Purdue soccer will lean on the experience of its defensive backline as it faces off against Maryland (0-0-1) tonight.
The Boilermaker’s (0-1-0) head coach Drew Roff said that senior defender Maya Lambert’s leadership and sense of calm has been critical in the team’s organization and confidence.
Defenders adept at passing and being confident with the ball at their feet is a necessity for the Boilermakers in organizing their build-up play and creating scoring chances, Roff said.
Lambert’s confidence on the ball is elemental to that.
“Our backline needed some veteran leadership and a player that can bring the ball out very well,” Roff said. “Maya is someone who we know we can give the ball to and we know that she can make really good decisions with it.”
Lambert, a team captain, is returning to the center back position after two seasons playing more forward as a defending midfielder. She said she’s acclimating well to the position because she played there as a freshman and enjoys the challenge.
“I love center back,” Lambert said. “I feel like I can see the whole field, see what’s going on and talk to the team and take a leadership role from back there.”
Though the Boilermakers lost 1-0 last week to Illinois in their season debut, Roff is pleased overall with the effort and determination of the team.
“For a first time out after a long, long layoff, I was pleased with the performance,” Roff said. “I felt like the game could’ve just as easily been a 1-0 win for us or a draw.”
The lone goal of the game came in the 80th minute. After an Illini shot ricocheted off the Purdue goal post, the ball bounced right to the feet of Illini forward Makena Silber, who slotted the ball home.
The goal was a bit of a fluke, Roff said, though he credited Illinois for converting their opportunities on offense. Despite the goal, he was impressed by the cohesion of the Boilermaker defense and thought the team maintained possession well.
“I thought that we defended well, I didn’t feel like we were under a lot of dangerous situations from their attack,” Roff said.
Going forward, Roff said he expects the team to make minor adjustments and to play strongly against Maryland. The teams faced off last in October 2019 in Maryland. The Boilermakers lost a close, rain-soaked battle 2-1 off of a dagger goal from Terrapin center forward Mikayla Dayes in the 83rd minute.
Roff said defending against the Terrapin attack can become tricky for the Boilermaker defense as Maryland typically employs two center forwards up front instead of one. Having to defend against two center forwards means the center back pairing can’t provide cover for each other and can end up isolated against an attacking player.
Communication and a comprehensive team effort will be key in stopping the striker duo of Dayes and fellow forward Alyssa Poarch.
“(The center backs) need to be ready to drop off and take care of that dangerous space that those (center forwards) are going to want to spin into,” Roff said. “It takes a team effort to deny special players goals.”
The Boilermakers will have to defend against the Terrapins on a different home pitch than they’re used to, as the team is playing indoors at Mollenkopf Athletic Center while Folk Field dries out from the winter snow and ice.
Lambert said while the team has had to adjust to narrower field dimensions, the team has had six weeks of preparation time to get used to the pitch. For Roff, though he said he prefers the wider dimensions of Folk, he feels comfortable with making any adjustments necessary to keep the team playing.
“2021 is a year where you just have to roll with it,” Roff said.