PEELER: Back-line D Propels Women's Soccer
BY TIM PEELER
It belongs to injured junior Katie Ruiz, the anchor of last year’s back line who has missed all of this season with a knee injury. But she’s been essential in helping out a revamped back line that has been a key reason Kerrigan’s team is off to its best start in nearly two decades.
“I hear her voice in the games almost before I hear anyone else’s, even Coach Kerrigan’s,” Krzeszewski said. “She’s not that loud, it’s just that I am listening for her. She has been great helping us be organized.”
Heading into Friday night’s game against
Today’s contest against the Camels (0-2-2) is the last of a six-game homestand to open the season. The Wolfpack plays seven of its next eight games on the road, beginning Sunday with a trip to
Clearly the scoring of forwards Lindsay Vera and Kara Baldy have been important, along with the play of freshman goal-keeper Kim Kern, who leads the ACC in goals-against average, save percentage and saves per game.
But Kerrigan had to revamp the back line after Ruiz got hurt in the spring red-white game. Krzeszewski had already been moved to the back in the spring, but Kerrigan had to scramble because of a rash of preseason injuries to move sophomore Alex Berger to the other middle-back spot.
Filling the void has been a collective effort, thanks to strong play from outside backs Gia Cipollini and Nadia Aboulhosn and the distributive efforts of mid-fielders Jessica Hermann and Meredith Parilla. Sophomore Kaitlin Westcoe has returned from a preseason wrist injury to help in the middle back.
“Both Tami and Alex are very smart tactical players,” Kerrigan said. “They are good at tackling the ball. They are also good at organizing players around them, which is what center backs have to do.”
Communication is a key, which is why Ruiz’s presence on the sidelines has been important. As long as her voice holds out, she can direct her teammates from the sidelines.
“The whole defense has been switched around because of the injuries, but I feel like through communication, we are all working hard to stay on the same page,” Berger said. “That’s something we want to continue this weekend. As long as we stay compact and stay together as a line, I think our defense will continue to be good.”
There have been a couple of times that hasn’t worked. The Pack gave up a goal in the first five minutes of its most recent outing against Stetson because of back-line miscommunication, according to Krzeszewski.
But they have learned from that mistake.
Now, as the Wolfpack prepares to hit the road for its extended time away from home, Kerrigan is anxious to see how much her team continues to improve.
“Any team that says We’ve got it’ and sits back and rests is going to be in big trouble,” said the coach. “There are still lots of things we need to do to improve. But, let’s face it, giving up three goals in the first give games is good.”
Playing in a friendly atmosphere of a new on-campus stadium has helped, as well. The team feeds off an energized crowd, Krzeszewski said. The results speak for themselves.
“This is the best soccer we have played in my four years here,” Krzeszewski said. “Our midfielders are moving the ball beautifully. Our forwards are finishing. We are working hard in the back.
“Our fans are getting a good show and having them out there supporting us fuels our success.”
You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.