April 3, 2008
By Lindsay Jacki with additional reporting by Chris Macaluso
Purdue sports information office
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - If the Boilermakers hope to return to the NCAA Tournament they'll have to follow the trail blazed by Texas A&M in its 2-1 win over Purdue last Saturday in College Station, Texas.
The Aggie forwards were fast, their midfield dynamic and their defense intense. These are characteristics that lifted them to a No. 2 national ranking last November and raised this Spring's record to 5-0-2.
Purdue's preseason record now stands at 4-2.
Sophomore forward Cydne Currie scored both goals. She netted her first in the 26th minute as Purdue struggled to elude Aggie defenders. Her second came when the Boilermakers began to tire late in the second half.
Felicia Schroeder knotted the score at 1-1 in the 62nd minute, cracking a heavily contested 25-yard blast past a diving Kristin Arnold.
"The game provided us exactly the type of team and environment we needed to face", said Purdue head coach Rob Klatte. "A&M is very good at everything from work ethic to off-the-ball movement. They're the best team we've played this spring. FC Indiana had all the talent, but they weren't dynamic nor as intense defensively as A&M was."
The Boilermaker coaching staff provided the assists on Schroeder's goal by making several personnel adjustments after halftime. Bringing forward Loredana Riverso back to play at defensive midfield was the most noticeable transition.
Purdue's midfielders were forced into turnovers throughout the first half, which prevented the offense from expanding since they we're chasing back to retrieve. There was little to no attack, but Riverso's presence helped build offensive pressure out of the back by navigating the ball through a minefield of Aggie midfielders and up to the front runners Schroeder and Jessica Okoroafo.
Klatte was more than pleased with Riverso's efforts.
"We were really excited by her performance, not only on the ball but defending it as well," said Klatte of Riverso. "I think she accepted that role as defensive midfielder and really did a good job with it."
Another Boilermaker standout from Saturday was sophomore defender Liz Secue, who Klatte described as `phenomenal.'
At center back, Secue was placed into some difficult defending situations and on all but one occasion she came up with the correct response to the Aggie attack. Klatte estimated Secue won 17 one-on-one battles in which she stuck her opponent each time.
"If you were going to give out a player of the match award, Liz Secue would get it," Klatte said. "The A&M forwards are fast but Liz was a stud. She is a player that can deal with pressure, and once you find the ability to be comfortable in these situations, then you'll make good passing decisions and allow time for everyone else to move and open up."
As Purdue heads into its final half month of Spring practices, the coaching staff will find positions where players are at their most confident and can make the best of their attributes. These changes include placing forward Sylvia Forbes at center back and defender Kerri Culley in the central midfield.
Senior team captain Amy Burrell supports Klatte's methods for finding the best player at each position.
"The more diverse every individual player is, the better it is for the team," she said. "You never know what role you're going to need to fulfill in the fall, and it's challenging at the same time because you have to get used to different people at different positions. We're going to have to adapt to 14 new freshmen in the fall anyway so I think it helps."
Klatte wants to keep switching in and out players so he can get a grasp on what his players can and can't do. And while some players performed well beyond their expectations Saturday, the deficiencies of others were certainly exposed.
But all this experimentation excites rather than frustrates the 11-year head coach. The teams and environments they've competed against this spring have all demanded excellence, which in turn, has allowed Klatte to evaluate whether certain individuals are prepared for the fall.
"Matches like this provide feedback to tell whether players are going to be able to step up in the fall and be able to perform under game-like conditions," Klatte said. "A&M came out looking to jump on the game in front of its 300 to 500 fans, set the tone and be the ones to put their stamp on the game. We've got to start to do that as well and I think some of that will come with self-belief."
The Boilermakers next contest is at West Virginia on Sunday, April 13 for a noon match against a Mountaineer team that finished seventh in the nation in 2007.