Penalty kicks can be a psychological battle

Penalty kicks in soccer can be a psychological battle between the shooter and the goalkeeper. The shooter should be favored in this encounter, but the favorite doesn’t necessarily always win.

The Mercyhurst College men’s soccer team used a penalty shot this past week to post two more victories. They have made a very positive start, remaining undefeated at 4-0-1, and 1-0-1 in conference play.

It was in the first match of the week, at home to Shippensburg University last Wednesday, Sept. 15, where the psychological battle ensued.

The Lakers overcome Shippensburg 3-1 with a penalty given to each team.

The first was giving to the Raiders after a handball on the line after a scramble in the Lakers area.

The Raiders converted the chance past Mercyhurst sophomore goalkeeper Diego Gustin.

“Penalties are always a hard situation to face, the penalty taker should score, and the keeper has maybe a 20 percent chance to save it,” said Gustin.

First, after a penalty has been given, Gustin makes sure that he is calm and relaxed so he is ready to face it, although many things go through his mind.

“I study soccer, and I have learned from the best penalty savers a few skills that I can adapt into my game.”

“I analyze the situation of the game in my head and I look at the shooters stance towards the ball, then I pick a side to dive,” said Gustin.

Gustin will then try and distract the shooter in anyway possible. He will stand next to the shooter and say something to him to try and affect his confidence.

Then the mind games are over, and it’s one-on-one, Gustin against the shooter.

The Lakers would get their own opportunity to equalize from the penalty spot.

This was duly taken from graduate student Christoph Hampel who scored to tie the game.

“As soon as the penalty is given I am very focused, I know where I want to shoot right away, and I want to do my role, and score,” said Hampel.

Hampel, like Gustin, likes to play mind-games before the kick is taken.

“Before the whistle I look for a long time to the corner I am going to put the ball. Then as the referee blows the whistle, I take a quick look to the opposite corner that I am not going to shoot in, to disturb the keeper,” said the German, who as a nation have a fine history of scoring penalties.

It is a psychological battle between shooter and keeper with both trying to get any advantage they can.

“There is a feeling of relief when you score, because there is a lot of pressure when you take one, you are expected to score,” said Hampel.

There can be a lack of confidence if a player misses a penalty because they are expected to score.

Hampel says if he misses one, he will practice them even more than usual, to try and get his confidence back.

The Lakers, though, will be hoping that Hampel will not need any extra practice this season.

They went on to beat Shippensburg with goals from senior Dean Atkins and junior Alex Manea.

They then kept on their strong start beating Davis and Elkins College on the road 3-1. Atkins scored twice and has started the season in fine form with five goals in five games. Graduate student Sam Gore scored the other goal which was his first for Mercyhurst College.

The Lakers return to action this week with three home games. First up is Lake Erie College today at 4 p.m. Next is the University of Findlay on Friday, Sept. 24, at 4 p.m. Then they finish the week playing against Tiffin University Saturday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m.