Soccer team’s plan for success starts at defensive end



Riche Mulhall

The old saying goes that a team’s best offense is its defense, and so far this season, the Kent State women’s soccer team (5-3-0) has been living by this famous motto.

At the beginning of the Flashes’ 2013 season, senior defender Katherine Lawrence said the soccer team “wanted to put (its) foot down and say, ‘No more goals’” after the defense gave up a few unexpected early-season goals. From that point on, the defense’s goal was to try to get a shutout every game.

Now considering the team has only given up eight goals in as many games, they are making that goal seem more plausible than ever.

This season the Flashes’ defense set high standards for and has been lights out, shutting its opponents out in four of the five games the team has won. Currently, Kent State’s opponents only average one point per game, and defeated Youngstown State 3-0 just last Friday. In that contest, the defense only allowed five shots and three shots on goal.

Kent State head coach Rob Marinaro said his team has always prided itself in its offense, but admitted that the defense’s high level of play is what keeps moving his team forward.

“We’re not giving up a lot of goals,” Marinaro said. “The defense keeps us in the games.”

The Flashes have been in a lot of tight, low-scoring games in which the defense has pulled through and shut down any surges of offense by opponents. Led by senior leaders Lawrence and Morgan Mah, the defensive squad’s efficacy in communication has prevented opponents from gaining any sort of momentum during the games, giving the Flashes’ offense enough time to regroup and score clutch, game-winning goals.

“We need to make sure that we’re always talking to each other and all on the same page,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said communication among all members of the defense both on and off the field has been key to the defense’s success. Sophomore defender Briana Bartolone, who has started in all eight games, said the days when the defenders are talking to each other and communicating effectively are the days that not only the defense, but the entire team, does well.

“If we’re silent to each other, that’s when we have our off days, but if we’re talking, moving and figuring things out, that’s when we’re the best,” Bartolone said.

Marinaro said having two seniors (Lawrence and Mah) in the backfield to lead the younger players and acclimate them to the system benefits the defense and adds something extra to the overall team effort.

“They’re the leadership of not just the defense, but the entire team,” Marinaro said. “I think a lot of players look to both of them to carry the energy to get things started.”

Lawrence said she and Mah try to make sure that the line of communication between them and the other defenders is always open both ways. Lawrence stressed that there are no class barriers between the seniors and younger players, so if any players need help or are confused about something during a game or practice, Lawrence and Mah are always there to guide them in the right direction.

“Morgan and Kat are doing an excellent job, and so are all the other defenders doing a wonderful job,” Marinaro said.

Although the four defenders are closest to the net and the immediate line of defense when an opponent’s offense is attacking and trying to score, it’s ultimately the overall team defense that has to work together as a single unit to protect the net. It takes a full team to put its foot down, say no more goals this season and then actually make it happen.

“It all works simultaneously,” Marinaro said. “Both the offense and defense have to be working together. One doesn’t work without the other, and it takes all 11 players to be successful.”

Contact Riche Mulhall at [email protected]