The Bobcats made a habit out of shutting down their opponents’ offenses last season. To their dismay, they often struggled to avoid zeroes on their own board.
Coach Stacy Strauss is using the spring to develop the players’ soccer IQ and give young players a chance to gain experience. After exhibition games last weekend against Wright State and Marshall, Strauss said she learned a lot about the team.
“We are looking primarily at player development,” Strauss said. “We use people in different positions and give the younger players the opportunity to learn, and we definitely got that out of it this weekend.”
The Bobcats have been trying out players in several different positions. Kim Nordtveit played defense and forward last weekend, and Veronica Rock has made a lot of improvement in the offseason and is playing at a few different positions, Strauss said.
“The more they can play in different positions, see other opponents, then follow up with video review and training,” Strauss said, “they’re going to improve, and that will benefit us in the fall.”
As Ohio adjusts its position changes, Strauss has tried a variety of different formations, including a 4-3-3, 4-4-2 and a 4-5-1 at times, with a majority of focus on the 4-3-3.
The Bobcats have the ability with the outside fullbacks to push forward into the offense, and it benefited them in the exhibition games, Strauss said.
“Playing the 4-3-3 properly was the difference between the first and second game Sunday,” Strauss said. “Our outside backs generate a lot of our attack, and it is tempting to stay in the 4-3-3 and give them that space in front of them.”
Organized defense and effective goalkeeping have kept the ball out of the net this spring, and the stalwart defense is a definitive strength of the team, Strauss said. The team uses the midfield to put pressure on the opposing team and has a stable defensive back line.
“Our strength is definitely when we effectively pressure the ball,” Strauss said. “We’ve played a lot of minutes this spring without giving up a goal.”
Although the offense has not been as influential as the defense, it is something the Bobcats are steadily improving on. Rachel Philpot tallied three goals, the most for the Bobcats last season. Ohio produced 17 goals last fall and was 11th of 12 Mid-American Conference teams in goals scored.
“Another step we are working on is making the most of every opportunity that we get in front of the opposing team’s goal,” Strauss said.
The offense received a boost during the offseason with the addition of forward Kayla Paoulos, who transferred from South Carolina. Strauss said Paoulos is impressive with one-on-one attacking and maintains a strong personality on and off the field.
“I’m just learning the way each player plays and knowing what they’re going to do without looking at them, and definitely score goals,” Paoulos said.
The team needs to remain organized and put good pressure on the ball for the team to succeed and improve during the spring, Strauss said.
Strauss credited defenders Lauren Burke and Paige Howard for being fit throughout the year because of the work their position requires for the 90 minutes they have to play.
“Their fitness is at a really high level right now, and it is consistently throughout the year,” Strauss said.
The Bobcats travel to West Virginia Saturday to continue their spring exhibition season against the Mountaineers.