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Going Inside the Game

by Jake Kring-Schreifels
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Taking a look at Fordham’s practice, preparation, and the end of the year

Delving into the internal machinations of a company, team, or campaign has been the recent trend in the movie industry. In Moneyball, we get an up-close look at the men of baseball’s front office, making trades, crunching numbers, and working the phones. The latest political thriller The Ides of March analyzes the background of a presidential campaign trail and all the deceptive schematics that it entails. Contagion, the latest medical thriller explores the ins and outs of a pharmaceutical company, its employees, testers, and corporate figureheads.

Within these films, and also in general, there is something extremely interesting about the spectacle of the process, instead of solely witnessing the end product. So, I took this Hard Knocks approach to the soccer field to get an in-depth look at what goes on behind the scenes of Fordham Women’s Soccer team. What makes them tick?
 
Right now the Lady Rams hold a 3-2-1 conference record with just three conference games left to play. For them to have a good chance to peak into the playoffs, these games are must wins, which also means preparation is essential.
 
“We practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” said starting goalie Rachel Suther, who had a season high nine saves Friday night. “We lift once a week and we also have a private goalie practice too.” 
 
Before the whole team gears up for practice, the team’s three goalies work with assistant coach Casey Sommers on numerous hands drills as well as going over certain game situations.
 
“We focus on playing the whole field for real game experience. We do quite a bit of shooting and crossing practice as well,” Suther added.
 
In terms of preparing for the other team, Coach Selmani is a bit coy in dispelling information to his own team. He insists that it is better to stick to your own game plan, work on things only you can control, and continue to personally improve. 
 
“You can’t give them [the team] too much [information],” said Selmani. “The game dictates what you do on the field. We want to set the tone of how the other team plays. We want to dictate 90% of the game,” he says and to ensure this, “our practices are efficient and high pressure.”
 
Though the Fordham facilities do not have the type of video library that the Oakland Athletics had access to as depicted in the film, Selmani will occasionally check out old tape of opponents to see different team’s styles.
 
“We have tapes of last year and get an idea of what to expect. We’ll look at stats and see their top scorers or biggest threats,” he said.
 
The general consensus however remained that the best preparation came internally. This is understandable, especially because soccer is not a heavy statistic sport. Certainly you have certain players to watch for, but instead of studying football-like formations in idealized film rooms and getting out the John Madden marker, soccer is based on team chemistry and emotion. The inner drive must be the best preparation.
 
“Ness,” as they address him, “says you’re the only person who can motivate yourself, “said midfielder Megan O’Connor. “We do specific team speeches where someone is chosen to address the team,” she said.
 
Other Midfielder Rachel Madasci summed up the team’s philosophy succinctly: “Don’t fear anyone.”
 
Currently in the middle of a four game road trip, the Lady Rams are getting their first taste of adversity. After losing 0-2 to conference leader Massachusetts, Fordham came back on Sunday by taking care of a weak Rhode Island team, winning 2-0, to keep them in contention for postseason play. Coach Selmani wasn’t worried about the team’s first road stint, regardless of the outcomes that occurred.
 
“In a strange way, the players are focused more,” he said. “They’re focused all on the game and every player is then on the same page.”
 
There was reason to speculate though, especially because of Fordham’s heavy early home schedule and their strong play at Coffey Field. Going 5-1-1 at home before Friday’s away trip, the Rams certainly have looked comfortable on the Bronx pitch.
 
“I think playing on a field you practice on every day- we’re used to the turf and the goals here -and its exciting under the lights, playing for the school,” said goalie Suther. 
 
“We’re more comfortable here,” said Madasci, bluntly stating, “It sucks to lose on your home field.”
 
In fact, Coach Selmani jokes that there is no coincidence why the team scores more in the second half at home. The goal the team practices with gets scored upon the most by his team during the actual games -which his girls always choose as their second half goal.
 
“It’s called homeostasis for a reason,” he said. “You’re in a comfortable zone”. 
 
Fordham has two more away games this weekend, at St. Louis on Friday and then Charlotte on Sunday. Amongst catching Cardinals postseason fever and travelling over the entire southeast region, Fordham will have to stretch their legs well and keep making adjustments, which Selmani says still needs to be made.
 
“We at times rush into making decisions, instead of being more confident,” he says, “but we still have a young team with a lot of freshman.” 
 
It’s clear this team knows how to motivate themselves though, and with three games left, they will surely follow Madasci’s orders. Don’t fear anyone.
 

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