Syracuse’s Brenna Rainone switches from midfield to anchor Orange’s backer zone defense

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ A week before the biggest weekend of last season, Brenna Rainone went from a midfielder without a defined role to one of the most important defenders on the field.After Mallory Vehar tore her ACL in the NCAA quarterfinals, Syracuse needed someone to play the backer position — the last line of the Orange’s zone defense before the goalie — in the final four against No. 6-seed Boston College.So the SU coaching staff turned to Rainone, a two-way midfielder, with an opportunity to make a difference.“I didn’t play a lot last season so it was just more excited,” Rainone said of how she felt. “Obviously it was horrible for Mallory but the team needed me so I was ready and prepared and I had to execute for them.”Although Syracuse ultimately fell in the national championship game, Rainone succeeded in her newfound spot for the No. 6 Orange (8-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast). With three starting defenders graduating, SU needed replacements and now the junior has secured a starting role instead of being stuck as a backup in Syracuse’s clustered midfield.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhen Rainone met with head coach Gary Gait and assistant coaches Regy Thorpe and Katie Rowan at her individual end-of-year meeting last spring, she told them she wanted to keep playing defense to stay on the field.“She did a great job in the final four. I think it was a great move for her and she embraced it,” Gait said. “I think she loves playing defense and we’re happy with the move.”In SU’s defense, there are two backers on the field at once, Rainone said, and now that Vehar has recovered from her torn ACL, the two play together as the unit’s anchors.Although the Orange has allowed 10.6 goals per game, nearly two more goals than its average last season, Rainone said she’s enjoying her new position so far.“It’s definitely a lot more pressure than I’ve ever experienced,” Rainone said. “But I like that pressure. I like getting that pressure from my coaches, from my teammates.”Rainone said the week leading up to the final four was nerve-wracking. Now, 10 months later, she doesn’t even think twice about her position.Since Rainone played midfield her whole lacrosse career, playing defense wasn’t new, but she still had to pick up the intricacies.During one-on-one drills in practice as a midfielder, she always played on offense. So this past fall, she often got beat quickly when playing defense during one-on-ones and needed help with learning the backer. But since she had the whole offseason to adjust, she is now peaking, Gait said.Rainone is able to learn much faster by participating in defensive drills full-time instead of alternating with offense.Her experience has added a dimension to Rainone’s defensive game, midfielder Kelly Cross said. One of Rainone’s strengths is helping transition the ball from defense to offense, which comes from her midfielder background.“She has a really good stick for the ball, she’s really good at knocking it down, really good at picking the ball up in traffic,” Vehar said. “So when I see a bunch of girls in on the 8-meter, crashing in with the ball on the ground, Brenna’s always the one that comes up with it.”Both Cross and Vehar said that Rainone’s stubbornness helps her on the field. Vehar said that Rainone is often vocal, which helps the defense’s communication.And while the defense isn’t quite at the point where Gait would want it to be, he’s seen improvement throughout the season, especially from Rainone.“I think she’s starting to step up her game,” Gait said, “and solidify as an impact player on the defense.” Comments Published on March 24, 2015 at 12:05 am Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschwedslast_img

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