WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue soccer team held its first preseason practice on Thursday morning at the Mollenkopf Athletic Center.
The Boilermakers are back on the practice field together to prepare for a spring competition season after the team spent the fall season practicing, both in groups and as a full squad.
“Today we got off to a really good start,” sixth-year coach Drew Roff said. “Everybody’s really excited to play after the long layoff, we’re all very excited to be back on the field, knocking the ball around. We worked on some concepts that I think are going to be important this season. Players want to jump in and play, which is awesome, but we also need to work on some basic technical and tactical things that will allow us to play much quicker once we get into some bigger games. The effort today was great, the focus was great, and I thought the veteran players set the tone by how they performed. That’s what I was looking for, and we’re off to a really good start.”
The opening practice was an opportunity to be together on the field with teammates after more than two months away from practice. The squad returned to campus last week for conditioning drills prior to today’s practice.
“It feels really nice to be back with everybody,” senior defender Maya Lambert said. “We haven’t seen each other in a while, and usually have to be in two groups, so having one group has been awesome. Everyone looks really sharp and put in work over break, so it’s awesome to be back.
“When we had the ball, we knew that the work we put in was worth something, and that we’re all getting ready for the season. It’s nice moving to that next step after conditioning and getting ready for the season and playing.”
Purdue returns plenty of experience from its 2019 squad, as all eleven starters are back in 2020-21. The uniqueness of a delayed season to the spring allowed the team to have both the returners and nine newcomers training together last fall.
The extensive fall practice season, which featured sessions both in groups and as a full team, began in early August and ended in mid-November. It allowed the Boilermakers to take advantage of an extended preseason that typically would last a couple weeks in early August before the first game in the middle of the month.
“We did have a good amount of time to work with the team in the fall,” Roff added. “This is such an enjoyable group to work with, they want to learn and they want to get better. We do feel like we’re starting at a little higher level than a typical preseason where you really have to start with the basics. The foundation was laid in the fall, and this group was able to develop and now we’re able to start at a better place. It’s a better feeling knowing that you can move on to some more advanced concepts and tactics a little sooner because this group has experienced college soccer already, at least from a training perspective.”
The 11 starters that return for the Boilermakers include every minute played in goal and 87% (46 of 53) of the team’s points scored in 2019. Purdue earned a Big Ten tournament berth and a spot in the semifinals thanks to a quarterfinals victory at top-seeded and No. 7-ranked Wisconsin.
As Roff and assistant coaches Jim Schneiderhahn and Kelsey Brouwer prepare the team for the upcoming season, they will focus on tactical and technical elements while enhancing connections on the field with repetition and consistency.
Additionally, Roff will look to determine Purdue’s starting lineup and key reserves. With experienced returners and a star-studded group of newcomers on a deep roster, they will have options as decisions are made in the coming weeks.
“We certainly have some players that are likely to claim those spots that have performed really well consistently, but there are a few positions where the competition is fierce,” Roff said. “We need to find out who our best 11 are, who our six or seven players that are most likely to come in off the bench and give us a lift and continue to challenge those starting players for those positions. The next four weeks, we’re looking for consistency.
“We have a lot of talent, a lot of ability, and players with a great work rate and a great mindset. We need to find consistency, that’s key in the season. That’s our upcoming focus, and of course, tactically, when you have players playing new positions and you have some young players who haven’t played a lot of games in college, there’s a tactical element. We want to make sure we’re organized and disciplined. Without true exhibition games, it’s important that the training level is high every single day and that we can play scrimmages against each other. The nice thing is we have a deep roster now, so we can play an 11-on-11 intrasquad scrimmage, and the level won’t be too far off from what we’ll see in our competition. That’s an advantage that we have, and will hopefully pay dividends.”
The Boilermakers’ regular-season schedule, which will feature conference-only games, will be unveiled at a later date by the Big Ten Conference.
More Than A Game
The More Than A Game campaign was launched in August, in partnership with the John Purdue Club, to help the athletics department navigate the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and position Boilermaker athletics for future success.
Boilermakers and friends can make a contribution to the More Than A Game campaign by contacting their Boilermaker Athletics Representative or by visiting JPCMoreThanAGame.com. Fans can purchase a special More Than A Game t-shirt from Legends and the Purdue Team Store, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the More Than A Game campaign. To purchase the t-shirt, click here or go to PurdueTeamStore.com.
Purdue Athletics is one of only a handful of Division I athletics departments that is entirely self-sustaining: it does not receive any taxpayer dollars, general fund support from Purdue University, or student fees. John Purdue Club memberships are directed to funding the $12 million scholarship cost for student-athletes and this separate fund will help offset Purdue Athletics’ 2020-21 budget shortfall.