Blue Demons Tap into Defensive Tradition for Friday's Season Opener
Aug 29, 2013
CHICAGO – The Blue Demons are fired up to play some “retro soccer” in their 4 p.m. season opener Friday at Wish Field.
When DePaul competed in the NCAA tournament in 2007 and advanced to the BIG EAST Championship semifinals in 2007 and 2008, defense was the program’s hallmark. It was back-to-back seasons of low-scoring matches with a defense featuring goalkeeper Brian Visser and defenders Patrick Hopkins, Nathan Feltz and Brent Zang.
That tradition continued into 2009 when some spectacular goalkeeping by Joe Ferrari helped the Blue Demons advance to the BIG EAST quarterfinals.
Bringing back that defensive intensity and single-mindedness is what DePaul will be striving for against Green Bay in the 2013 season opener.
“Good defending starts with attitude,” said DePaul coach Craig Blazer who was a standout goalkeeper at Xavier. “It becomes a very high priority in your thinking. You embrace values like dependability and being able to rely on your teammates. We have players who embody that. As a result, this year’s team has a solid defense.
“You want to see this team develop similar characteristics to the teams from 2007 and 2008. We had some very good individual defenders in Hopkins, Feltz and Zang. First and foremost---they were competitors.
“This group is developing their competitiveness, and they want to win.”
The DePaul side did not give up a goal in two preseason matches, coming away with a 1-0 win at Western Illinois and a 0-0 tie at Michigan. Western Illinois qualified for the NCAA tournament last year and Michigan advanced to the NCAA Second Round.
Green Bay was 2-10-4 last season and returns third-leading scorer Sam Krenzien (two goals, one assist). The Phoenix is looking to rebuild the program with 19 incoming players.
In the exhibition season, Green Bay topped St. Thomas 1-0 and lost to Wisconsin 1-0.
For Blazer and his team, not giving up a goal in the preseason is the beginning of a foundation based on a solid defense.
It’s a defense that will be tested by Green Bay and also by No. 19/22 Northwestern in a 1 p.m. match Monday at Wish Field.
Northwestern was 13-6-4 last season and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats return eight starters led by All-Big Ten First Team performers Nikko Boxall, Tyler Miller and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Chris Ritter. Unanimous All-Freshman Team selection Joey Calistri led NU with nine goals last season.
“The preseason was very encouraging,” Blazer said. “The guys are excited about the value of good defending and are taking defensive responsibility.
“In our two exhibition matches, we solidified our back line with a number of quality defenders. Eric Sorby did well at goalkeeper. We learned that the team has a number of options in the attacking positions.”
Everything is for real on Friday.
“We’re ready,” Blazer said. “We put a lot of work in, and the team is excited with the opportunity to play against Green Bay.
“We’re putting an idea together of how we want to play. Roles on the team are becoming more and more specific. As a result, we have a starting point for which to build upon.”