Girls Soccer: Defensive shift produces positive results
Elmwood Park's Paige Lucas gets control of the ball, during a game against Leyden. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 4, 2012 10:59AM
While the season has gone well thus far for the Elmwood Park soccer team, something was eating away at head coach Marty Blake. It’s tough to change things up drastically with a veteran team midseason, but Blake took advantage of a 12-day break between games to do just that, and it paid off with a big 3-2 conference win over Riverside-Brookfield at home last Thursday.
“We lost two games to two good teams by 2-1,” Blake said, “and a lot of coaches would think we did OK and not change anything, but succeeding with this group is not losing 2-1.”
The nearly two-week layoff allowed Blake to tweak the defense.
“We were going to win some games, but in the long run it had to change,” Blake said. “We worked hard, and I made a power point presentation on all the ball routes and spent a lot of time without any defenders to see who is checking who and where and increase our communication. We had to use our outside backs as an option offensively as well.”
Zuro was to move to left midfield with Emily Connelly taking the right side, but Zuro suffered a left ankle injury during practice, and her status is in doubt for the next week. Despite that setback, the Tigers still went with it in the R-B game, and it worked well. They got the possession they desired and were able to put home three chances and get a win. Most importantly, the players were convinced it was the right idea not just by how the scoreboard looked, but by how the game looked.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Blake said. “They accepted it and worked really hard. The last eight minutes, the girls on the sidelines were saying, ‘They can’t touch the ball.’ Exactly. We set up triangles all over the field, exhausting that team, and when they’re exhausted you take advantage.”
Elmwood Park took the lead after just three minutes when Connelly calmly volleyed home an uncontested cross from Becca Schmidt. Riverside-Brookfield scored twice to take the lead thanks to an inability to clear the box and a questionable penalty kick call, but the Tigers knotted the score before halftime. Maron measured a bouncing ball and laced a 25-yard shot into the upper corner to send the teams into the break tied at two.
The winning goal from Connelly was a direct result from the better possession the Tigers were maintaining. Connelly started off the seven-pass combination to the middle where eventually Maron sent it through back to Connelly to re-gain the lead for Elmwood Park.
“Our sectional is extremely deep, and the rest of the season has tough games,” Blake said. “I just don’t think we would succeed with what we were doing. A lot of people outside of soccer didn’t see a problem, but our possession was horrible, and we were having to chase people down. I didn’t want the team to get complacent, so this forced them to get back into it. They had to invest and not be happy with it. This was a little epiphany to them, and it was a very maturing game for us. I’m excited.”