Lies Lagerweij emerges as defensive leader after position change

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 28, 2015 at 10:16 pm Contact Sam: [email protected] | @Sam4TR Thirty-five seconds into Lies Lagerweij’s first game as the Syracuse’s center back in 2014, the defense allowed a goal.Lagerweij had never played defense before, but an injury to the team’s usual starting center back forced head coach Ange Bradley to tinker.“Honestly, I don’t know a lot about defense,” Lagerweij said after the game on Oct. 25, 2014.Still, Lagerweij and the defense didn’t allow another goal and ended up beating Duke 2-1 in overtime.She never left the center back position.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textA well-adjusted Lagerweij is now leading No. 2 Syracuse’s (9-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast) stingy defense. Orange opponents have scored just eight goals in nine games. Goalkeeper Jess Jecko, who has recorded three shutouts, plays behind a back line that only allows 4.4 shots on goal per game. Out of 77 qualified NCAA goalkeepers, Jecko ranks 66th in saves with 3.33 per game. That’s because Lagerweij and the defense does its job, a job she learned on the fly with a goalkeeper, a notebook and a video room as her lifelines.“I started from zero as a center back,” Lagerweij said. “We had two weeks before the (2014 ACC) tournament, so I didn’t have time a lot of time (to adjust) … I had to dive in.”Lagerweij watched video with assistant coach Allan Law, who broke down film to focus on outlets, rotations and angles. He isolated mistakes and successes. Lagerweij filled 30 pages of her notebook with defensive notes in the two weeks before the tournament.She went from seeing empty attacking space in front of her to trying to fill that space with defenders and focus on opposition’s weapons like she did against Virginia’s midfield — one of the best in the country according to teammate Roos Weers. Syracuse won 3-1 and neither of the Cavaliers’ two prolific midfielders scored.Lagerweij has new responsibilities at a new position. She’s the primary decision-maker, Bradley said. While she also starts the offense from the back, Lagerweij’s first priority is to stop the offense. She learned to take fewer risks.“That was a big adjustment for me,” Lagerweij said. “I was used to doing tricks and trying new stuff. At forward, you can take a lot of risks, but in the back you don’t want to take a lot of risks. I came in the back and had to play like boring passes … I’m getting used to it.”It may not be scoring, but the quick passing in a back triangle of defenders helps reverse the field and create offense for the Orange.When she first learned the position, she still wanted to push up the field and score. Her aggressiveness sometimes left her out of position, but she adjusted to the way Syracuse plays defense, with each player behind coaching the player ahead.“Usually, I was defending (Lagerweij) in practice, but now I’m directing her,” Jecko said. “… I was helping her with the position and having her see counter shape. She’s smart … and she sees seams because she used to look for them.”Last season, in the 2014 national semifinal game, Jecko directed Lagerweij as North Carolina brought a three-on-one rush toward the goal. One Tar Heel in front, another on the side and a third behind her, Lagerweij broke up the play by using her “long reach” to intercept the pass. She saved the game, Jecko said, an eventual 3-2 win.It was a breakthrough moment for Lagerweij, a play that justified the video and notes. This season, with a more experienced and less risky Lagerweij, Syracuse hopes its strong back line can help bring the team back to the national championship and emerge with a different result.“The way we’re playing right now,” Lagerweij said, “I can see those boring passes are getting fun.” Commentslast_img

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