In a sport like soccer where goals can come at a premium, most analysis focuses on a team’s offensive impact. And yet for women’s soccer (2-2-1), adjustments on the defensive end will likely be key to opening the Ivy League season on a strong note.
So far, the team has surrendered two goals in four of its five games, an unsustainable number if the Lions are to compete for the Ivy title. Head coach Kevin McCarthy conceded it was an area in which adjustments are needed, but emphasized the different factors going into it.
“It’s an area where we expect to improve,” McCarthy said. “Out of the four goals, only one goal was in the run of play. It can certainly get better, but there are things that are definitely fixable, and I expect us to become more tight defensively going forward.”
In comparison to last season, there is a clear difference on the defensive side of the ball. The team went 6-9-1 in 2012, and had only five games where it surrendered more than one goal—three of which came in overtime.
Columbia collected six shutout performances, which matches its win total. In essence, the Light Blue had trouble scoring and a tough time winning if the defense wasn’t playing at its peak. This was reflected in three of the Lions’ four 2012 All-Ivy players coming from the defense.
The Lions’ opponent shot percentage in 2012 was 0.081, which in five 2013 contests has jumped up to 0.118. The team returned the same goalie, junior Grace Redmon, who had 74 saves with just 17 goals allowed last year. Redmon has already racked up 20 saves in five games, which is better than her performance from a year ago.
McCarthy noted some of the poor luck that also went into the loss and tie from this past weekend.
“There was some of our play that certainly looked good,” he said. “What’s disappointing, though, is that we had the lead three times over the weekend and conceded. That might be due to concentration issues, having played five games in eight days, and it was good to see the fortitude and battle on Sunday’s game that was difficult on a hot afternoon.”
Moreover, the team has acquired depth at the position, with freshman Allison Spencer adding eight saves in just two games played. It is possible that it will take time for the defense to find its rhythm—especially after losing a key defensive leader in Isabel King, CC ’13.
“Defending is really a collective effort,” McCarthy said. “It starts with keeping the ball so the other team can’t threaten us and the whole team has to work to make sure that happens. We are really dependent on each other. We need everyone to step up and the players are working hard to do that.”
On the other hand, the team should be encouraged by the evolution of its offensive players, who have seen goals per game rise from 1.00 to 1.40, due to the continued development of senior Beverly Leon, senior Natalie Melo, and junior Alexa Yow.
“There is a belief in this team that they’re going to score goals and create attacking chances,” McCarthy said.
If the defense can return to form, the Lions will have a chance to compete in ways that they couldn’t last season. But with just two nonconference contests before Ivy play, the Light Blue must adjust quickly to be in position to win the Ancient Eight.