After a strong start to Big Ten play, the soccer team looks to continue its success against the University of Michigan and Michigan State University this weekend.
The Boilermakers (6-2-1, 2-0-0 Big Ten) shut out both opponents last week, a testament to the team’s strength.
“We knew we were a good defensive team,” head coach Drew Roff said. “But until you get to Big Ten play, you still don’t know exactly where you stand. If we defend well, we’ll be in every game.”
Defense has been a major theme for the team so far this season, handing out six shutouts and allowing an average of fewer than one goal per game.
Roff attributes part of the defensive success of the team to the center back duo of freshman Sydney Sparks and sophomore Skylurr Patrick, as well as goalkeeper Marissa Bova.
“She’s a great presence for us,” Roff said about Bova, who is averaging just under three saves a game. “She’s very consistent.”
Still transitioning into Big Ten play, the Boilermakers feel more than prepared due to their experience in non-conference play.
“The games before the Big Ten are very important,” Roff said. “That’s where we test ourselves.”
The Boilermakers suffered two consecutive losses in non-conference play to top-ranked teams University of South Carolina and Kansas University.
“There were definitely times in our non-conference (games) where we struggled,” said Maddy Duncan, senior defender and forward. “But that’s what it’s all about, to see where we did well and see where we need room to improve.”
Forward Leanna Rebimbas boasts international experience. She played for the Portugal U19 national team for a year and a half before coming to Purdue.
“It’s definitely a good experience to have under my belt,” Rebimbas said. “The style of play was different, so just having a variety of exposure to that really helps me as a player.”
While NCAA soccer is different, Rebimbas learned valuable skills overseas that she hopes to implement not only in her performance but also in that of the entire team.
“I’ve learned a lot so far, and hopefully I’ve taught (the team) as well,” Rebimbas said
Rebimbas will be using those skills and more against Michigan (7-2-0, 2-0-0) in the Boilermakers’ first road game of Big Ten play.
“They’ve got some very talented individual attacking players,” Roff said. “I think it’s gonna be a great test for us, individual defending, but also how we defend collectively.”
Like Purdue, Michigan’s defense is particularly strong, which could present some challenges for the Boilermaker offense.
“They’re a well-balanced team, so we’re gonna have to find some ways to create some chances,” Roff said
The Boilermakers are confident, though, and welcome the challenge.
“As long as we play our game, and we put trust in each other and work all together, we’ll be able to produce (like) how we did this weekend,” Rebimbas said.