitted. “Obviously, she’s a great athlete and she’s got good hand-eye coordination. We needed to teach her how to kick — that’s an unusual movement for her — but she adapted to that very quickly. She’s coming along great.”
With a plethora of dynamic scorers around her, including University of Maryland commits Brooke and Emma DeBerdine, as well as multi-year starters Hannah Brown, Gabby Bitts, and good friend and one-time softball teammate Alyssa Schriver, Hook hasn’t been required to put up the same number of zeros she so often does in the springtime.
Of course, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to.
“She gets upset every once in a while, ‘I didn’t get to touch the ball today,’” Soto said, half-teasingly. “She’ll get her touches at the end of the season, I think, and actually had a couple (Monday) and that’s good for her.”
“Yea, I did (have a save),” Hook said, following Monday’s 4-0 victory over Lower Dauphin. “My softball instincts.”
SHUTTING IT OUT
The Comets, third in the latest national rankings released by MaxFieldHockey.com, are off to a torrid 13-0 start. Penn Manor has thus far outscored opponents 89-3. Hook has 10 shutouts to her name, even though her lone save in Monday’s win over the Falcons only upped her season total to nine.
Yet anyone who has witnessed Hook’s competitiveness around a softball diamond can be certain that the same focus and determination she displays within the circle translates to the 16-foot arc surrounding a field hockey cage.
“That’s definitely part of it, even going into this game,” Hook said. “I know they (the Falcons) are a rival and I told myself they are not scoring. I just have this little person on my shoulder saying ‘no, you are not letting them score.’”
And yet, Hook’s contributions go much further than entries in a scorebook, benefitting all persons great and small, with her and her teammates reaping the rewards.
“She’s got good team spirit. It’s never about her, it’s about us. That’s what you want in a teammate. That’s what the whole group is like,” expressed Soto. “I’m really very fortunate to have a group like this.”
FROM FULL TO HALF-CIRCLE
Barely halfway through her academic and athletic careers at Penn Manor, Hook has accrued some gaudy numbers. In the spring, Hook led the Comets’ softball team to L-L League and District 3 championship game appearances, not to mention a second consecutive trip to States.
She even garnered her 500th career strikeout along the way.
Thus, it is kind of scary to think what kind of avenues playing field hockey could open up for her.
“I can even tell I’m going to be a better athlete, even playing softball, my legs are getting a lot stronger,” Hook said. “I’ve started pitching again and I can just tell the difference and it’s actually awesome. I’m really happy I decided to do it.”
Implying, perhaps, that Hook will be saving plenty come the springtime.
“I’m still playing softball. It’s not really that different,” Hook said of her new fall schedule. “I’m just adding another sport on top.”