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Division II transfer Bibbs wins starting role due to toughness

first_imgNick Bibbs limped toward the sideline, his left leg unwilling to bend. After a few painful steps, he paused suddenly and fell to the ground. Lying flat on his back, Bibbs grimaced and held that left leg. ‘It was just killing me,’ he said. Bibbs, a starting midfielder on the Syracuse men’s soccer team, suffered a deep bruise to his quadriceps after colliding with a Pittsburgh player in Saturday’s game against the Panthers. SU head coach Ian McIntyre sat him out the rest of the half, but Bibbs returned to gut out 25 more minutes in a 0-0 game. ‘He’s a very physical, athletic player for us,’ McIntyre said. ‘He’s a bit of a warrior as well.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder text That warrior’s mentality has earned Bibbs a spot in the starting 11 on the Orange (1-4-2) in just his first year with the program. The transfer from Division II Caldwell College has started the last five games for SU as a defensive holding midfielder. Bibbs has relied on his athleticism and toughness to earn the respect of his teammates. Heading into Tuesday’s non-conference matchup at home against Canisius at 7 p.m., Bibbs is looking to build on his gritty performance from the weekend. For much of the second half Saturday, Bibbs found himself hampered by the injury to his quad. His limp worsened after every tackle. His face wrinkled in pain after every collision. But he played through. ‘It shows character,’ SU defender Jakob Karlgren said. ‘He wants to win. He wants to play. Even if you’re hurt a little bit, he’s still in there and taking a lot of knocks. It’s a good signal for the team.’ One play late in the second half embodies that mindset. With 22 minutes to go, the Panthers linked together a few passes, resulting in a wide-open shot attempt from the top of the 18-yard box. But out of nowhere, Bibbs came sliding in to get a piece of the shot. It slowed the ball down enough so SU goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo could make a sprawling save to knock it wide. ‘I’m supposed to protect my back four,’ Bibbs said. ‘If the (opposing team’s) forward is floating around and trying to check to the ball, I take responsibility for him.’ All game long, Bibbs shined in his role as holding midfielder. Playing directly in front of the Orange defenders, Bibbs is responsible for marking up on any opposing forwards lurking and waiting for a pass. This allows his back line to stay further back and prevents the other team from getting in behind the SU defense. It is in this role Bibbs’ athleticism truly benefits him. Listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, he is ‘not the biggest guy,’ in the words of McIntyre. But that doesn’t prevent him from being a force in the air. In addition to Karlgren and McIntyre, fellow midfielder Geoff Lytle also acknowledged Bibbs’ ability to win important head balls as something that makes him a unique player in the Orange’s lineup. ‘He gets up there and just hangs in the air,’ Lytle said. ‘It’s wild to see him. That’s something you really need from a defensive midfielder to win those head balls.’ And on a team that has struggled to score goals this year, a dominant header of the ball could be the much needed remedy. McIntyre said he is looking for Bibbs to keep pushing forward on attacking chances and to use his athleticism and leaping ability on the offensive end of the field. ‘He has an aggressive mentality to go after the ball,’ McIntyre said. ‘We think we can get some more out of him going forward with his aerial ability.’ Perhaps that something will come as early as Tuesday. The game against Canisius should provide the Orange with chances to experiment, while still coming away with three points. The Golden Griffins are 0-5-0 this season and have scored just one goal. Syracuse should win and do so dominantly. It can’t really afford to do anything else. ‘I think we let a few games slip already, and we’d be very disappointed not to come out with (the win) in this match,’ Bibbs said. ‘We’re going out there like it is a Big East game. It’s another match, and we have to win matches.’ After intense massages and ice baths over the past three days, Bibbs has done all he can to make sure he will be ready to go Tuesday night. For McIntyre, players like Bibbs are essential to the turnaround of the SU program. ‘We need players like Nick Bibbs in our lineup,’ he said. ‘He provides us a bit of personality and character.’ mjcohe02@syr.edu Published on September 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: mjcohe02@syr.edu | @Michael_Cohen13 Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

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