Beginning of a new era for Penn women's soccer's defense
After the graduation of three key seniors, Quakers look for success from new pieces on their back line
September 5, 2013, 6:32 pm · Updated September 5, 2013, 11:34 pm·
Penn women’s soccer’s back line has been its strength for years, and it still may well be its strength this year.
That doesn’t mean you will see many of the same faces.
The Quakers’ defense lost Erin Thayer, Alex Dayneka and goalkeeper Sarah Banks, but a hallmark of the program that has shone through — especially in the early portion of the season — is the interchangeability of players in different positions and the flexibility that it has allowed coach Darren Ambrose to continue to mold the team.
“The preparation is similar to the player, but I also think… there is a tremendous amount of pride and a continuation from year to year to year,” Ambrose said. “Okay, so Erin Thayer isn’t here or neither is Alex Daneyka, or Sarah [Banks], but there are an awful lot of girls who were on the field that take pride.
“We try to teach the mentality that you have to defend regardless of the position and the title you have on the field. I want all the players to understand the value of it.”
Last year, Penn gave up exactly 1.00 goals per game, and held Princeton and Columbia scoreless in preseason exhibitions over the weekend. However, the Red and Blue will still have to mesh a variety of new pieces together if they hope to win the Ivy League.
“I actually played midfield last year, but it looks like I’ll be stepping into the back line,” said senior Claire Walker. “I’ve played center-mid my whole life, so I’m really getting the hang of the new position and learning to talk. We’ve been rotating in and out, so the communication is still coming.”
“Darren is especially on us about the [communication],” goalkeeper Kathryn Myhre added. “We need to keep that going and I’ve definitely been working on that all summer.”
Penn, which has been working with a flat back four, will see a variety of formations in the Ivy League with many traditional 4-4-2’s and many 4-3-3’s, but nevertheless defending from positions will begin from all positions on the field.
One familiar face who will be moving up the field is Brianna Rano. The outside back will in all likelihood move to winger in a three-man attack or a traditional outside midfielder.
“She’s a player who could play anywhere on the field. She could play a lot of places because she’s a soccer player,” Ambrose said. “She has the brains and the technical ability to play most places. She came in as an attacking-minded player, wide in the midfield or wide in an attack of three.”
“As an outside forward or mid, I still have my duties to get back and defend, but not as much, and…I get to take people on,” Rano said. “It’s pretty much the same principles as being an outside back.”
Replacing Rano and the others will be a cast of rookies and veterans, with Caroline Dwyer and Jazmyne Simmons, Shannon Hennessy and Olivia Blaber all likely to see significant time over the course of the season.
“I think it is matching the quality of players we have and meshing the personalities together,” Ambrose said. “There is a culture on the team, but when you don’t have the ball everyone is a defender, that’s been the philosophy.”