Lady Warriors will lean on defensePublished 10:40pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013
On the foundation of an experienced and dedicated defense, the Nansemond River girls’ soccer team will seek to put more points on the board and improve on last season’s fourth-place tie with Great Bridge in district play.
Lady Warriors head coach Darryl Yandle, who has coached the team for more than 14 years, expressed great confidence in a defensive core that includes seniors Jailene Cartagena, Taylor Flick, Courtney White and junior Cassidy Feldt.
“In lots of cases, you have (girls saying), ‘I want to play offense. I want to score,’” Yandle said. “They take pride in their defense. That’s a special thing, and I haven’t had that strong a unity on defense, probably, since I’ve started coaching. It’s treasured.”
Evidence of the defense’s effectiveness is routinely present on the scoreboard at the end of a game.
“We’ve played close games in the past several years with district teams,” Yandle said. “I think last year we had one bad game against Western Branch, but for the most part, in the past two years, we’ve kept all teams to two goals.”
He is looking forward to having senior Sara Gallagher back after having to go without her last year when she blew out her knee at the beginning of the season.
“We’re looking to her for a lot of leadership,” he said. “A really, really great young lady.”
Yandle will have greater flexibility in how he can apply Gallagher and her skills to benefit the team.
“She’s probably going to end up (at) midfield, because I’ve got such strong defense,” he said. “In the past, she has played a lot of defense, but I can afford to move her up now.”
The capable defense, however, throws the team’s main weakness into sharp relief.
“We haven’t been able to put the ball in the goal,” Yandle said.
Resolving the issue will be an all-hands-on-deck priority.
“All of them are going to have to step it up,” Yandle said of his offensive players.
He has particular hope that junior transfer student Emily Leverone will help turn things around on that end of the field. He describes her as a true forward.
“I have noticed she has a knack for placing the ball — well-struck shots,” Yandle said. “She doesn’t just shoot at the keeper, they’re usually placed low and at a corner. So, hopefully, within the year, that might pay some dividends. But the rest of the team has got to get the ball to her.”
Leverone has experience playing tournaments around the country, and Yandle said that she recently won the Most Valuable Player award at a showcase tournament in Texas before a group of 175 college coaches.
The Lady Warriors also have a roster bolstered by young talent from the junior varsity team.
“I’ve got several freshmen that I’ve brought up, and we don’t do that unless they’re going to help and get some good playing time, so we’re looking forward to that,” Yandle said.
With the tie for fourth place in mind, Yandle said one goal for this year’s team is to “move up.”
“Obviously, at the beginning of the season, we’re going to do our best to win every game,” he said. “We’re going to go into games with the attitude that that’s what we’re going to do.”
But there’s also a more basic goal.
“The major goal for me is keep everybody healthy, because the past two years I’ve had higher expectations than what we’ve gained, and it was injuries that set us back,” he said.
Aside from injuries, Yandle expects the other challenge to be maintaining team unity over the course of the season.
“It’s always a challenge to keep the drama down a bit,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll all put the team first and celebrate our wins as a team.”
Nansemond River will begin its season on the road against Bethel High School on March 11.