Women's Soccer Notebook: Huskies’ defense stifling opponents early on
Published: Monday, September 2, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 2, 2013 23:09
An immovable force.
That has been the story for the UConn women’s soccer team in the three games following their season opener against Wisconsin, in which the Huskies gave up three goals in the loss to the Badgers.
Since the Aug. 23 game at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium, UConn’s defense has allowed just one goal in three games against No. 2 Stanford, Boston College and Central Connecticut. Considering it was Stanford that scored the only goal, there is something to be said for the emphasis UConn is placing on its defense.
“The most important thing is keeping ‘zero,’” said Coach Len Tsantiris. “That’s the focus this year – to work really hard defensively.”
UConn has been experimenting with a 4-2-2-2 structure, which Tsantiris hoped would increase defensive efficiency without sacrificing offensive capability.
“The structure doesn’t really mean much, it’s what the players (do with it),” Tsantiris said. “We did this because the personality of our players fits there. They feel more comfortable, and they become more creative. We can attack and we can also defend out of that.”
Tsantiris said much of the defense’s success has come from staying organized and maintaining composure in difficult situations. He said being able to keep players from overcommitting to any one play has made the defense more versatile as a whole.
In the three games following Wisconsin, the Huskies have allowed just 14 shots on goal, a testament to the team’s stifling defense.
Sunday’s game against Central Connecticut exemplified the team’s efforts on defense, even as some of the team’s younger players were given minutes late in the game. As soon as the first goal was scored at the third minute, the priority from that moment on was keeping CCSU’s side of the scoreboard blank.
Tsantiris stressed that the first line of defense for this season’s team is the offense. Even when they are not driving the ball forward, it is their responsibility to ensure the defensive players do not find themselves on the receiving end of a strong offensive push, according to Tsantiris.
In essence, Tsantiris is fielding 11 defenders, a few whom happen to take shots on goal.
“The whole team is really helping out,” said Tsantiris. “And then we’ve got Emily (Armstrong) in the goal. She is very confident and she reads the game well.”
Much of the Huskies’ defensive success has been a result of goalkeeper Armstrong, a freshman who is still adjusting to collegiate competition.
“The pace of the game is a lot quicker, so you always have to be ready,” said Armstrong. “There’s a lot of through balls and a lot of 1-v-1 situations where it’s a lot easier to cut the pass off or the cross off than to deal with the shot from six yards away.”
Armstrong already has 19 saves in four games, with a .829 save percentage. If Wisconsin is removed from the calculation, the save percentage jumps to an impressive .929.
“After the Wisconsin game, we kind of came together better and knew where each other was,” said Armstrong. “If one (player) stepped, one dropped in and covered the space.”
This coordination between defenders, Armstrong believes, will lead the team to success. And with two consecutive shutout games, her goal heading into contests against Maine and Syracuse is pretty straightforward.
“I just want to keep it a clean sheet for as long as I can,” Armstrong said.