first_img Published on February 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Stephen: [email protected] | @Stephen_Bailey1 Comments Syracuse completes a fitness training session every practice. A 300-yard shuttle run followed by a mile run. But 15 minutes after finishing the training at the start of a Jan. 18 practice, the team was asked to run again. ‘We had two in one day and everyone was fired up, ready to go,’ senior defender Janelle Stegeland said. ‘Everything went well. During practice, we’re never walking through anything. It’s always go, go, go. Run to the water, get a break, get back in.’ That infectious intensity is propelling the Orange defenders to improve upon last year’s blunders. Entering the 2011 season as the No. 12 team in the nation, Syracuse allowed double-digit goals in seven of its eight losses en route to a 10-8 finish and disappointing first-round exit from the Big East tournament. After allowing 10.22 goals per game last season and committing 33 yellow cards —10th most in the nation — the SU defense, Stegeland included, is working hard to clean up its sloppy play and avoid another premature departure from postseason play.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Assistant coach Regy Thorpe is imparting a slew of tactical adjustments on his defenders: improving communication between the goaltender and the defenders, eliminating second- and third-chance opportunities for opposing offenses and forcing play to the outside in one-on-one situations. The unit has come out with a level of fervency unmatched in previous training camps, Stegeland said. ‘Honestly, we’ve come out really big,’ Stegeland said. ‘Being a senior, fourth year here, this is the most energetic team I’ve ever been on. So I think it’s really awesome that’s everyone’s all in, everyone’s going hard at all times.’ Senior defender Jill Cammett has seen that energy best exemplified when the team runs its seven versus seven groundball drill. With all 14 players on the field, assistant coach Katrina Dowd will roll a ball onto the field and each team will battle for possession. After someone picks it up, she shoots and Dowd immediately puts the next ball in play. ‘It just works on being in a cluttered area and who can come up with the ball and really finish it out without getting any empty stick checks or anything,’ Cammett said. Seniors Stegeland and Cammett will be relied on heavily to fill the void left by standout defender Catherine Rodriguez, who graduated after last season. Juniors Becca Block and Linley Block, and sophomore Natalie Glanell, who started nine games during her freshman campaign, are also expected to see extensive minutes. Glanell is one of three defenders who saw action last season as freshmen, along with Kasey Mock and Liz Harbeson. Thorpe has seen vast improvements in both playing level and confidence from each of the three sophomores. Mock, who saw time in 11 games last season, called the experience a ‘confidence builder.’ ‘Any time that you see on the field is just one more second that you can build your confidence with,’ Mock said. ‘… Definitely seeing the field for as little as I did last year, (was) definitely just a confidence builder.’ Last year, the struggling defense had an All-American goalkeeper in Liz Hogan to rely on. Hogan led the Big East in save percentage and erased some of the mistakes made by the defenders. But failure to clear loose balls and poor communication, paired with frequent fouls, led to easy goals for opponents. Hogan specifically noted a 12-8 loss to Georgetown on April 16. The Orange committed 16 fouls, enabling the Hoyas to collect eight free-position shots, seven of which came in the second half. While the veteran Hogan stopped three of the ‘eight-meters,’ it wasn’t enough. ‘We definitely gave up some fouls that we didn’t want to,’ Hogan said. ‘You don’t really want to out a person on eight-meter unless you have to. I think just cleaning up the game, being better on our clears, not having unforced turnovers, really just doing everything that we can control and then hopefully this year things just fall our way.’ This year, the roles are reversed. SU’s most inexperienced position is found between the pipes. Sophomore Alyssa Costantino, who saw limited action behind Hogan last season, and freshman Kelsey Richardson are locked in a battle for the starting job. Gait has liked what he’s seen from the duo thus far, and he also sees the benefits of a two-goalie system. ‘I think the nice thing is that there’s certainly ebbs and flows in confidence amongst goalies, so when you have just one goalie, if they’re a little off, you’re stuck with them,’ Gait said. ‘Having two solid goalies competing every day, it allows you to — if one’s on, you can keep them in there and let them play. ‘And if for some reason they’re not mentally on that day, you have a second option, which is nice.’ One way the defense can take some pressure off the young goalies is by eliminating multiple-shot possessions and pushing the ball forward immediately after gaining possession. That active defensive middie role was frequently held by Cammett last season, but Becca Block is expected to fill that void while Cammett plays close defender this year. Block, who started all 18 games for SU last season and was second on the team in draw controls with 28, has excelled with the job in training camp thus far. ‘She’s just all over the field,’ Cammett said. ‘Whenever she gets (the ball), she’s going straight into the midfield. I don’t know a specific time, but she’s just getting interceptions all over the place and carrying it like she’s a newborn attacker.’ Last year, Stegeland said, the team sometimes got ahead of itself rather than focusing on the task at hand. This year, for SU to compete for a Big East title and look to make its mark in the NCAA tournament, the defense will need to maintain that intensity throughout the season. ‘In the past, we’ve kind of looked at the big picture, and I think that’s definitely inevitable,’ Stegeland said. ‘We’ll always be looking at, obviously, a national championship, a Big East championship, but right now we’re going to take it game by game.’ [email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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