Soccer Season Preview Part IV: The Back Line
BATON ROUGE - The Tigers featured one of the elite defensive units in the Southeastern Conference during the 2010 season as they equaled the team's single-season record for goals allowed at 16 and nearly set a new team record with their 0.72 goals against average in 21 matches.
Their 16 goals allowed tied SEC champion Florida for the top spot in the league while their goals against average trailed only the Gators for the No. 1 spot in the conference during the 2010 season.
Two starters return along LSU's back line with senior leader Kellie Murphy in the center and sophomore Alex Ramsey at left back. Both Murphy and Ramsey started all 21 matches for the Tigers a season ago to help lead one of the SEC's top lines of defense.
Ramsey has actually switched sides of the field after playing at right back as a true freshman in 2010. It is a compliment to Ramsey's quality as a defender that she has been able to step in and take over at left back for two-time All-SEC performer Allysha Chapman, who has been moved into the defensive midfield with the start of the 2011 season now just eight days away.
Chapman is no stranger to the midfield as she earned Second-Team All-SEC honors as one of the premier defensive midfielders in the league in 2009. She was a First-Team All-SEC selection at left back in 2010.
After playing sparingly as a reserve midfielder as a true freshman in 2010, sophomore Shannon McLain took advantage of her opportunity to compete through the 2011 spring season in grabbing the starting spot at right back following Ramsey's transition to the left side.
Perhaps the most important development in strengthening LSU's starting 11 during the spring season was the emergence of redshirt freshman Jodi Calloway as Murphy's counterpart in the middle.
After missing the entire 2010 campaign with a severe knee injury suffered in playing with her club team leading up to her true freshman season, Calloway emerged as a dominant force in the middle of the LSU defense during the spring season. That allowed senior Taryne Boudreau to return to her natural position in the midfield. A native of Denton, Texas, Calloway is poised to anchor a defense that is ready to hold onto its reputation as one of the best in the Southeastern Conference.
"Having Jodi Calloway back from injury is a huge addition to our program this fall," Lee said. "What she's really done for us with her emergence on the back line is allow us to become a much more dangerous team in the attack in creating and scoring goals. When you consider the face that we've moved probably our top two defenders from last season into the midfield, it shows the talent level we have on the back line. We were impressed with this group for the way it performed throughout the spring season."
The Tigers solidified their depth along the back line in June when it was announced that University of Missouri transfer Molly Bear decided to join the program for the 2011 season.
Bear, a native of Glendale, Ariz., joined the program following a 2010 season at Missouri in which she received a redshirt in her first college season. A former member of the Region IV Olympic Development Program Team player pool, Bear provides immediate depth to the back line as she lines up at center back for the Tigers as a redshirt freshman.
There's no doubt that Boudreau and Chapman each provide the Tigers with world-class ability at the back if depth should become a concern this fall while battling an always difficult SEC slate.