The Devils’ Angels
Trying to get Kirsten DeGroat, Jessica Jagger and Julie Taylor to be serious is about as tough as getting a ball past them.
The Devils three senior defenders are supposed to be posing as a menacing wall of protection in front of a goal on the Eagle Valley practice field Monday, but there’s nothing but smiles and laughs as the trio continues to goof off.
It’s the same thing when the three come together to answer questions about their styles of play or their chemistry with each other – more joking, not a lot of seriousness.
But, talk to Devils’ coach Daiva Katieb about the important contributions that the threesome of DeGroat, Jagger and Taylor have made this season for Eagle Valley (5-3-1), and the conversation quickly turns serious.
“I think these girls just thrive off of being solid and not being able to be scored upon,” says Katieb. “I think sometimes it is a thankless job. You usually see the goals and the goal scorers and those are the tallies that are put on (the stat sheets). But, our goals-against record is very impressive. That’s of course to the credit of the defense.”
The Devils’ defense has given up 15 goals this year, in comparison to the 23 goals that Eagle Valley has put into the net while compiling its winning record. And, while there is no denying that the Devils have a deadly front-line scoring duo in Sam Phillips (nine goals) and Tanaee Mickley (six goals), the importance of a good defensive backfield does not go unnoticed.
As Taylor puts it, they are the alpha and the omega of the Devils’ success or failure.
“I think we’re pretty much the backbone,” says Taylor. “It starts and ends with us. It ends if they score, and it starts with us pushing up the ball.”
Adds DeGroat, “I think (the best thing about defense) is you get to show who’s the boss. You don’t get all the glory all the time. You’re kind of the person behind the scenes.”
The divine defense
The threesome have dubbed themselves the “Charlie’s Angels” of Eagle Valley, no doubt because of their cohesiveness on the soccer field.
Or is it because of their different defensive tactics – each one a contrast to the other?
Taylor puts it more simply.
“We all have different hair colors,” she says, which exudes a huge laugh from both DeGroat and Jagger.
Jagger, the redhead then chimes in with, “I think we communicate on the silent level. We know when we’re there.”
“Yeah,” the brunette Taylor responds. “We know when to pass to one another and when we’re going to be there”
“Or when to step off,” says DeGroat. “And, you know that you can trust them. When I know that I can’t get to a ball I know that I can be like, ‘Jess, you got it.'”
Katieb admits that the most important trait of all three is their ability to mesh with one another, but she explains that each is her own unique player with specific strengths.
“It’s definitely different styles,” says Katieb. “Kirsten, her favorite aspect of the entire game I would have to say is slide tackling. She loves that. She gets great satisfaction from it and she’s very good at it. Jessica tends to stay on her feet more and she commands our whole defense. She’s our sweeper, and she’s a very intelligent player. She’s good at looking up and helping her team out to see what’s going on and how the plays are developing.
“Julie is just very solid on the other side. She’s just a great all-around player. She’s really started to develop some more skills, getting the ball and taking it up forward.”
All three of “The Angels” agree on Katieb’s analysis, although when they break down each other’s games, they’re a little more blunt.
“Julie is pushy,” says Jagger. “I have to go against her in practice and it’s like whoaaaaa…”
“I like to slide tackle. I like to take people out,” says DeGroat nonchalantly.
“And Jess is graceful,” says Taylor.
“Yeah, very graceful,” quips DeGroat
“She’s just real grateful,” says Taylor, laughing.
Jagger and DeGroat start laughing too, picking up on Taylor’s joke.
“Don’t put that in,” says DeGroat, trying to hold back her laughter.
Since these Devils haven’t let much in all year, though, it’s probably OK to let this one slide.
Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608 or via e-mail at email@example.com