Panthers look to rebound after captain’s injury

By Kevin Wheeler/Staff Writer

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Disappointment in their latest performance lingers around the womens’ soccer locker room, but the Panthers will have another chance to notch their second win  of their goal for 11 wins this season. 

After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Duquesne on Sunday from a goal scored in the 104th minute, the Panthers will look to improve upon their current 1-1 record Wednesday at Ambrose Urbanic Field at the Petersen Sports Complex as they take on the Robert Morris Colonials with a kickoff slated for 7 p.m.  

Losing to Duquesne wasn’t the only bad news for the Panthers Sunday — senior captain Jackie Poucel suffered a concussion during the 63rd minute of the contest and will not play Wednesday. Poucel will be reevaluated in the next few days to determine her status for upcoming games.

Despite these setbacks, head coach Greg Miller remains focused on Wednesday’s task.

“The biggest thing for us is just getting everyone over what happened on Sunday,” Miller said. “[We need to] refocus on our strengths and what we’re good at … it’s critical for us to come out with a new intensity and not to dwell on what happened the other day.”

The Panthers are working to keep its mind in a positive place, remembering that they are only two games into a young season.

Sophomore captain Siobhan McDonough has refocused, and is confident her team is doing the same.

“Last night’s game was disappointing, but we now look at it as an opportunity to rally,” McDonough said. “The loss is a bump in the road to our ultimate goal of the Year of 11. We’ll watch film and dissect the areas where we faulted and try to correct them before Wednesday.”

The injured captain, Poucel, also remains optimistic following the loss to Duquesne.  

“We have a great opportunity to win a lot of games with this team,” Poucel said. “I’ve seen us do really great things on the field and in practice, and we have something special.”

Although Poucel will not play Wednesday, she still plans to lead her team in spirit from the sidelines and has her own strategy for the Panthers coming out on top.

“We have to play the way we know how to play: with aggression and fluid attacking patterns that puts [them] under pressure,” Poucel said. “We are much better than we played [on Sunday], and I just want to make sure my team keeps looking forward.”

Mental toughness is always a factor in sports, but the Panthers’ coaching staff knows they will also have to adjust tactically for the game against Robert Morris. To prepare, Miller has been researching the other team, and he has identified two aspects of the Colonials’ strength.

“If you don’t defend them properly and you don’t press them, then they have the ability to get out and move the ball across the field and to get the ball forward so they can attack with some purpose,” Miller said.  

In addition to their ability to take advantage of lackadaisical defense, the Colonials can turn an opponent’s offensive charge back on them quickly.

“They counterattack well, so when a team loses possession they’re pretty effective at having players moving the ball forward to try and catch you off guard,” Miller said. “We have to be really organized and diligent with our defending when we give the ball away.”

Part of the Panthers’ ability to stifle the Colonials’ counterattack will depend on their own offense’s efficiency. Offense was a weak spot for the Panthers over the course of last season, and those problems resurfaced again in their last game, even after putting up three goals last Friday against Akron. To succeed this season, and in the upcoming game, Miller knows his players have to be more assertive in their offensive attack.

“We’re much more of an attacking team than we were last year… but they’re young, and they’re still trying to figure out some things about themselves, about one another, and about how we’re trying to play,” Miller said. “I’m much more confident and comfortable with this group of players and I know they’re going to get better, and I think we’re going to become more dangerous as we move along.”

The Panthers have taken one step forward and one backward through the first two games of the 2014 season, which leaves them seeking 10 wins through their next 16 games in order to reach their goal in this “Year of 11.”

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