Historically, the Lady Bisons have not been a team with a great deal of offensive punch. Coach Jon Ireland thinks the offense will improve as the season continues, but right now defense is the key. The Lady Bisons will be tested for the third straight game on the road Friday night at 6 when they travel to Tennessee-Chattanooga.
The Lady Bisons beat Troy on the road Wednesday night 1-0 in a mud bath as the field was drenched from a pouring rain. The Lady Bisons are 2-1 heading into the game with Chattanooga, the first time in the history of the program that they have started with two wins in the first three games.
This is the third meeting between the lady Bisons and Chattanooga. The Lady Bisons won 1-0 at Chattanooga Sept. 14, 2007. They lost to Chattanooga at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex 3-1 Sept. 7 last season.
The Lady Bisons are depending heavily on freshmen on defense with Katie Wood, Kameron Stillwell, Ashley Duggins. Sophomore Kirsten Heikkinen also is on the back line, making the transition from midfielder
“I can’t say enough about well we our defenders are doing,” said Ireland. “One of the things you worry about the most is how quickly they will be able to communicate and play together.
“Overall, we have good speed at the back. We are stronger than we have ever been there without a doubt. Wood, Stillwell and Duggins come from very good club teams. It is not a huge jump up for them.”
“Kameron is a tremendous defender,” said Ireland. “She is a play we could put anywhere on the field. She is very versatile. She has very good speed and she uses her body so well that it is hard to get around her on the field.
“She is so athletic, so tenacious and so aggressive. She has the attitude that she is not going to get beat. She is a shutdown defender you can put on a forward and trust that she is not going to get beat.”
Duggins made her college debut as a center back in the Troy game and appears to have found a home at that position.
“Ashley is one of the fastest players on our team,” said Ireland. “She is also very technical. She has good skills and can also hit the ball. She has one of the best two shots on the team. If we need to get the ball cleared she has the ability to do it. Both she and Katie can really clear the ball.”
Despite being a freshman Wood has started all three games and presents a calm and cool demeanor on the field.
“She is so composed that no matter what is going on she doesn’t get stressed,” said Ireland. “She seems very in control and in command. She is very sure-footed with either foot. She doesn’t seem to miss the ball. She can clear the ball with her head or her feet.
“She reads the game very well. She is very smart.”
Heikkinen is the veteran on the back line. She played last season as a midfielder.
“She can play anywhere on the field for us,” said Ireland. “Her goal at midfield last season was to mark the other team’s best center mid. She did real well with her defense last season.”
Freshman goalkeepers Erin Zerio and Ally Marler have combined for two shutouts.
Chattanooga, 1-0, marks the second straight time the Lady Bisons have been the opponent in a home opener. Chattanooga defeated Tennessee tech 3-0 in Cookeville Aug. 28 to open the season.
“Chattanooga is very organized,” said Ireland. “They are well-coached. They will be disciplined and they will be fit. They will know exactly what they want to do in terms of a game plan.
“They are a team that is going to play very hard. They are going to work and work. So if we don’t match their energy we will be in trouble. “