Wheddon tinkers with lineup in tie with Pittsburgh

first_imgWhen Phil Wheddon’s players have a chance to play, he expects them to make a difference. Every time they step on the field, they have to make a difference. That was the message the Syracuse women’s soccer coach left with his team, following its 1-1 tie with Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon. And SU was able to maintain that mindset long enough to stave off a conference loss that might have caved in its season. Wheddon credits that mindset for his team not faltering. ‘The team is gaining inspiration from each other,’ Wheddon said. ‘We challenge ourselves each day to get the ball on the ground and play a possession style of soccer. And we did that. As you saw, while making different changes in the team and putting different people in different positions, we still can do that.’ Wheddon ran out a lineup Sunday that was without regular starters Kayla Afonso, due to a red card suspension, and Megan Bellingham, due to a leg injury. On their behalf, fueled by their coach’s motivating words, several underclassmen made the most of increased playing time. With five substitutions in the first half alone, Wheddon tinkered with the lineup in an effort to answer Pittsburgh’s early goal. As a result, freshmen Karly O’Toole and Brittany Kinmond, along with sophomores Laura Jackson and Jenna Rickan, were each able to contribute to SU’s late comeback.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Midfielder Alyscha Mottershead, an Iowa transfer who is seeing increased responsibility this season, doesn’t see SU’s collectively young roster as an issue. ‘I don’t really think having a young team means that we are going to play younger,’ Mottershead said. ‘Age is just a number, and the year in your class is just a number. A lot of people on our team, young or old, have a lot of experience. I think coming together as a team, we’ve all grown, and everyone on this team is a leader. Senior or junior, sophomore or freshman, I think everyone can hold their own.’ After extended back-and-forth volleying between the Orange and Panthers in the first half, Jackson entered the game with fewer than two minutes to play in the half. Over the next 15 minutes and into the second half, she was able place a free-kick service toward the net, lob a pass up and in front to Cecilia Borgstrom, and push another opportunity out wide to Tina Romagnuolo, all of which created open looks Syracuse wasn’t finding at the start of the game. For a player who started 18 of 19 games last season, Jackson was more than ready to come in and make something happen. ‘The biggest thing for me is just to make sure that I’m getting opportunities for my team,’ Jackson said. ‘I try and get the ball in to opportunities where we can obviously score and get the ball in the back of the net. I make sure that no runners get by me, and I check the runners at midfield.’ Syracuse entered this weekend’s play ranked 14 out of 16 Big East teams in goals scored. Although SU surely didn’t improve upon that ranking with its lone goal on Sunday, after back-to-back overtime games, it was still a few bounces away from a victory. For Kinmond, who saw action in both games, SU is moving in the right direction at a critical time of the year. ‘I know sometimes a lot of teams, by mid-October, start to decline a little bit,’ she said. ‘But I think that our team is just rising. Because we have a lot of players that come off the bench, there’s definitely a good team atmosphere.’ Playing without senior leader Bellingham this past weekend, SU got a good look at the future of the program. And with Rutgers and Seton Hall to play next week, Syracuse knows it will take a group effort to keep its season alive. Including the young players. It’ll take making a difference every time they step onto the field. ‘It doesn’t matter who we put in there, everyone has bought into what we’re trying to do,’ Wheddon said. ‘And everyone is getting better, day to day. We push each other every day in training. So they know what’s expected. And today, those players stepped on the field and made a difference.’ zoirvin@syr.edu Published on October 10, 2010 at 12:00 pm Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Commentslast_img

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