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Wednesday, Dec. 6
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's soccer

Hoosier plays from front to back

IU junior forward takes new position as defender for Hoosiers

Women's soccer

To begin the season, the women’s soccer team had put together more than 600 consecutive minutes of shutout defense dating back to the end of 2008.

Currently, they have one of the best defensive squads in the Big Ten.

Senior Kelly Lawrence, a two-time first team All-Big Ten defender, has been a key component to the back line’s success.

But this defense has suffered many injuries that have required players to not only step up, but change positions.

For a defense that was equally strong in 2008, early-season injuries to senior defenders Jessica Boots and Taylor Fallon left coach Mick Lyon in a difficult situation. While Boots has since recovered from her injury, she has spent the majority of the season playing midfield.

Fallon has been recovering from an off-season knee injury since 2007 and has been out since Aug. 28.

Enter sophomore defender Kerri Krawczak, who earned Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team honors in 2008 after a stellar debut campaign for the Hoosiers. Krawczak has done a tremendous job filling the void left by injuries and has exceeded expectations so far, Lyon said.

“The improvements Kerri has made from last year to this year and what she’s going to be doing next year – she’s going to be just the absolute most dominating defender in the league,” Lyon said.

With two of the three defensive positions filled, Coach Lyon had to get creative to round out the back line. He decided to move junior forward Leigh Anne Cummings, who had played defense in two games prior to coming to IU, and transition her into a competent defender.

“With the way we’ve evolved with how we’re playing, we need that speed and ability to play with the ball, and that’s what Leigh brings to the back line,” Lyon said. “She’s a terrific girl that will play anywhere. Even though she’s playing left back, we still want her to attack from the back, and that’s obviously tough to defend.”

On Sept. 4 against then-No. 6 Florida, it was Cummings’ game-winning goal in double-overtime that upset the Gators in Bloomington. She made the transition to defense a week later, playing against Hofstra in front of her family in her home state of New York.

“My parents thought I did well playing defense and stopped two key goals in that game,” Cummings said. “But my dad will ask me after every game if I scored or how many shots I had, and I’m like ‘No, I play defense now. I don’t score anymore.’”

While transitioning to a different position in such a short amount of time seems difficult, Cummings credits having the mindset of a forward as an advantage when reading the opposing attack.

She says the toughest part about playing defense has been the importance and stress of not letting anyone get through.

“It’s tough because I’m not in the attack anymore,” Cummings said. “So I have to remember to take fewer touches and to not take people on when I have the ball.”

Playing defense in soccer is much like playing offensive line in football. There aren’t stats that show up in the box score other than how many goals the other team scored.

However, like playing offensive line, the quality of a team’s defense in soccer is often key to a team’s overall success.

“I’m not concerned with recognition as long as my teammates feel I’m doing a good job,” Krawczak said. “They’re really supportive and, really, that’s the most important thing to me.”

Both Cummings and Krawczak have praised her as being a leader and a mentor.

“She’s not a real yeller and shouter, but she’s an excellent organizer, and I think the girls really respect her play,” Lyon said. “She strives to get better, and that really inspires the other girls to get better as well.”

Flips, Jolly Ranchers part of every game
In addition to converting from a forward to a defender, Cummings has been designated to throw the ball in anytime a ball goes out of bounds in the opponents’ territory.

But there’s a catch.

Cummings will start from a good 20 yards out of bounds, usually on the track, sprint up toward the field and do an acrobatic flip-throw near the 18-yard box. She first did this in game action last year, but she has done this multiple times this season.

“Basically, we were just here for an extra shooting practice working on free kicks, and I was done, so I started fooling around with our old assistant coach and said ‘Hey, Erika, I’m going to do a flip-throw,’” Cummings said. “So at first, we started working to see if I can do a front hand spring before we tried it. And once I got comfortable enough to do it with a ball, we started to use it during games.”

While none of the girls really have any superstitious pre-game rituals other than listening to music, Lyon has an interesting one.

“I try to make sure I have candy in my pocket,” Lyon said. “That’s been a good one for this year. It seems like if I have candy in my pocket, we seem to be doing well. I like the hard candy, like Jolly Ranchers. Whenever an official makes a bad call, instead of yelling at him, I’ll just pop some candy in so I don’t get carded.”

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