By Thomas Becker
When league play resumes, the UPEI Panthers' No. 1 priority will be shutting their opponents down.
The Panthers invested a lot of resources in their defence this offseason, as some of their top recruits patrol the backline, including Roselyn Kushko, Grace Veinotte and Isabelle Hagerman.
Their newest recruit, Erin Piltzmaker, is another defender with huge upside, and together this quartet brings a lot of intrigue to a team looking to improve upon the 23 goals they allowed last season.
"We made a conscious effort with our recruiting to bring in a group of young athletic defenders who will grow together at UPEI. Erin will be a big part of that unit," said head coach Lewis Page.
At five-foot-eight, Piltzmaker gives the Panthers great size and strength, and her physicality allows her to attack the ball before the offence gets a chance to set up in the final third. The 18-year-old is also a great leader with a high soccer IQ and after losing graduating co-captains Danielle Younker and Jennifer Balderston, Page will need someone to step up and help lead that end of the field.
"As a defender, communication is especially important in order to keep the backline and other players in front of us working as a single unit," Piltzmaker said. "I want to be a player who is considered reliable and dependable all of the time."
Having played for many teams — most recently with the West Ottawa Soccer Club — Piltzmaker often had to adapt her game to fit a coach's preferred style, which in turn made her the resourceful player she is today.
"She's a versatile defensive player, who's comfortable in midfield or in the back four," Page said. "I look for her to make an impact on our team defending, while also being solid in possession."
The Ottawa, ON native never strayed too far away from home, but when the time came to make a decision on a university, her adventurous spirit guided her to a part Canada she had yet to explore — Prince Edward Island.
"Once I toured the campus and played with the team, I knew UPEI was where I wanted to pursue my post-secondary education," she said. "I loved the atmosphere Prince Edward Island offered."