Orange defense not an issue heading into postseason

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse isn’t worried.The Orange’s defense hasn’t been quite as dominant as it was earlier in the season, but the team refuses to label its recent play an issue.“I don’t think it’s been a problem,” said senior Iona Holloway, the anchor of Syracuse’s backfield, on Wednesday. “I think that when you have such a clean record, it’s a lot to live up to.”The Orange (16-1, 6-0 Big East) is No. 3 in the nation and just earned its third Big East regular-season championship in four years. But with the Big East and NCAA tournaments looming, Syracuse’s road to a national title will be much easier with its superior defense. SU has shut out North Carolina and Princeton, two top-three teams, this season.But the unit that allowed just six goals throughout Syracuse’s first 12 games has surrendered nine goals in its last five games combined.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHead coach Ange Bradley said she isn’t concerned about her defensive group. The Orange’s younger players are seeing more playing time, she said, and the team is experimenting with different strategies by placing players at different positions.“We’re just making some changes, trying some different things for later in the year in this last phase of the season,” Bradley said.Five of the nine teams that have scored on Syracuse’s defense this year were unranked. The players didn’t attribute that to poor preparation or to underestimating the opponent.“I think it’s more just our focus slips in games,” midfielder Liz McInerney said. “And it’s kind of easier when you’re two or three goals up to be like, ‘Oh, OK, take the foot off the pedal.’ We just zone out a little bit.”Holloway said the Orange’s lapse in intensity is unacceptable and cannot happen against the best teams. The difference between winning and losing can be one goal, she said, so the defense needs to learn from its mistakes against the weaker opponents.Goaltender Leann Stiver said the unit is “just missing minor details here and there” lately, despite boasting the second-best goals against average in the nation at 0.88.Stiver said Syracuse’s defensive penalty corner unit especially needs improvement for the postseason. The unit — which was responsible for just two goals through the team’s first 13 games — has allowed three goals in the last four games. The goalkeeper said the group must ensure which lines are covered and better understand the opponent’s tendencies.Holloway said opposing teams have scored on penalty corners in similar fashion — pushouts to the left of the shooting circle and shots that travel across the goal or in the near post.“I think we conceded at least two or three goals — basically the same corner — in consecutive games,” Holloway said. “So, we’re obviously aware of that and we’ve started our DPC (defensive penalty corner) practice yesterday, which is very early in the week for our DPC practice.”In preparation for Sunday’s game against No. 4 Connecticut, Syracuse understood it was playing a team that averaged almost nine penalty corners per game and scored many goals off those opportunities. Holloway said the team aimed to limit the Huskies to three corners or less.The Orange committed five fouls in the shooting circle on Sunday but thwarted four of Connecticut’s corner opportunities.Syracuse’s defense allowed two goals and wasn’t excellent, but performed well enough for a victory.Of SU’s eight shutouts — tied for first in the country — four of the opponents were ranked, including then-No. 2 North Carolina and then-No. 3 Princeton.The commanding Syracuse defense that shut out five consecutive opponents a month ago has rarely been seen since then. The unit hasn’t been perfect lately, but this group is known to rise to the occasion when presented with a challenge.With the postseason starting, the Orange hopes to maintain that trend.“There’s just that heightened level of competition,” Holloway said. “Our team did a really good job of stepping up in these big games and sort of turning into a human shield back there. So let’s hope we can keep it up.” Comments Published on October 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbblast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*