January 28, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 41°F


Defensive play paces Blue and Gold squad

Having allowed just three goals in 14 games so far this season, the Bombers’ senior-laden defense is proving itself to be one of the best in the country. The team has not given up more than one goal per game and is ranked sixth nationally in goals-against average.

With three seniors on the back line, and a sophomore goalkeeper, the Bombers have recorded eight shutouts.

Sophomore goalkeeper Beth Coppolecchia said the experience of the older players has helped her adjust to her new starting role this year. Coppolecchia has symbolized the stout Blue and Gold defense so far as she earned Empire 8 Defensive Player of the Week honors on Sept. 3 and Oct. 7.

As a freshman, Coppolecchia was backup for then-senior goalie Becca Salant ’13 last season. During the games, Coppolecchia said, she focuses on maintaining communication with the rest of the back line because her positioning allows her to view the whole field.

“Having an upper-class defense helped me a lot and made me feel little more comfortable,” she said. “The little time I got last year definitely helped me, and [Salant] last year helped me a lot to come in.”

The success, however, does not come without dedication. Head coach Mindy Quigg works closely with the team’s defense to focus on one of the topics she insists on — building a strong defensive line. Quigg talks about tactics and leads exercises designed to help better the defense.

Coppolecchia said this prepares the Bombers for specific matchups and game situations.

“There are specific practices we do, like focusing on our shapes and understanding when a defender is supposed to drop,” Coppolecchia said. “It can get a little boring at times, but it is the little things that make us better.”

Quigg said her commitment to taking care of defense stems from her past playing career as a goalie at William Smith College. Quigg captained the 1988 Herons to a national championship.

“We focus a lot on [defense],” Quigg said. “Maybe that’s my perspective on it.”

Quigg also said the experience of the defensive starters has played a key role in the team’s success.

Senior back Anna Gray, who was named the Empire 8 Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 14, said Quigg has helped her and her fellow senior defenders Alex Liese and Meredith Jones become more skilled as a unit. During practice, Quigg simulates situations the defense will face during gameplay, such as corner kicks and opportunities to clear the ball from their end of the field.

“She’s always there for questions and has really just helped me personally develop who I am on and off the field,” Gray said. “She’s there to help us grow and help us turn into who we are. She has helped me get to where I am.”

Gray also said Aimee Chimera, the only freshman on the back line, has adjusted well to her new role as a defender. A midfielder in high school, Chimera switched to center back, which has given her more responsibility for shutting down opposing forwards.

“Aimee has done an unbelievable job, and she is really adapted,” Gray said. “She was a midfielder, and to come back in this defensive mentality is really great.”

Now that the Bombers are just about halfway through their season, Coppolecchia said she is confident the team can make it further in the NCAA tournament than last season.

“If we keep working on little things, just taking game by game, we can take this team pretty far,” she said.