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Defensive consistency imperative as Huskies take on LA schools



MONROE, La. – The Huskies spend another weekend away from home, as the Washington women’s soccer team finds itself in Los Angeles to take on USC and No. 5 UCLA.

Head coach Nicole Van Dyke’s first season in charge has been promising to say the least, with the Huskies (7-1-2, 3-1-2) sitting at fifth place in the Pac-12. The UW has proven itself to be a contender in a conference full of top-tier squads.

After their sole loss of the season to Stanford on March 12, Washington wasted no time getting back to winning ways: downing Washington State in the Apple Cup, then trouncing Utah 1-0 in a hard-fought matchup, courtesy of yet another Summer Yates goal, bringing her tally to three on the season.

The UW offense has struggled as of late, with each of its past three wins coming by a one-goal margin. Van Dyke notes that the team looks to build on its ability to capitalize on opportunities in front of goal.

“We continue to fine-tune the small stuff that’s part of the game,” she said. “We need to continue to make runs and put ourselves in more impactful spots, whether that’s behind the back line or in front of it.”

In stark contrast, the Washington defense has built a wall through the first 10 games of the season. The Huskies have not allowed more than one goal in any game and have surrendered just 0.50 goals per match on average, leaning on the backline to keep them in matches.

However, Van Dyke does not want her team to be generalized as a “defensive team.”

“Defending is something we take pride in,” she said. “But we take most pride in our transition, defense to offense and offense to defense; we try to find moments where our discipline, work ethic, and our organization lead us to opportunities.”

A major facet of the squad is the consistency in how the back four have lined up. With seniors Kaylene Pang and Mary Johnston playing center back and right back, the squad has seen a level of leadership by example, highlighted by Johnston’s durability and stuck-in style of defending. In addition to the seniors, redshirt sophomore Shae Holmes has established her place at the other center back position, often leading the offensive charge from the back, with redshirt sophomore Tasia Kravitz to her left.

“It establishes a good flow to start the game, when we have consistency,” Pang said. “But we’re also able to be flexible and have adjusted at points where we’ve needed to.”

The Huskies will face their toughest challenge yet, as they take on the USC Trojans (4-3-1, 3-3 Pac-12) on Friday, April 2, at 6 p.m., followed by No. 5 UCLA (8-1-1, 5-1 Pac-12) on Sunday, April 4, at 2 p.m.