As Amherst forward Rubii Tamen looked to advance the ball, she was worked off the ball on a clean tackle by senior defender Rachel Feliu. That play was just an example of one of many plays that Feliu as well as the rest of the Springfield College women’s soccer defensive unit have made all year.
The defensive unit, comprised of team captains Feliu and junior Nikki Kerr, as well as senior Aly Morell and junior transfer Chrissy Conley, has been the backbone of a Springfield team that, despite losing two straight, has been stout defensively allowing just 11 goals in 13 games.
For the Pride, building a stout defense started from the get go as they welcomed in 13 new players including some who have played a role in making this defense the unit it is. Kerr credits the work from the beginning of preseason to know to make the defense a strength.
“It was a huge focus in preseason, the inclusivity of the new players. We knew in order for our cohesive back line to be able to work well together, which is huge in a defensive game we really needed to make an effort to know everybody and make them feel comfortable,” she said.
For the Pride, especially the senior members of the defense in Feliu and Morell, it simply comes down to being focused on having one goal in mind as well as the motivation of being seniors. Feliu expanded on what it means to be a senior as well as the importance of having the same goal in mind.
“We work well as unit because we all have the same goal in mind, and we want to win. We’re all really focused and determined especially Aly and I it’s our last year, so we want to make it the best year possible. I think we all have that energy and motivation to work really hard toward our goals,” Feliu said.
Anyone who has seen the Pride play will notice the amount of communication on the field between players. It is not uncommon to hear goalies Jackie Davis or Izzy Inglese or members of the defense constantly yelling instructions to others. To some it may seem like just a lot of yelling, but for the Pride the way the defense and goalies constantly communicate leads to great deal of their success.
While Springfield has been aided by the addition of Conley as well as freshmen Kinsey Colby to the defense, having returners like Feliu, Kerr and Morell has helped the team build on what they had ending last year. Kerr credits Feliu and Morell for the way they play and how it helps her knowing where they will be.
“Rachel [Feliu] has an incredible offensive mind even though she is a defender. She knows when to make the runs, but she also knows how to get back and protect her space so she’s always really solid going up and down the line,” Kerr said. “I love having Aly [Morell] right behind me, when I turn around and she’s right there I know she’s sticking the tackle and I know that I always have her supporting me.”
Defense cannot be brought up without talking about the last line of defense, the goalie. With Ciara Boucher lost to graduation, the Pride knew they had two senior goalies who were hungry for the chance to play. Both Jackie Davis (nine games played, nine games started) and Izzy Inglese (four games played, three games started) have combined to make all but one start on net for the Pride. Despite the loss of Boucher, the Pride have still gotten solid goalie play which has instilled the confidence in the defense knowing there is still a solid presence in net.
“Whether it’s Jackie [Davis] or Izzy [Inglese] back there, we’re confident in what the can do as goalies, so if we do make a mistake we know that they’re back there and will do whatever they can to stop whatever is coming,” said Feliu.
The mantra is defense wins championships. If that holds true and the defense of Springfield is able to play to the level they have this year, they could find themselves riding the back line to a potential NEWMAC title.
Photo courtesy of Jack Margaros