Delaney, Doyle put 'D' in defense at Ludlowe, Warde
Centerbacks don't get headlines.
The goalie who makes the saves gets the glory. The goal-scorer gets ink and praise for finding the back of the net.
But the centerback, a defensive specialist, toils in anonymity despite playing one of the most important positions on the field.
That's why Fairfield has a pair of the best-kept secrets in FCIAC girls soccer -- excellent centerbacks at Ludlowe and at Warde.
Delaney anchors a Warde defense that has allowed a scant 0.46 goals per game. Doyle is the backbone of a Ludlowe defense that has allowed just 1.0 goals per game.
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Delaney, a junior, was the sole returning defender from a Warde team that was the FCIAC runner-up in 2011. The Mustangs lost three defenders, including Keegan Thimons, who now plays at Vanderbilt.
Warde switched formation this year from a 1-3-4-2 to a flat-four defense, with Delaney and sophomore Nicole Ciccarelli as the centerbacks.
"It's a lot of pressure ... playing as a defender, you are the last line," Delaney said.
But Delaney -- a three-year varsity player who started at Lauralton Hall as a freshman -- has been a calming presence for the inexperienced Mustangs defense. Following Delaney's lead, Warde started the year 7-0-2 and did not surrender a goal in the process.
"Every time we step on the field we think that's what our goal is," Delaney said. "Obviously we got scored on (since then), but every game we go in thinking that we're not going to get scored on."
Warde coach Tom Cunningham credits Delaney's maturity on the back line with the molding of that unit.
"Her experience made it easier for other girls to transition in," Warde coach The Mustangs have conceded just seven goals in 15 games, as of Wednesday, thanks to their defense, and most notably Delaney.
"She's the backbone of our defense," Cunningham said. "She's a rock-solid defender. She can play anyone one-on-one and has the ability to compete with anyone."
Delaney's defensive prowess is not lost on rival Ludlowe's head coach Kate Dawson. The first-year Falcons mentor spent the last three seasons as Warde's junior varsity coach and watched Delaney closely last year.
"She's solid in the back and a very consistent player," Dawson said. "She's exciting to watch and balances out the back of their defense."
But in Doyle, Dawson has another star defender to watch every day.
A four-year starter and Ludlowe captain, Doyle has been a catalyst in the Falcons' transition to a new coach.
"I think knowing the team and how it works and the communication [helped determine]... what we wanted to keep from last year and what we wanted to be new," Doyle said. "It's a new era of Ludlowe soccer."
"She plays with heart and passion every time she steps on the field," Dawson said. "She's so stoic and really solid in the back ... I think that she gives us some relief in the back at times because Ally Doyle never gives up on a play."
The senior leads Ludlowe's four-player defensive unit, which has conceded just 15 goals in 15 games. Three of the Falcons back line are seniors, with Doyle and sophomore Annie McNamara serving as the all-important centerbacks.
Doyle, who will play at Fordham next year, sees a bit of herself in McNamara, and has seen the sophomore soak up all the tutelage she provides.
"As a sophomore, I was one of the three in the back," Doyle said. "I think my leadership is rubbing off on her. I think she's becoming as much a leader on the field as I am."
Having that leadership is not lost on Dawson, who believes McNamara's growth is a direct-result of Doyle.
"Ally has taken Annie under her wing," Dawson said. "She challenges her and does a great job bringing her along. It's exciting because it'll be interesting to see how Annie steps into those shoes next year. Big shoes to fill."
Both Delaney and Doyle also relish their unpublicized roles, and take personal pride in keeping teams off the scoreboard.
"It's everything," Doyle said. "You have to be the eyes of the field ... I'm not the one scoring the goals, but I'm saving the goals and I take so much pride in helping the team out, even in the back."
"I think the team, itself, if we do our part, that's our glory," Delaney said. "The attention is nice, but ... working together is more important."