Women's soccer success begins in the back
Oct. 4, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
by Mallorie Estenson, Sports Department, The Western Front
(For more WWU sports stories go to www.westernfrontonline.net/)
Western Washington University's women's soccer defense is proving strong this season. The team is undefeated, 4-0, in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and 7-0 overall.
The Vikings are also ranked No. 2 in the nation, and much of that credit goes to the defense. The team has only allowed two goals this season.
The team's No. 2-ranking is its highest ranking since joining the NCAA in 1998.
A typical team designates offensive and defensive players, but the Vikings do things a little differently.
"We have fast, strong athletes," head coach Travis Connell said. "The entire team defends together. They are able to work as a group of 11 and that is rare."
Western's women are fit enough that they are able to attack and defend without breaks, Connell said.
"I definitely have an experienced group," he said. "It helps dramatically."
Outside defenders Sych and Miccile play double roles, quickly switching between playing defense and initiating offensive plays.
"It is a lot of running and a lot of communication," Sych said.
Clear communication is key to ensure Sych's position is covered when she switches into offensive mode, she said.
The back line puts a lot of confidence in its ability to communicate and remain aggressive during play.
"Our back line doesn't let a lot of people through," Miccile said.
Their ability to communicate results in a defensive layer Jones likens to a brick wall.
Miccile sees her teammates as passionate, strong-willed and aggressive players who have cultivated a unique chemistry.
"We work really well together," Jones said. "We had the same back line last year, so we know how each other works and what each other likes. We work really well as a unit."
Assistant coach Katie Warner works with the defensive aspect of the team during practices.
She has observed consistent shutouts in games, meaning the defense has been able to successfully move the ball out of their half of the field.
"[Russ] finds herself in the right place at the right time always," Warner said. "She is able to find herself in the right position to clean up the situation quickly."
Beyond the technical skills and strengths of the defense, Warner described her hopes for this season regarding the women's mentality in their approach to the sport.
"I hope we take it one game at a time," Warner said. "Speaking from when I played, to now coaching, we've always had this underdog-type mentality. We are now finding ourselves in a different position. I don't want the girls to pay attention to the rankings. I want us to maintain that underdog spirit."
Warner played for Western from 2005 through 2008 and was a student assistant coach in 2009.
Western's women are more than just a group of 11 athletes playing soccer together; the team experiences a strong sense of unity both on and off the field.
"There is a link with everyone on the team because you spend so much time with them," Sych said. "We hang out with each other every day at practice, and then we go and hang out with each other on the weekends."
It doesn't hurt that Miccile, Jones and Russ played club soccer together for Washington Premier Football Club prior to their time as Vikings.
Western's defense also includes senior goalkeeper Alyssa Beauchamp.
describes her team as hardworking, and hopes to go as far as possible in the competitive aspect of the game.
"Hard work pays off," she said. "We work really hard in practice and in every game."
She sees center backs Russ and Sych as knowing the field well and being receptive to her advice.
They take information and they play with it," Beauchamp said.
Last season, the team allowed 0.39 goals per game.
This season, Beauchamp and the defense have let in an average of 0.25 goals per game. On the flipside, the team has scored an average of 2.38 goals per game.
Western Washington Vikings Sidebar Links
|Email this article||Printer-friendly format|