Bac­skai leads st­ingy Prince­ton de­fense

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Joe O’Gor­man jo­gor­man@tren­to­nian.com @j_o­gor­man819 on Twit­ter

Most fans be­lieve the game is de­cided in the at­tack­ing end of the field where the goals are scored.

Prince­ton’s Mad­die Bac­skai, an All-Ivy de­fender, sees the game en­tirely dif­fer­ent.

“De­fense is not a po­si­tion that gives you much spot­light,” said Bac­skai, as the Tigers pre­pare for Brown and North­east­ern this week.

“It can some­times be in­tim­i­dat­ing when you are the one of the fi­nal play­ers between the ball and your own goal,’’ added Bac­skai. “You rarely have the op­por­tu­nity to ‘mess up’ with­out there be­ing a sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quence, but I love the chal­lenge.’’

Also a mem­ber of the U-21 na­tional team, Bac­skai wins far more bat­tles on de­fense than she loses. Bac­skai, just a sopho­more, has been an in­te­gral part of the Tigers de­fense that has al­lowed just 1.75 goals a game.

Prince­ton (6-6, 3-0 Ivy) has played one of the tough­est sched­ules in the coun­try with 10 na­tion­ally ranked teams and a tough Ivy cam­paign.

Bac­skai wouldn’t have it any other way, though.

“I get ex­cited to have th­ese play­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties,’’ said Bac­skai. “Play­ing strong teams makes our weak­nesses more ap­par­ent and re­veals what we need to im­prove.’’

If there has been an im­prove­ment in the Ber­wyn, Penn­syl­va­nia na­tive from her fresh­man sea­son to this year, it has been in the abil­ity to re­lax.

“I’m much more com­fort­able and con­fi­dent on the field,’’ said Bac­skai. “I don’t think much has changed skill-wise, how­ever, my role in the back­field has be­come more de­fined. I’ve been able to fo­cus less at­ten­tion on my per­sonal po­si­tion and more at­ten­tion on help­ing my other de­fend­ers and mid­field­ers in front of me with their or­ga­ni­za­tion.’’

It’s that or­ga­ni­za­tional part of the game that re­ally in­trigues Bac­skai.

“One part of de­fense that I re­ally en­joy is be­ing able to see ev­ery­thing in front of me,’’ said Bac­skai. “You con­trol the game and feed en­ergy to the play­ers in front of you. The tempo and speed of the game re­ally starts in the back­field, and it’s great be­ing able to dic­tate that.’’

The Tigers have Brown (1-10, 0-3 Ivy) on Satur­day as they look to make it 18 straight over the Bears. North­east­ern (76) comes Sun­day, and af­ter this week they fin­ish the sea­son off with three Ivy games.

“Win­ning the Ivy is cru­cial to se­cur­ing a spot in the tour­na­ment,’’ said Bac­skai. “By not hav­ing that se­cure po­si­tion last year, I think my­self and the rest of the team are more tuned in and fo­cused on Ivy play. It’s ev­i­dent the com­pe­ti­tion has in­creased in the Ivy League, and ev­ery game needs to be ap­proached the same. We have some skill op­po­nents left to play in the Ivy League, and the fi­nal out­comes will come down to prepa­ra­tion and who wants it most.’’

Count Bac­skai among those be­ing well-pre­pared, and it’ll be tough to top her de­sire to ex­cel.

BEV­ERLY SCHAEFER — PRINCE­TON ATH­LET­ICS

Mad­die Bac­skai has been an in­te­gral part of Prince­ton’s de­fense this sea­son.

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