SEASON PREVIEW: DEFENDERS
A significant part of the culture that Coach McCormack continues to build in Tempe hinges upon creating a defensive identity. A combination of experienced veterans and a talented newcomer on the defensive unit has helped establish that identity. "Each day we look a little bit better and continue to push towards that identity," Coach McCormack observed. "The players are taking a ton of ownership in that. The progress has been nice and we are excited to watch them continue to improve." Entering her third season in Tempe, senior defender Kristina Coppinger has become one of the leaders of the defense. She has spent the entire offseason focused on taking her game to the next level both physically and mentally.
"My game has developed most in the realm of game sense and field awareness," Coppinger reflected. "Anticipation is big on defense and the more reps you see the better you get at anticipating where the ball is likely to go so you can make the play." Coppinger is coming off a 2019 campaign she appeared in 16 games, earning 12 starts as part of a defensive unit that showed flashes of brilliance. The Sun Devils allowed 10 goals or less on four occasions, including turning in a couple of dominant efforts. In the victory over Stetson (2/24), ASU held the Hatters to a program-low three goals and only 13 total shots. The Maroon & Gold suffocated Kennesaw State (2/8) in a season-opening victory, giving up only seven goals to the Owls. Presbyterian was held scoreless for the first 13 minutes and managed just six goals in their loss to the Sun Devils (4/14).
Despite the coaching transition, Coppinger and the rest of the defense are already on the same page with the new coaching staff. She shares a couple of key concepts that
Coach McCormack has identified as being crucial to the success of the team.
"The defensive unit has embraced the mentally of the coaching staff: disciplined and controlled," Coppinger remarked. "We work day-in and day-out to make sure our
defensive play is always those two things."
The new coaching staff has asked players to step up into leadership roles, a challenge that Coppinger has taken seriously. "Kristina has helped the younger players out a lot," Coach McCormack stated. "I asked everybody at the end of the Fall who they felt like they could trust the most out there and Kristina's name came up frequently. Not only has she provided leadership, but her play has been solid for us throughout the preseason."
Not only Coppinger, but the entire defensive unit as a whole has impressed Coach McCormack during practice. "I am really excited about the group overall and I look forward to seeing where they end up as they continue to progress," Coach McCormack exclaimed. "It has been a
total group effort and everyone is buying in." Coppinger echoes the thoughts of Coach McCormack, as she has seen a positive difference in her side of the ball. What might separate the unit is how close they are as a group, forming relationships built on communication and trust.
"The defensive unit for spring of 2020 has a fluidness and a unity that makes us hard to beat," Coppinger said. "We individually work hard and make stops so when we come together, it's really a tough group to get past. We are like Teflon, a word we use that means to stay tough through adversity such as foul calls and previous defensive