Syracuse’s young defense adjusts ahead of country’s, ACC’s best

first_imgAnytime Syracuse’s young defenders take a bad touch, junior Taylor Haenlin encourages them to stick with the play. She constantly gives pointers and answers any questions they may have about defending.Freshmen Jessica Vigna, Alana O’Neill and Natasha Tcheki-Jamgotchian are adjusting to the Orange’s new, sometimes risky 3-5-2 formation. And though Haenlin is the most experienced in the unit, the individual development and collective communication of the freshmen is what will determine the success of the defense.SU (3-2-3) and its young defense will open Atlantic Coast Conference play at Louisville (3-4) at 7 p.m. on Friday at Lynn Stadium, which begins a stretch of games against the conference’s, and nation’s, best and fastest forwards.“The young players, they’re thrust into an environment that is very, very difficult,” SU head coach Phil Wheddon said. “If you look at the other teams we’re playing against, they’re top-quality teams.”In eight games, the Orange has allowed just nine goals. But Wheddon said that the nonconference games were designed to prepare the team for tougher opponents.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse’s defense has played frantic at times this season. Wheddon said he hopes it can settle down and play more organized. The 3-5-2 is adding another wrinkle for players to adjust to. SU used to play a 4-4-2 formation, which meant it had four defenders on the field at all times. With the 3-5-2, three players share the responsibility of covering the middle of the field while each individual is also responsible for covering one-third of the field.“I think it means talking more and being more focused on where to move positionally because you always have to watch your back and then watch someone else’s back, too,” O’Neill said.Though the three central defenders must cover more ground, the outside midfielders come back on defense and shift into a defender’s role. For example, the weak-side outside midfielder turns into an outside defender  — or wingback — and it’s as if there are four true defenders. Vigna had never played a three-back system before and said she was “iffy” about it at first, but has since changed her stance.“We defend like we have four,” Vigna said of when the midfielders tuck in on defense. “So now only having three in the back, we have more in the attack so it’s great. I like the three-back system.”Though the SU freshmen say they believe they’ve adjusted well thus far to the college level, their play in conference games, which begin on Friday night, will prove how much progress they’ve made.“Being such a young team, we’ll make mistakes,” Wheddon said. “We know that and we’re aware of that, but hopefully we grow and we peak at the right time, which should be around mid-October.” Comments Published on September 18, 2014 at 12:10 am Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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