Coming into Thursday’s game against the South Florida, coach Seamus O’Connor knew his defenders would have a tough task in containing the Bulls’ talented strikers.
“They have really good players up top,” O’Connor said. “We decided the best way to stop them was at the source.”
Although the game ended in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in double overtime, the Owl’s defense held the Bulls to six shots on goal and shut down their attack.
To stop South Florida and its top striker Evelyne Viens, the second-leading goal scorer in the American Athletic Conference, O’Connor said he focused on pressing his players as far as possible towards the opposing half of the field and cutting off short passing lanes.
“We watched on video that they like to play out short all the time, so we just took away all those options,” O’Connor said.
The hard pressing strategy left starting freshmen defenders Emily Keitel and Molly Tobin “isolated” one-on-one versus South Florida’s forwards for most of the game, O’Connor said.
“We knew that we had to man-mark certain players like [Leticia Skeete] and [Viens] because if we didn’t they would have gotten by us,” Tobin said.
Tobin, Keitel and senior transfer Cydney Nidermeyer have started in the Owls’ backline for the last five games.
“It’s an interesting adjustment,” Tobin said on being placed in the starting lineup.”But the upperclassmen and everyone [have been] really supportive.”
“I’ve been very impressed with their attitudes and their execution out there,” O’Connor said of Keitel and Tobin. “They’re very, very mature and they’re just learning.”
Although the back defense of Tobin, Keitel, and Niedermeyer performed well in regulation, the starting unit, particularly the midfield, was drained by the start of overtime.
This led to the game-deciding goal in the second overtime period, O’Connor said.
“We needed to win it in the 90 minutes because the more it went on, we just got more tired and tired,” O’Connor said. “Unfortunately over the course of the two overtimes we ran out of gas because our midfielders had to so much running to do.”
The Owls now need to prepare for another conference matchup against the Central Florida this Sunday, where they hope to break their current six game losing streak.
“Our mindset right now is just to win and give everything we have,” Tobin said.
Ben Blaustein can be reached at email@example.com.