Syracuse’s backline falls off late in games

first_imgShannon Aviza and Molly Nethercott watched the ball float over their heads, assuming either they or goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx would get to it.But as SU’s Aviza, Nethercott and Proulx slowed down to catch their breath, Kent State’s Isabelle Mihail sprinted from the midline to the Orange’s net with 13 minutes left. The crowd at SU Soccer Stadium started to yell, pleading for someone to turn around. Mihail beat SU to the ball, hesitated, and shot wide toward an empty net. The mistake didn’t hurt SU, yet. Aviza and Nethercott looked at each other, as Aviza put her hands on her knees.Three minutes later, Aviza couldn’t catch up to the ball again. This time, Mihail burst from midfield, caused Proulx to fall and tied the score. And in double overtime, the backline left Mihail open for a third time as she drilled the game-winner in the 102nd minute. SU’s three backline errors turned a one-score lead into a loss.In the Orange’s first 11 games, SU’s defense is allowing 2.09 goals per game while its offense has failed to score in six of those contests. Syracuse’s (3-8, 0-3 Atlantic Coast) defensive third shines early in games. But because of its worst scoring offense in the ACC, SU falters in the waning minutes of matches, allowing late errors and wide-open shots.“We need to take more pride in not conceding,” Aviza said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith the loss of two senior defenders from 2017, Alana O’Neil and Jessica Vigna, SU’s backline has regrouped with underclassmen like Aviza, Nethercott, Clarke Brown and Abby Jonathan playing the bulk of its minutes this season.Running primarily a 4-4-2, SU started the season struggling with spacing, Brown said. With Nethercott and Aviza jumping into starting roles, upperclassmen like Taylor Bennett worked on building chemistry by stepping and dropping together in practice drills.When the Orange allowed two goals in their first three games, head coach Phil Wheddon said the line was working well together.But after a four game road trip in which SU was outscored 11-2, the Orange started to evaluate where those goals came from. When the backline was pressured early, it stayed put, but later in games, communication started to level off, Brown said.The Orange average 16.2 shots allowed per game, with half of them being on goal. Assistant coach Kelly Lawrence started implementing preventative defense, an attempt to reduce opponents’ shots, Brown said.“Really our 4-4-2 needed to be connected more,” Brown said. “We just didn’t want to get those shots off in the first place.”In Syracuse’s first home game off the road trip, KSU shot 26 times, with 14 on target. For the first 20 shots, SU kept its lead by holding off attackers and trapping them to take errant shots.But as the game went to double overtime, Brown, Aviza and Jonathan’s playing time reached more than 100 minutes. Their fatigue allowed Mihail to get into the box untouched, shooting the game-winner uncontested.“We made some poor decisions, and we got punished for them,” Wheddon said after the loss on Sept. 13. “Unfortunately, we had to learn that lesson.”In most games this season, SU has found itself down early, forcing the defensive line to play forward. If the Orange’s offense doesn’t pick up in those games, the backline becomes more prone for shot opportunities and counter attacks, Aviza said.On Sunday, the Orange were in a similar position. Against a one-loss Louisville team, SU played 89 minutes of scoreless soccer despite being outshot, 19-7. With nine seconds left, the exhaustion of the backline caught up with the Orange when the Cardinals’ Brooklynn Rivers dropped Bennett in the box to score.While the Orange’s backline was a strength for the team early, it can’t get out of shape and improvise as the game goes on, Brown said.“It can’t get to us,” Brown said, “They’re all off little mistakes where we’re not pressuring or communicating enough. We need to figure that out.” Comments Published on September 25, 2018 at 9:57 pm Contact KJ: | @KJEdelman Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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