Syracuse works on improving set-piece defense ahead of game against Louisville

first_imgShortly before the end of practice Tuesday morning at the Hookway Fields Complex, Syracuse players were finishing up a drill in the penalty box. Neither a goalie nor a ball was in use. Instead, each SU defensive player was assigned to an offensive player to track step-for-step within the box for 10-second intervals. It was designed to improve Syracuse’s defense of set pieces. Against Virginia Tech on Sunday in Blacksburg, the Orange conceded three goals, all of which came off set pieces. SU (4-7-1, 0-3 Atlantic Coast) has generally struggled this season to defend them, but the Orange has been working in practice this week to improve on one of its weaknesses before hosting Louisville (4-5-1, 1-2) on Sunday. Head coach Phil Wheddon said that against top ACC teams, Syracuse is bound to allow some corner kicks and free kicks. “We know that,” he said. “We’re getting our fair share as well. It’s a fast, attacking, dynamic game.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSU defender Erin Simon agreed, saying it’s “inevitable” that other teams will get set pieces, and specifically corner kicks, over the course of the game. But she said Syracuse’s back line can limit those opportunities. “If the ball looks like it’s going to roll out and be a corner kick, the least we can do is slide and get a throw-in out of it instead of a corner kick,” Simon said. Jessica Vigna, another defender, said it’s important for Syracuse to be in position to not only stop crossing passes but to also then clear the ball out of SU’s end without letting it go out of bounds. But the Orange knows that breakdowns will come and other teams will get at least some corner and free kicks. And it’s in those instances when SU has struggled.“For a lot of people,” Wheddon said, “set pieces are a mental down time because they’re not high intensity moments in the game.” In practice this week, Syracuse has emphasized a number of match-up drills focused specifically on defending set pieces. In the drills that include a ball, each defender takes one offensive player with the goal of simply not letting that player score. “You’re going to do whatever you can,” Vigna said. “You’re not going to let them out of your arms. You’re going to slide. You’re going to do whatever.”And if a player does score, the entire defense is punished. After her team allowed a goal Tuesday, they had to a run a series of suicides before resuming practice. The scouting report on Syracuse is that the Orange’s biggest weakness is defending set pieces. Wheddon’s added focus in practice is hoping to change that.“We haven’t done a good job,” Wheddon said. “I hold myself accountable for that because I need to make sure my players are fully prepared for what they’re going to face.” Comments Published on September 30, 2015 at 8:43 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+last_img


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