The Lady Bisons 7-0 loss at Kennesaw State Friday night, and their 6-1 setback at Mercer Sunday, has prompted Ireland to hold remedial defensive skills sessions this week.
The Lady Bisons will test what they have learned this week in a pair of home games with Atlantic Sun teams this weekend. The Lady Bisons face Stetson Friday night at 5 and then meet Florida Gulf Coast Sunday afternoon at noon.
The Lady Bisons are 3-11-0 overall, 1-5 in the A-Sun. Stetson is 7-6-1, 3-2-1 in the conference.
“We have gone back to basic defending, something that I assumed we would be able to do better at this season,” said Ireland. “We would have people in the right spots, but for whatever reasons, we have made so many mistakes, not just the freshmen, but the entire team.
“We have made a lot of mistakes that we felt could be corrected if we went back to the fundamentals. All this week we have done a lot of defensive drills and made sure our players understand the importance of defending both one-on-one and team defending.”
Ireland is still in a rebuilding process with the Lady Bisons. Last year his goal was to make sure that the team always had a chance to win, regardless of the talent differential between the Lady Bisons and their opponent. Because of the defensive lapses this season the Lady Bisons have often been out of games in the first half.
“We have thrown one-vs.-one defending and team defending out the window,” said Ireland. “It always starts in one-vs.-one matchups. We are getting beat all over the field in one-vs.-one matchups. That is giving us all kinds of problems.
“Last year we did a lot better job overall in defending. That is why we were in every game. You can blame some it on the freshmen, but it is not only the freshmen. We have spent this week watching a lot of film.”
The Lady Bisons were behind 2-0 at Kennesaw State in the first 4:20 and were down 2-0 at Mercer in the first 3:34. Mercer scored its first goal 1:29 into the start of the game.
“Most of the goals we have given up in the first few minutes of all these games have started from poor one-vs.-one defending and poor team defending,” said Ireland. “We feel like if we can focus on that and get that corrected we are going to give ourselves a chance.
“That’s something we prided ourselves on last year. In every game last year, even if we were getting outplayed and the other team was clearly better, we hung in there. You never know what is going to happen in soccer if you do that. This year we are losing games in the first five minutes and there is no excuse for that.”
Ireland points out that it is hard for a team to regroup after giving up an early goal or two.
“When you have to take the ball out of your net in the first minute or two of the game and the other team is celebrating you are so deflated,” said Ireland. “It is hard to recover from that.
“The big thing is to give ourselves a chance in the first few minutes. We have a lot of freshmen and our players have to have time to settle down and realize they can play with this team and they will be O.K. The real key for us is the first five minutes.”
Ireland expects a physical game with Stetson. The Lady Bisons and Stetson are the top two teams in the conference in fouls. “Stetson is a big physical team,” said Ireland. “We are not a physical team, but we do play aggressively. That is something for everyone to keep an eye on in that game.
“It has been awhile when we could say we have lost but we played well and we were unlucky. I am looking for us to come out and play well and give ourselves a chance to win again.”