North Xtra: Springdale girls soccer working to improve

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The Springdale High School girls' soccer team is firing the ball around -- passing and receiving under pressure.

According to Dynamos coach Jerry Concannon, it's the action of "problem solvers."

"We're trying to reorganize and accelerate the learning curve for the younger players," said Concannon.

Last year's Dynamos (16-8-2) were the PIAA Class A runners-up. But Springdale lost seven contributing seniors to graduation last spring. Likewise, Concannon and the 2012 Springdale team are pushing to meet high expectations in spite of high turnover. Despite the attrition, the Dynamos were ranked No. 4 in Class A by the Post-Gazette.

Even with a roster of 24 (10 of whom are freshmen), Springdale has the keys to solve its problem. The first is drilling.

Concannon named a few drilling objectives for the team. "Speed, physical nature -- things they aren't used to yet," said Concannon.

The newer players to Springdale's lineup are working to push their speed and toughness to the varsity level. Overall, Concannon is helping the players to condition themselves and to gain the instincts they need to convert goal-scoring opportunities.

"We've been doing a lot of activities that require physical contact," Concannon said. "We're picking up the pace of the game and increasing the speed of play. We've also been working on our overall game fitness. We have a small roster, so we can't afford injuries."

The second piece of the Springdale plan is leadership. Senior captain Marissa Sarsfield, a Cleveland State recruit, has returned at the central defender position for Springdale.

"She can see everything on the field and she's a good communicator," Concannon said. "She has above-average speed and fantastic game insight. She's physically strong; it's hard to get around her ... She's a fierce competitor; she does not like to lose. Marissa will leave everything out on the field."

Sarsfield is actually in her last two weeks of rehab from the ACL tear she suffered last March. Concannon is excited about Sarsfield's recovery.

"Her leadership will come off the sideline and onto the field," he said. "It's going to help the younger players."

Springdale's other senior captain is midfielder Sidney Smajda.

"She's a key player for us as well," said Concannon. "She's lighthearted, but knows when to be serious.

"She's gonna dig into you a bit, but she's going to do it in a way that is positive," he said.

Concannon also named defender Alex Gradwell, striker Amanda Kuba, defender/midfielder Brittany Smajda to his list of leaders. Bradwell, a junior, matured as a defender last year. Junior Brittany Smajda is a versatile utility player; she actually filled in for Bradwell last season during a brief period of injury.

"Amanda Kuba is an unusual player," said Concannon. "She just has the knack to be in the right place at the right time.

"Last year, she kept scoring these goals that were either game winners or game tiers. We're looking for that sort of knack from her again."

The third piece of Springdale's problem solving strategy is team-building. This August, the Dynamos attended a camp at Edinboro University. They trained intensely on the field, but also in classrooms and meetings.

Concannon explained that Springdale's team camp teaches soccer on whiteboards and in interactive activities.

"The way we set up the rooming is even strategic -- freshmen are paired with upperclassmen," he said.

In a nutshell, the team camp fosters team bonding.

Lastly, Concannon explained Springdale's "team sister" program. Basically, Springdale freshmen are paired with a veteran player "big sister." The process really helps the team-building, and will be more important than usual this year with 10 freshmen on the roster.

This past week, the Dynamos faced Belle Vernon, Waynesburg Central and Jeannette. The initial losses against Belle Vernon and Waynesburg may have been tough to take, but Concannon explained that challenge was the final part of the problem solving.

"We always try to schedule our non-section opponents to be bigger schools, so it challenges the team," he said. "We try to get that competition to prepare us for what would inevitably be a playoff team." hssoccer


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