By Joseph Chapman
Although the team didn’t get the chance to play until February, Youngstown State University’s women’s soccer has been fighting for results. The team has a young core of players developing at a steady pace.
Sophomore forward Marcella Sizer has already scored three goals in six games, working toward her total of five goals in her freshman season. She spoke about how far the team has come since last season.
“Last year, we were freshmen and didn’t have the experience, but now we have a year down and we’re just doing a lot better with connecting with each other,” Sizer said.
The Penguins are a tactically flexible side who are capable of playing multiple formations depending mainly on player availability. Their preferred system, 4-3-3, allows Sizer to play at the head of an attacking trident as the #9 with sophomore forwards Regan LaVigna and Abriana Rondin taking up positions on the flanks.
Sizer spoke about how she has grown as a striker moving into her second season.
“I have more ideas and tools I can use now that I’m a sophomore. I like coming to the ball more like last year. I was just kind of looking for through balls and balls thrown on but I like coming into the midfield and getting the ball and being able to turn to play [Rondin] and [Pampus into the final third],” she said.
Rondin tied the YSU women’s soccer freshman single-season assist record last year with four assists, and she already has two more to add to the tally. She spoke about her success playing as a winger this season.
“Playing on the wing again has definitely helped my creativity and getting the ball to [Marcella]. Most of the time it’s been to her head, which she did get to score on the season, which was really exciting,” Rondin said. “Just being able to use my speed and going end line and trying to get a cross off with my right foot, which is my dominant foot. Our team has seen a lot of success with it and we just keep growing with that too.”
Rondin also spoke about the influence of former professional player John Ball on her game. Ball served as Rondin’s coach from ages 10 to 13.
“He was the person that really brought me out of my shell and forced me to use all the moves that I worked on in my backyard and kind of inspired me to actually use them in the game,” she said. “That’s come out more this season.”
The Penguins also enjoy the 3-4-3 system as it allows the team to play with an extra midfielder while maintaining its front three. Rondin talked about playing in a 4-4-2 in a recent match.
“Marcella and I split up top, and it was definitely a change. But we work really well together, complementing each other on the field. We have pretty good communication where wherever [Sizer] makes a run, I’ll make the opposite and vice versa. That’s worked out pretty well for us,” she said.
Rondin has also been used as one of two creators in the 4-4-2’s central double pivot. In this formation, the Penguins prefer using defenders in the wide positions to enable a more consistent press.
Senior captain and defender Lexi Neal spoke about the team goal of possessing the ball longer in the opponent’s half and the destructiveness of counter attacks.
“Something we’ve been focusing on a lot in practice is sustaining the ball on the opponent’s half. That’s definitely something that we have improved on, I would say immensely, this year,” Neal said. “As for the conceding of the goals, I think when we lose the ball on transition. I feel like that’s when we’re conceding most of our goals … Usually, when we go down a goal in the past, we haven’t been able to come back, but this year we’ve been able to answer a lot.”
This season, Neal enjoys the freedoms of changing positions. Although in the past she has been deployed mainly as a center-half, she now favors the fullback role where she has the liberty to move into advanced wide positions. From there, she can support the wingers and take one-vs.-ones against the opposing fullback.
Neal also discussed how coach Brian Shrum has shifted the entire mentality of the program.
“He’s brought a great change to this team,” Neal said. “From my freshman year to now, we’ve improved immensely. It’s a totally different team and the program is going in a good direction. I feel lucky to have been a part of it, even if the results are to come.”
This past Wednesday, the Penguins played IUPUI. The fixture ended in a 0-0 draw. Look out for women’s soccer’s next result at Wright State University next Tuesday, March 30, and be sure to catch the last home game Monday, April 5 against Robert Morris University.