Plant discusses Panthers preparations for offseason – The Daily Eastern News
February 2, 2022
The eastern women’s soccer team‘s season ended last November after qualifying again for the OVC tournament. While the playoff performance was impressive enough, the Panthers would be eliminated in the first round.
Two months later, the Panthers had time to sit back and reflect on the last season as they prepare for their next upcoming OVC campaign. Head Coach Jake Plant has been able to put much of the ups and downs of last season into perspective and is using that information to plan a productive spring break.
“Coming back from the break you get a couple of priorities to address. Make sure the foundation is solid,” Plant said. “One big thing we are looking at right now that we think will have a massive impact this fall is our ball possession rate. We pride ourselves on being a possession-based team. Also, one of the biggest things is bringing the understanding of “why” to the group.”
He also said roster changes make it difficult to work on things long-term.
“Not only do we need good ball possession rates to dominate games, but we’ve had a lot of turnover the last two seasons,” Plant said. “Many children come and go with large classes. So learning and understanding the micro-details of possession is something we really need to do this spring.”
Looking ahead to this spring off-season, Plant said this spring is more of a return to normal spring seasons.
The last two springs have been more affected by COVID, with one being shortened and the other containing a postponed fall season.
“The next three to four months is every detail of possession and why the ball goes here and there and needs to be taught,” Plant said. “It might not be the only thing, but it’s the biggest thing we’ll be doing all spring.”
In addition to emphasizing possession, Plant said he was willing to give younger players potentially important roles.
“They give the younger kids a chance to develop, grow and become the most important kids in the program. They earned those spots (last year) and that’s where we are as a program. A lot of our kids graduated, especially in the backline, so we had to stagger it with some youth,” he said.
“Now these younger kids are a bit more experienced, which is nice. The future is bright when it comes to those positions because by the time they’re juniors and seniors they’ll have played fifty to sixty games for EIU and be rock solid.”
Spring training places a heavy emphasis on possession.
“[Possession]will be immersed in everything we do,” Plant said. “Every training session, every drill, even if we do a final drill where the goal is to score, there will be an element of possession principles. . . The importance is underscored by the fact that the girls see it in many different scenarios every day.”
Possession play and starting possession on the defensive line is important to Plant and the offense he is trying to execute for a number of reasons.
“Droping the centre-backs towards goal and spreading wide tempts the other team to come forward,” Plant said. “We want the opponent to come to us to create space in their half of the field. Then, when the pressure comes, the decision makers in the background can bypass it. It’s about creating space behind the opponent.”
This potential space created behind has proven effective for the Panthers on multiple occasions as they doubled their scoring tally since their 2020 season (played in Spring 2021). The Panthers have scored five goals in ten games this 2020 season, averaging 0.5 goals per competition. However, the Panthers scored ten goals in seventeen games last season with an average of .58 goals per game.
With younger players developing under Plant with an emphasis on possession and creating space in the other half, combined with six proven goalscorers who found shots on target for the Panthers last season, that average should continue to rise alongside these players. The foundation for the Panthers is solid with room for growth, and Plant’s ideas and methods appear to be taking the program into more competitive seasons to come.
Nick Bays can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]