Women’s soccer looks to extend home unbeaten streak

by Gayne Kalustian | 9/17/14 2:52pm

The women’s soccer team is gearing up to hold down its home fort this weekend against the Northeastern University Huskies. A win or tie this Friday would extend Dartmouth’s undefeated streak on Burnham to 15 games, dating back to Oct. 1, 2012 when the Big Green lost to then No. 20 Pepperdine University 1-0 in double overtime.

The team’s past success in Hanover brings players confidence, defender Laura Thurber ’15 said.

“We love our home field, we want to protect it and it gets us hyped up,” she said. “It’s going to be a defensive battle, and we’ll see who comes out on top.”

The Huskies are walking on to the field with an impressive defensive record: six shut outs and only two surrendered goals in the eight games they’ve played thus far.

But the numbers aren’t discouraging Dartmouth’s new head coach Ron Rainey, who expressed confidence in his own back line.

“I like to think that our team probably is going to take a lot of pride on what we’re doing on defense,” he said. “You look at it and it’s probably not going to be a game where there are a lot of goals scored. Both attacks will see this as a really good challenge to score some good goals. We’ll have to earn everything that we get from them defensively.”

Under Coach Rainey, the Big Green has switched to a 4-3-3 system of play, drawing a midfielder from its previous 4-4-2 into an attacking position. Co-captain Kendall Kraus ’15 pointed to the open space in the midfield as an opportunity for the Big Green’s athletic defensive wings to be active in several phases of play.

“It’s worked really well, I think,” she said. “We like it because it utilizes our outside backs as they get forward a lot. We’ve been generating a ton of opportunities up top.”

This change is not the only strategy. To dominate Northeastern and, by extension, the Ivy League, Rainey said, the team must work together to adjust to the moment’s needs rather than relying on a stock field position.

“We want to attack and try to get numbers into the box and defend with 11 people behind the ball,” Rainey said. “We’re trying to talk about playing to our strengths and not really getting caught up in what our formation looks like. I think any good attacking team, at times can look like there’s one up top, at times two, at times three.”

The Big Green has a wide array of potential offensive weapons, five different players have scored or assisted on the team’s three goals thus far. The only player with multiple points thus far is Corey Delaney ’16 with assists against both St. John’s University and the University of Washington. Delaney brings valuable experience back to Burnham for Dartmouth after a stellar two years on the team. She earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year as a freshman and represented Dartmouth as a member of the All-Ivy First Team the past two years.

The team’s host of offensive threats, Kraus said, will be a highlight of the year.

“That’s definitely something that’s been huge for us this year,” she said. “We don’t have one way that we rely on to score. We’ve been generating a lot of opportunities different ways, whether it’s free kicks or getting crosses off or through balls.”

While both defenses are expected to be tough in their own thirds, Rainey looks toward the middle third as a hot point of contention. Securing the midfield, he said, will be critical for a victory for either side.

Kickoff is at 5 p.m. this Friday.