Girls soccer defense has been stifling in 2015
Some opponents of soccer say there’s not enough scoring to make the game interesting. Well, when it comes to the Parkland girls, they’re half right.
The Lady Trojans score plenty. It’s their opponents that are the ones unable to put the ball in the net. Through five games, Parkland has outscored opponents 27-3 and have earned shutouts in three games.
Their latest conquest was a 6-0 shutout of Northampton, where six different players – Janelle Barna, Helen Flynn, Ava Hanna, Rachel Medlar, Brooke Schutter and Becca Ventura – all collected goals. Venture added an assist and Chelsea Hudson helped on two of the goals.
The stifling Parkland defense allowed just three shots on goal, all of which were turned away by Regan Allsop.
“I think our defense has jelled faster than I expected, but they have played together for years on the club level, so I shouldn’t be surprised,” said coach Al Haddad. “It’s still not at the level we expect, but they are making great strides in that department.”
Parkland is 4-0 in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and 4-1 overall, with just a 2-1 loss to Governor Mifflin in the loss column. The Trojans are just ahead of Whitehall (3-0, 3-0) in the Skyline Division. They’ve beaten both Nazareth and Northampton in their division, which is where Haddad sees the most competition coming from this season.
With eight division games to play this season, Haddad is stressing that his team has to be vigilant about its training and don’t have opportunities to let up.
“As we get into our divisional games, everything changes,” Haddad said. “We have seven games with only five training sessions, so how the girls can tactically make changes mentally will be very important because we might not have actually addressed it on the field yet. It’s a long season, so we are very methodical at what we do in training.”
One way to keep pressure off of a young, inexperienced defense is to have an offense that clicks on all cylinders. Standout sophomore Brooke Schutter, who has already given a verbal commitment to Duquesne University, has led the team with seven goals this season. Rachel Medlar and Emily Piston are tied for second on the team with three goals each and Piston is at the top of the assists leaderboard with five.
“As I mentioned, the defense is ahead of where we expected, but divisional games will test us in the back,” said Haddad. “I think our midfield and forwards are doing a great job of taking a lot of pressure off the defensive unit.”
Even with the strong start, a defensive unit that has come together nicely and an offense that has the ability to score a lot of goals, Haddad believes the team hasn’t necessarily reached its peak yet this season. Haddad and his coaches are very analytical about the game and at figuring out where any holes might be. They’ve even turned to technology to realize just what it is that they need to improve upon.
“Every training session is only as good as our weakest technical player,” he said. “So improving our execution and speed of play is something we focus on every day.
“We track each game through a software program and one analysis that we don’t like is the unforced errors we are making. These are errors when no physical pressure is on us. Mind you, the expectation of playing fast puts plenty of pressure on the player to begin with, so we are trying to distinguish between trying to play fast and an error and simply just an error.”
Parkland plays at Emmaus (1-2, 1-4) Friday and then has games against Liberty (2-1, 2-1) and East Stroudsburg North (0-2, 0-3) on Monday and Tuesday.