Kate Elson has always covered a lot of distance for the women’s soccer team. As a freshman, she was the only member of her class to play in all 18 games. She repeated the feat as a sophomore, scoring two goals in 19 games and five starts, including the game winner in the team’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal match against Rhode Island last November. She’s a speedy winger with the motor to cover a lot of territory.
Now in her junior year, she’ll be covering territory a bit further back on the pitch. After spending her first two seasons with the team playing mostly at outside midfielder, Elson is transitioning to the backline to bolster a defense that lost several key players after last season.
“I think a key part of it that is different from being an outside mid is just staying with the line of defense and being able to shift over,” Elson said. “But yeah, I like it.”
Head coach Sarah Barnes began thinking about moving Elson into a defensive role last spring, but told Elson she was making the move right before the team’s Buff and Blue scrimmage during the preseason.
Barnes made the move to balance a team that has plenty of midfield depth, but lost key parts of its defense to graduation in May. The Colonials defending corps posted nine shutouts and led the A-10 with a 0.84 goals-against average last season. Elson was the primary candidate because her motor, and ability to play with both feet, makes her versatile.
“She’s the kind of kid who will play anywhere and has no issue with that,” Barnes said. “It’s a pretty smooth transition for her, so I think we’re just trying to maximize her talents and make our team a little stronger and a little deeper.”
Elson’s right foot is her dominant one, but she can also use her left. During the team’s home opener last Sunday against East Carolina, she split her time between playing left back and right back. GW’s defensive unit was stellar and shut out the offensively minded Pirates.
Elson played 50 minutes Friday in GW’s 1–0 loss to Drexel. The defense was mostly strong, limiting the Dragons to three shots, and Elson was not on the pitch when the GW defense fell apart to allow the lone goal.
Elson said that she plans to continue playing on both sides and working on improving her game with her left foot. She said that being able to field different looks on defense gives the team an advantage.
“I think it’s really good to have that versatility,” Elson said. “Especially being able to use both feet and being able to shuffle between the left and the right.”
While moving around, the biggest challenge is for Elson to learn to play with the rest of the backline as a unit.
Elson has been getting cues on the field from senior defender Emily Brown. Especially with senior defender Brooke Bean out due to injury, Brown has been leading the defense that has been a patchwork so far, albeit a successful one.
“Kate has been awesome,” Brown said. “Obviously it’s a new position and she’s always asking questions and always looking to do more and watching films and going out and doing extra, and that’s what you need.”
One of those questions came when Elson was trying to figure out her spacing in relation to the rest of the defenders, which Brown explained wasn’t necessarily going to come naturally.
“I asked Emily because I had problems with shifting in the backline,” Elson said. “And she told me if I think I’m where I’m supposed to be, I should be two more steps over than where I think. That was her motto.”
Two steps over shouldn’t be too tall of an order. After all, Elson has covered a lot more territory before.