Commentary

Spalding girls get defensive

Updated: August 31, 2009, 11:35 AM ET
By Lem Satterfield | Special to ESPNRISE.com

Kirsten Frank is entering her fourth year as one of the nation's fiercest defenders in one of the country's best girls' soccer teams.

And the Ohio University-bound senior says that "once that Archbishop Spalding uniform goes on, it's like putting on your game face."

"It's all business, and everything that we've worked on in the preseason, you want to make it all about to happen," said Frank, who, with fellow defender, Olivia Tomoff, has been part of a nearly invincible backfield for the Cavaliers. "Whether running in a game, or in scrimmages, we don't take it easy on each other. We go in hard for the 50-50s, just like we do in the games."

So intense is the Cavaliers' defense -- even in practice -- that shutting out the junior varsity squad is considered a source of pride.

"We almost had history a couple of days ago when the JV had a breakaway against the varsity and almost scored, but we had a freshman in the goal, and she stuffed the breakaway," said eighth-year coach Bob Dieterle, making sure to mention that neither Frank or Tomoff was in at the time.

"If either of them were in the game, I don't think the ball would have gotten within 40 yards of the goal," Dieterle said.

That tenacity is why the defending champion Cavaliers have at least reached the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland's A Conference semifinals during each of the past four years -- a stretch during which they won the league tournament title in 2006 and last season, and were runners-up once.

"We really work on pushing each other -- from the first person when we're running, to the last person in the drill, they've got to finish as fast as they can," Tomoff said. "We encourage each other, but at the same time, we push each other to the limit because the way that we practice carries over to the game."

Over the course of much of the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons, the Cavaliers were 29-0-5 against IAAM competition, and, 49-0-5 in total games.

"If we're going to have the best possible season, that tenacity has got to be there," said Dieterle, whose has compiled a record of 108-21-13 and sent numerous players to the collegiate soccer ranks.

"That's the one thing that every girl that comes through this program knows -- is that we're going to play as hard as we can the whole 80 or longer," Dieterle said. "You're going to earn it every second of every game."

But it's not as if the Cavaliers haven't also been blessed with skills and talent.

One of the Cavaliers' most notable players is Christine Nairn, a 2008 graduate who is now in her sophomore year at Penn State.

Last month, as the youngest member of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, Nairn scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Canada in South Carolina -- this in the game's 89th minute after entering seven minutes earlier for only her second career national team appearance. Nairn also was a member U.S. Under-20 National Team World Cup Champs.

"I know that college soccer at the Division I level is very competitive, and only a few players get acknowledged, and I'm going to into it trying my best," Frank said. "But my immediate goal for the team is to win as many games as we possibly can, and, to ultimately, win that championship game."

Last year's Cavaliers did just that, ending a 19-1-3 season with a 2-0 shutout of McDonogh on Nov. 2 in the IAAM A Conference title game. The victory improved the Cavaliers' record against league foes to 11-0-2, and raised their unbeaten streak to 15 games.

Overall, last year's Cavaliers out-scored their opponents by a combined, 60-12, with 14 shutouts. The Cavaliers, whose lone defeat was a 3-2 setback against Washington, D.C.-area power, Good council, enter this year with a mark of 13-0-2 in their past 15 games.

Tomoff said that much of their chemistry is bolstered from their time as co-captains on their club team, the Freestate Phoenix.

"We can say things to each other and know exactly what's going to happen, and that makes it really makes it easy to communicate. Hopefully, having us back there helps the other two defenders and Jocelyn to hold it down with us," Tomoff said.

"When we're back there on defense, we work on basically not even let them into our own half of the field. We're there to pressure as hard as we possibly can. We don't want to get beat by a first or second touch," Tomoff said. "Kirsten and I pride ourselves on being able to go hard into the tackles, not letting up, finding feet and clearing the ball out to our forwards."

The Cavaliers' 10-game winning streak includes nine straight shutouts, during which they out-scored their rivals by a combined, 28-0.

Junior keeper, Jocelyn McCoy, was in the goal for those nine consecutive shutouts, which are one shy of the record (10) established by Karen Blocker, a sophomore at Liberty College.

McCoy's 14 shutouts of a year ago tied the single-season record established by Blocker, who was in goal for a school record 57 career shutouts, and allowed only 37 career goals (a .457 goals-against average) in 81 games.

Frank and Tomoff have been mainstays throughout the careers of the Cavaliers' goalies.

"Kirsten has been the central defender or the sweeper for two of Karen's years and one of Jocelyn's," Dieterle said. "And Olivia was brought up at the end of her freshman year, so they've been together back there for two full seasons in a row."

"You want to win it all, that's my main goal," Frank said. "You want to try, as a defender, to have as few goals scored on us as possible. You just never want to let up. If you can get them, you want all shutouts."