Soccer Preview: The Back Line
BATON ROUGE - Despite losing their defensive leader in the midfield with Allysha Chapman's departure following the 2011 season, the Tigers will be anchored by a seasoned back line that is sure to emerge as one of the SEC's best defensive units again this fall with three full-time starters returning and as many as eight players looking to crack the playing rotation in 2012.
Junior Alex Ramsey is the leader of the group as the most experienced member of LSU's back line with 42 starts under her belt in her two seasons with the Tigers. She cracked the starting 11 as LSU's right back during her rookie campaign in 2010 before making a transition over to the left side as one of the SEC's premier left backs as a sophomore a year ago.
Ramsey will make the move back to the right side this year with the emergence of fellow junior Nina Anderson as LSU's starting left back during the spring campaign and preseason training.
A physical presence on the back line, the left-footed Anderson saw action as a reserve wing midfielder during her freshman and sophomore seasons with 32 appearances before moving to the back this spring. Anderson's athleticism is sure to provide another dimension to the squad's back line as she will look to join in the attack at times from her left back position.
Sophomore All-SEC candidate Jodi Calloway is the lynchpin in the middle of the defense in the wake of a 2011 season in which she was selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Calloway, who missed her true freshman season in 2010 with a torn ACL suffered during the summer before her arrival in Baton Rouge, emerged as one of the nation's top young center backs while returning to form with 22 starts a season ago. She certainly gave supporters a glimpse of her untapped potential after joining the program as a TopDrawerSoccer.com Top 100 recruit in the country for the Class of 2010 as the No. 77-ranked prep prospect nationally.
Alex Arlitt joined Calloway as a member of the 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team after moving to the back line full-time midway through her rookie season when she finished the year as the club's starting right back. But with Anderson's emergence at left back in the spring and Ramsey's return to the right side of the field, Arlitt is likely to transition back to the midfield as a sophomore while providing the Tigers with experienced defensive help as needed.
Also providing depth on the right side of the line is junior Shannon McLain, who cracked the starting lineup in 12 of 18 appearances for the Tigers a year ago.
The Tigers must find a replacement in the middle following the departure of team captain Kellie Murphy in the wake of the 2011 season. Murphy made 54 starts in her 87 appearances as a Tiger, including 43 starts in her final two seasons as one of the team's starting center backs. Senior Reyna Lubin appeared to have the inside track in the spring, but her availability in the fall season is unknown after suffering a torn ACL in her knee at the onset of the spring season in February.
Ieyoub has played as a reserve wing midfielder in her three seasons with the Tigers before making a move to the back line in the offseason to battle for the starting spot left by Murphy. Maffei is perhaps LSU's most versatile newcomer with the ability to compete for a starting spot on either the front or back lines. The Tampa native seems to have found a home at center back in preseason training and will continue to battle Ieyoub for the starting spot through LSU's season opener on Monday when the Tigers travel to Norman, Okla., to face the Oklahoma Sooners.