By Jim Sullivan Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News
---- — They work the D like Jekyll and Hyde.
Newburyport girls soccer co-captains and center backs, senior Jackie Krusemark and junior Aly Leahy, have played defense together since youth soccer, but their styles couldn’t be further apart.
“In terms of personalities, they’re night and day,” says Clippers co-coach Rob Gonnam. “Aly is the verbally demanding one, and Jackie is the quiet one. I don’t care how or why, it just works.”
The chemistry has worked well enough that the Clippers are 10-1-1 with six shutouts. But Krusemark and Leahy have had to rebuild their system this year after graduating Nicki Galer and Meghan Corbett last spring. This season, they’ve had to bring in some new talent, freshman Delaney Bartol and junior Jess Schneider, and get them up to speed.
“I think the fact that me and Aly have been together (for so long), we’re so comfortable with each other that it made it easier to make the transition with other people,” says Krusemark. “It wasn’t totally starting from scratch.”
“It was a pretty pain-free process,” says Leahy. “Everyone who came in stepped up and did what they needed to do, so we didn’t really have any problems.”
As far as Gonnam sees it, the big reason it has worked out are these two players.
“That’s why they were elected captains,” Gonnam says of Krusemark and Leahy. “There is a high level of maturity. If they were both real verbal, they might tend to nullify each other to some degree. But (Aly) has always been the dominant one, and Jackie is the one who tends to go forward, especially now that she has the better touch on the ball. She is the one that goes forward, steps up, takes a little more risk. Aly will drop back and that’s something we’ve worked out. They’ve never discussed that.”
Both Leahy and Krusemark are a part of a defensive system that essentially sees itself as an extension of the offense, always reading the play before it happens, moving the ball forward and often finishing each other’s sentences.
“People will always focus on who is scoring the goals, but not who is on the defense,” states Leahy. “Obviously the offense is a huge part of the game. The defense is where plays can start, but it’s also were plays can turn into a disaster.”
“So we’re just focused on being really stable in the back and not letting anything up,” elaborates Krusemark. “Because even one bad play can end up in a 1-0 loss.”
“It’s really important if we score goals that we’re not letting up goals,” concludes Leahy. “Because our offense works hard and we need to make sure we’re there for them.”
This outlook and communication has served them well, and they will need to rely on it one more time to get deeper into the state tournament than they did last year, making it to the state semifinals before falling to Canton, 3-0.
“It definitely starts now,” Krusemark says of the push to the postseason. For her it’s personal, since she was unable to play against Canton with a pulled hamstring.
“Last year, I didn’t know beforehand that I would be out,” says Krusemark. “It was kind of a last-minute thing that I had to sit out. So, this year I’m definitely ready to be there through the whole entire run.”
Both girls hope to hit it big in the final six games of the regular season and secure the number one seed again.
“We want to be a high seed and make a run, so we need to win our games now and that plays a big role in how we’ll do in the postseason,” says Leahy. “We need to focus on getting better each game. We have to focus on each game before we get to the tournament, because without winning those games, we don’t get very far.”
And once it is done, the team of Krusemark and Leahy will be a thing of the past.
“We’ve gotten pretty used to playing with each other, so it will be good to make a final run as a team,” says Leahy.