Lady Warriors shooting for another district soccer title on strength of defense

03/03/2014 11:56 AM

03/03/2014 11:57 AM

With rival Arlington on the verge of scoring the go-ahead goal late in the second-half, the Martin girls soccer team turned to Logan Phillips for a timely diving save.

Phillips, a junior defender, has a talent for getting to balls before they become shots on goal and clearing them out of the opponent’s end. And on team that has used a balance of second-half scoring outbursts and stifling defense to get out to a 10-0 start in District 3-5A, Phillips’ defensive skills cannot be taken lightly.

“She makes really awesome saves,” senior left outside midfielder Sydney Cerza said. “She’s the last one back there, so she has to be the one that has to get the ball back under control and get it out of there.”

Other than sophomore goalkeeper Madeline Wasden, Phillips is the last line of defense for Martin. And sometimes that means she must take on two opponents on the attack. But Phillips never feels alone on defense.

“We’re very strong this year,” Phillips said. “We move well, and communication is a very big key. And Madeline [Wasden] sees us. If someone moves up, she tells me to go back.”

Phillips plays forward on her club team. But when legendary Martin coach Ruth Knight, who recently won her 500th game, put Phillips on varsity her freshman season, she switched her from striker to stopper.

“She’s a good field leader for the defense,” Knight said. “She’s a little temperamental sometimes, but she’s definitely a competitor.”

Knight said Phillips’ combination of speed and aggressive play made her an ideal defender. It took some time, but Phillips has embraced the change.

“Now she says, ‘I’m a defender. I’m a defender,’ anytime someone says anything to her,” Knight said. “She does a really good job on defense and is an anchor for us.”

Phillips still gets to put her offensive skills to use, especially in shootouts. Martin has won three district games in shootouts, and Phillips has scored on three penalty kicks in those situations. She has also has an assist during regulation.

Wasden also takes her level play up a notch in shootouts. The first-year starter at goalkeeper has made two key saves in each of the Lady Warriors’ shootout triumphs.

“It’s takes a special person to carry us through nerve-wracking situations,” Cerza said. “We rely on her in shootouts.”

Phillips has helped Wasden develop into one of the district’s top goalkeepers by taking her under her wing. On the Martin team, veteran players are paired up with a younger team member to provide support and guidance. The bond that Wasden and Phillips have developed is indicative of the tightknit team chemistry of this year’s Lady Warriors squad.

Martin won district last season and advanced to regionals, but this year’s squad is better in the chemistry department, Phillips said.

“We’re talking more this year and making better passes and actually connecting,” Phillips said. “We have better friendships this year than last year. This year we’re all connecting.”

Martin players gather for lunch. They hang out after practice. And it’s no coincidence, Cerza said, that they players play well together on the soccer pitch.

“If you don’t trust each other off the field, you won’t be together on the field,” Cerza said.

As long as they keep working well together, there’s no reason Martin players shouldn’t be headed for a deep playoff run, Phillips said.

“As long as we keep learning as a team and keep talking as a team, we have a chance to go further,” she said.

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