Back line to basics: Penn soccer looking to revamp defense
Dolezal optimistic for season's start
August 29, 2013, 6:14 pm · Updated August 29, 2013, 9:21 pm·
Patrick Hulce | DP
After a disappointing season last year, the Penn men’s soccer team is working on one of the most fundamental elements of play: defense. And this time around, it won’t be for just the back line anymore.
“We came off of last season and we were uncharacteristically poor for our program defensively … defense has always been one of the hallmarks of our successful teams,” coach Rudy Fuller said.
The statistics support Fuller’s point. In 2011, when the Quakers went 8-7-2, they surrendered just 21 goals. During last season’s 3-13 debacle, they allowed 37.
Some of those struggles can be pinned on the inexperience of some of Penn’s top backs last year. The Quakers spent a lot of time relying on then-freshman Griffin Hefner and then-sophomore Jason deFaria to stabilize their back end.
“Inexperience was one of the larger factors for our defensive problems,” Fuller said.“Last year we had two young men in the center of our back line,Griffin Hefner late in the season and Jay deFaria for most of the season that were a freshman and sophomore. …Out of necessity they were thrown into the fire a bit earlier than maybe we would have liked.”
But that was then and this is now. With a significant amount of playing time already under their belts, deFaria and Hefner may just be ready to make the leap to stardom alongside senior stalwarts Nicky Yin and Johnny Dolezal.
“[Hefner and defaria are a year more experienced,” Fuller said. “In addition to the fall those guys had a really good spring where they continued to get a lot of minutes. So those two guys are far further along as players than they were last year.”
Dolezal is the crown jewel of Penn’s back line, a force ever since he first stepped foot onto Rhodes Field.
“He’s a guy that has played almost every minute since he’s been here. He was a guy that was getting in here and there as a freshman but from that moment on he has been someone that has played just about every minute of every game. He is someone that brings that experience to the table and someone that we look to be a lockdown defender,” Fuller said.
Though the Quakers’ back line may be in safe hands with Dolezal and crew, the Red and Blue would prefer to spend less time relying on their back four and more time in control of the ball, using a powerful offense to its fullest extent.
“If we are pressing well higher up the field it will make our job easier in the back,” Dolezal said. “I think everyone has a role to play … communication is probably going to be the biggest thing going into next year. Everyone has to be communicating with the guys in front of them and everyone has to be focused at all times, all it takes is one slip and they are in.”
With one week left until the season opener against Stony Brook, time will tell if Fuller and Dolezal’s optimism will be justified.