A case for defense as JU women have home opener
With a three-game road trip to start the season tucked away, the JU women’s soccer team has found several keys to turn as it prepares for its home openers Friday against Navy and Sunday against Georgia Southern.

Following an interesting preseason in which several contests weren’t decided until the final minutes, and a 1-1 road trip to south Florida (a win over Florida Atlantic and a loss to Florida International) to begin the season, the Dolphins dropped a 3-0 decision to the Gamecocks on the road but showed flashes of components coach Brian Copham considers critical to winning.

“We covered a lot of things in preseason camp and one of things was that, even though the score line (against South Carolina) didn’t reflect it, we were very pleased by our defensive effort,’’ Copham said. “We watched the goals on film and only one of them came out of the run of play. There was a set piece, a corner kick we gave one up on and we gave one up on a turnover which was our fault and the last one came through the run of play.’’

Because the film doesn’t lie, Copham believes the team generally is defending well and is well organized as the match unfolds.

“We’re pleased with that because that’s what we work on first and that’s because defense wins championships,’’ he said. “We’ve worked on our defending and feel like we have a good idea how we’re supposed to defend, where we’re supposed to defend and looked pretty comfortable doing it against a good team like South Carolina.’’

As the last line of defense, the Dolphins are relying on freshman goal keeper Jill D’Amico, who has gone from throw up nervous to at least I can eat nervous as the preseason and regular season have unfolded.

“I was really nervous at the beginning of the preseason with South Florida but now it’s excited nervous because I want to play,’’ D’Amico, from Naperville, Ill., said.

D’Amico said her biggest adjustment thus far is the speed and size of college players versus her high school days.

“The play is so much faster and the main thing for me is the girls are so much bigger so it was a little intimidating,’’ she said, “but as I play more and more I’m getting a little more comfortable with the college game.’’

Another facet Copham is happy about is his team’s ability to possess the ball.

“One of the things we have seen already is we have the ability to keep possession and that’s something we want to do,’’ he said. “As in many other sports, minutes of possession can be a very key stat and now we want to work on turning possessions into goal scoring chances.’’

In Navy, Copham said JU is going to find a team one would expect coming from a service academy.

“They are well organized, work hard, disciplined, a lot of the things you’d form an academy team,’’ he said. “They’ll work incredibly hard, they’re not going to quit and they’ll keep pushing.’’

Currently, Navy is 3-1-0 on the season and beat South Carolina Upstate 6-0 last weekend. The Navy game is set for 6 p.m. Friday at the Ashley Sports Complex.

Following that, Sunday the Dolphins entertain Georgia Southern at 1 p.m.

The Eagles made it to the final of the Southern Conference tournament last season and heading into the weekend are 2-0-1 with a game at North Florida Friday.

“They’ve come on strong and have a lot of newcomers,’’ Copham said.

He lauded second-year coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel for making things happen in a hurry.

“They are a difficult team as she is starting to make her mark on the program,’’ Copham said. “She is putting her stamp on it with her players, coaching style, the way they play. They’ll be tough competition especially on a Sunday afternoon.’’

Both games will shown on free of charge.

- Jim Nasella