Senior defender Danielle Ross is a key contributor to the brick wall of defense that is the Cougars’ back four.
Courtesy: APU Sports Information

Through nine games this season, the Cougars’ women’s soccer
team has allowed only four goals and managed consecutive shutouts in its last four games. During those nine contests, the Cougars have outscored
their opponents 25-4 and currently hold a 7-1-1 record (5-0-1 in conference).

Keeping opposing teams to four total goals so far this season makes the Cougars’ defense the best in the Pacific West Conference. The next best defense is Dominican’s, allowing eight goals so far this season.

The Cougars’ defensive success does not come as a
surprise to head coach Jason Surrell, who places a great amount of importance
on defense.

“Defense is something that is one of the more important pieces that we’ve worked on since day one,” Surrell said. “It is certainly a big focus of ours.”

As much as Surrell and his staff stress the importance of defense, he believes the leadership of three senior starting defenders as well as the team’s commitment to defense is the reason for success on that side of the ball.

“A lot of teams like to be flashy and offensive-minded and lose sight of the commitment to defense, but our girls have all bought into the idea of committing to defend, and it all starts with the three seniors in the back,” Surrell said.

Allie Stone, Danielle Ross and Natalie Nick are the three starting defenders for the Cougars. They are currently playing their fourth season together at APU.

“We are very fortunate. The three of us have played together for three full seasons. We know what to expect from each other and how to get each other going,” Stone said. “We also take a lot of pride in our defense. Getting shutouts is something we look forward to and is definitely a goal of ours. We try to give the offense as many chances to score as we can.”

Ross also attributes much of the defensive success to the cohesiveness that she, Stone and Nick share.

“Since our freshmen year we have been working really hard on the dynamics of playing in the back together as well as the flow of everything and our communication,” Ross said. “We know we have to talk a lot or the defense will fall apart.”

Along with their dominant defensive play, the offense has provided plenty of scoring chances. This keeps the pressure off the Cougar defense.

“Offensively, we have spent a lot of time in the other team’s end. Our defensive really starts with our forwards and goes all the way back,” Surrell said. “All 11 people on the field have the same idea of what we’re trying to do.”

Having everyone on the same page allows for both ends to be successful and create scoring opportunities.

“It’s a two-way street and it’s worked well so far,” Stone said. “We are both holding up our ends to be successful.”