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Redwood girls rely on defense to win soccer games


12:00 AM, Jan. 28, 2013 EST

Redwood players Alyssa Castillo, left, Kyra Elmer, Ellie Linan, Megan Tate and Ashlee DeMascio form a defensive unit that is one of the main reasons for the team's success. / Ron Holman

Redwood girls soccer coach Jason Vieira knows it is a cliché -- but it definitely rings true when talking about his team.

If the Rangers are going to win a West Yosemite League championship and make a run at a Central Section Division II title, it will be because of defense.

Vieira runs a base four defense and relies on five different players to give goalkeeper Caitlin Owens more than enough help to shut down opposing offenses.

"The five backs we use are fantastic," Vieira said. "I'd put them up against anybody in the Valley."

The success of that defense starts in the middle with a pair of seniors.

Ashlee DeMascio is a returning All-West Yosemite League selection.

"She is the center back and of our team captains," Vieira said. "She's pure speed. One of the fastest kids you'll ever see and she never stops. She has a great motor and is always going."

Joining DeMascio in the middle is Ellie Linan.

"She is great at keeping everybody focused back there," Vieira said. "She always has a presence and her voice is always heard. She does a great job of getting the ball out of danger."

On the outside is sophomore Megan Tate, who scored the game-winning goal in Thursday's key WYL win over Lemoore.

"She is a real solid player and has a dynamite right foot," Vieira said. "She has a rocket. Her touch is getting better and she's a real hard worker. You tell her something and she listens. She gets it."

Freshman Alyssa Castillo got the start against Lemoore and also plays on the outside.

"She is a real good player with fantastic touch," Vieira said. "She has real good size for a freshman. She's built like a rock. She also has a real good left foot."

Sophomore Kyra Elmer came off the bench against Lemoore, but she is another piece of the puzzle to Redwood's defensive unit.

"She is a track star and one of the fastest girls," Vieira said. "She makes up for a lot of mistakes with her speed and tracks down balls on the run because she can outrun everybody. She does a great job of attacking also."

The Rangers have played almost flawless defense during their current nine-game winning streak.

Since losing their WYL opener to Hanford, the Rangers have given up just five goals, and of those nine wins, five have come via shut out.

For the season, Redwood has given up just 15 goals en route to an overall 17-4-1 record.

The defense is one entire unit, but inside that unit, there seems to be a special bond between the two center defenders for the Rangers.

Vieira says DeMascio and Linan have contrasting styles of play that are complementary.

DeMascio is the speedster of the two, and Linan has more touch and the ability to get the ball out of dangerous situations.

Vieira says having those two back there makes his job extremely easy.

"It is a gift," he said. "No amount of coaching can make up for having two girls like that in the middle of your defense. The girls love playing around them. They trust each other. From a coaching standpoint, all I have to do is try and motivate them. They know what to do on the field."

DeMascio called Linan her back bone.

"If one of us messes up, the other one is always there and vice versa," DeMascio said. "I never worry if I'm going to mess up because I know she'll be there to help me."

The season is far from over for Redwood. The Rangers still have a lot of work to do if they hope to successfully defend their WYL title and make a championship run in the postseason.

Redwood closes out the regular season with three games against crosstown rivals, starting with El Diamante at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Giant Chevrolet-Cadillac Mineral King Bowl.

If the Rangers are going to accomplish those goals, it will start with their defense.

"The back four is the team within the team," Vieira said. "They're the engine that drives everything forward. I credit the winning streak to our defensive play."

 

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