August 20, 2007

Campbell Anchors W. Soccer Defense

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Before the season began, senior captain Leslie Campbell was adamant that the 2007 season would not be a rebuilding effort for the Red. Judging from the team’s 3-2 start following last year’s 3-13-1 campaign, it looks like the senior knows Cornell soccer better than anyone else.
The Sacramento, Calif., native faced a considerable challenge coming into her final season as the anchor on Cornell’s defensive line: new head coach Danielle LaRoche installed a revamped defensive strategy. Campbell, who has been in the starting lineup since her arrival in 2004 had played under a more conservative scheme her entire career.
“It was weird as a senior to get back to school in August and have no idea what the coach was going to be like,” Campbell said. “But it’s also really exciting because anything can happen this season. … So far they have been incredibly energetic and supportive as we try to adjust to a new coaching style and system of play.”
With a freshman goalkeeper and a defensive line now responsible for initiating the counterattack, the defensive unit struggled for the first several games of 2007. The Red gave up at least four goals in three of their first four games, losing those three. LaRoche attributed the porous defense to “mental breakdowns.”
After a pair of home wins, however, Campbell is feeling much more confident about her defense.
“The back four really understand each other now,” she said. “We are willing to fight for each other, cover for each other and make up for each other’s mistakes.”
The defense’s cohesiveness is exactly what Coach LaRoche wanted at the start of the season, when she said that the new zone scheme would require much more communication than the man-to-man style did.
Campbell, however, also believes the defense has been revitalized because of some other factors: the emergence of freshman forward Lena Russomagno to take pressure off the defense and a recent stretch of home games.
“It really helps to play at home,” she said. “We’re proud to put on our jerseys and play when the stands are full. We feel like we’re playing for the fans, but also for the students, the staff and school as a whole.”
The success the Red is now enjoying is particularly meaningful to a player as experienced as Campbell, who has been part of winning and losing seasons.
“I really believe that every season brings a whole new team; a new mentality and a new attitude,” she said. “The chemistry is 100 percent better than it was last season.”
So what does the veteran think about the team going forward? Perhaps unsurprisingly, she remains focused on the big picture.
“No matter what happens this season, the program is definitely headed in the right direction.”