A quick glance at junior defender Samie Cloutier’s statistics would tell very little. But she’s GW’s best bet to stop a charging opposing forward from getting a clean shot on goal.
Cloutier has a single assist and six shot attempts for her career. She has never converted a game-winning goal or placed a perfect ball in the back of the net. Cloutier has one purpose and one mission on the field: to prevent the other team from scoring goals.
“Offensive players have a lot of freedom on the field to run around and make plays, but I have to stay central on defense,” Cloutier said. “But that’s what defensive players do. I need to just make sure that we are playing sound defense and not giving up goals.”
A strong quality of the Colonials this season has been their mental toughness. GW has yet to give up a goal in overtime, a testament both to their offensive push in extra play but also their strong, focused defensive presence.
GW’s backline players excel at maintaining their zone positions but work together to present a strong, unified front. And a key to that front is communication. Cloutier and senior goalkeeper Lindsey Rowe are the most vocal players on the team’s roster, and it’s no coincidence they’re both on the backline.
“Lindsey is just so vocal as a team leader. I try to also help the team get organized,” Cloutier said. “On defense, its important that we minimize mistakes. If a midfielder or a forward switches sides of the field it isn’t a major issue. If a defender is in the wrong place, then that could lead to the other team scoring a goal.”
Defensive players don’t always receive the praise that is given to offensive players – but that doesn’t deter Cloutier. She is unwilling to allow an opponent a chance at a corner kick, knowing it allows an offensive advantage. It’s this sort of focus and competitive drive that head coach Tanya Vogel said makes Cloutier an indispensable part of the Colonials’ defensive lineup.
“Other coaches have told me that we are a relentless and physical team,” Vogel said in a previous interview with The Hatchet. “When we have players like Samie who give max effort then we are going to be a tough team to play.”
Now, Cloutier, Vogel and the rest of the team are focused on their league ranking. The Colonials are currently tied for sixth in the Atlantic 10, with only three conference games remaining. Their next match is at home against Richmond, currently second in the A-10, and that match is followed by a match against the third place Massachusetts squad.
Both Richmond and Massachusetts are known for presenting high-powered offenses, underlining the importance of GW’s defensive control.
“When Samie and our backline play well, Lindsey’s job is easier,” Vogel said. “It’s great when our whole defense competes and plays as a unit.”
Cloutier’s motivation for the sort of consistent, tough play her coach is looking for is simple: victory.
It’s an outlook she brings onto the field for every competition.
“Defenders hate giving up goals and they hate losing, of course,” Cloutier said. “I’m not different. I just go out onto the field and try to help my team come out on top. We all play hard and it’s my responsibility to do my part and be at my best.”
This article appeared in the October 20, 2011 issue of the Hatchet.