Purdue continued its defensive success at the Big Ten level, completing its eighth shutout of the season against Ohio State University this past weekend.
The Boilermakers (6-6-3, 2-4-2 Big Ten) will continue their fight to secure a spot in the Big Ten tournament while on the road, facing Rutgers University (10-2-2, 4-2-1) on Thursday and University of Maryland (7-6-2, 3-4-0) on Sunday.
As the team prepares for its weekend away, players are confident that their strong defensive line will continue to provide them opportunity for victory this weekend.
Head coach Drew Roff said the reason for the back line’s consistent guarding success is due to the experience they have been able to gain together.
“We have a lot of freshmen back there last year that are sophomores now, so there’s some continuity and understanding among the group,” Roff said.
Sophomore defender Skylurr Patrick noted the back line’s chemistry on the field.
“The back five really have a connection,” Patrick said. “We trust each other and with that trust, we’re able to rely. And if we get beat, someone is covering us so we have each other’s backs.”
The Boilermakers hope to make a few changes in their offensive play to beat their competition this weekend and secure a spot in the tournament.
Roff hopes to see a more balanced level of intensity between the defensive and offensive mindset.
“We know we can keep the ball out of our net, but we need to be a little more dangerous and break down some really good defenses,” Roff said.
In the game against Rutgers, junior forward Amirah Ali is a particular threat to the defensive line that Purdue will have to guard. Roff anticipates shutting down her attacks.
“She’s strong and powerful, and she’s got some pace, so she’s going to make runs from behind. She can beat people on the dribble,” Roff said. “I’m going to show our players what she does and what other players do to get her the ball, so we’ll focus on not letting her get the ball very often, and once she has it, how do you get numbers around it.”
Purdue’s preparation for the game against Maryland is just as intense, but will be a different mental challenge.
“Sunday games are always a little bit slower than the Thursday or Friday night games, so you just want to be solid defensively, especially on the road,” Roff said. “You have (to) change tactics a little bit, but we have to be balanced.”
As Purdue plans to balance its defensive performance with more dangerous forward attacks this weekend, Roff looks to forwards Hannah Melchiorre and Sarah Griffith to get the ball rolling.
“With the amount of experience and ability they have, I think they can lead the way,” Roff said. “Those two will set that bar, and others will step up to it.”