Balance provides Southeast optimism

Friday, August 29, 2003

Defense wins games, coaches and T-shirts would tell you.

Southeast owes its back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships to that theory and more.

What some fans might not know about the Otahkians is they can score a goal or two as well, 91 in the last two seasons to be exact.

The Otahkians, who open their season today in a tournament at the University of Illinois, have won by shutout 23 times in 38 games.

"Defensively we're known for not letting goals in," senior forward Erika Todd said.

While Southeast's offense has been somewhat overshadowed by defense, the Otahkians have outscored opponents 91-23 the past two seasons.

"I think the offense is going to be really effective this year," junior forward Erin Slattery said.

Southeast's offense will again rely on ball movement and spreading the field. The Otahkians regularly switch fields and try to use the sidelines to open things up in the middle of the field.

"We try to switch the ball as much as possible," Todd said.

Much of the offense starts on the defense. The Otahkians' defenders not only act as safety valves for midfielders and forwards to restart the offense, but wing defenders make many offensive runs of their own.

"Playing in our system as a defender is a lot of fun," coach Heather Nelson said.

When Southeast defenders look upfield for someone to give the ball to there is almost no wrong choice. Southeast's offensive cupboard is full of polished scorers.

Southeast has six different players who have scored six or more goals in a single season the past two years. The four primary forwards -- Slattery, Erika Todd, Lisa Schweppe and Diana Poovey -- combined for 23 goals last season.

The offensive firepower goes beyond just forwards. Valerie Henderson scored six goals last season, and junior midfielder Marla Gianino has 12 goals over the past two seasons. Southeast also has several talented sophomores and freshmen who will contribute offensively.

Southeast will show off a new offensive look this season to better utilize its weapons. Besides Southeast's two-forward look, the Otahkians will feature a three-forward system. The Otahkians experimented with the formation in their final exhibition game and created several scoring chances.

"If we have the right three forwards with the right three midfielders, we can produce a ton of offensive pressure," Nelson said.

jjoffray@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 171

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