Guard makes an un-Dowd-able difference for Souderton defense

There’s one trait that separates a great defender from a good defender.

It’s not a physical thing like wingspan or quickness, or an intangible thing like timing or vision or even a fundamental thing like communication. What puts the great defenders apart is a little spark of anger they feel every single time they give up a point.

Souderton senior Tori Dowd has this trait and it’s pretty evident in the way she plays defense.

“I hate when people score against me,” Dowd said. “I always do everything I can to try and stop that from happening. Defense is just my passion in basketball.”

The best word to describe Dowd’s defense would be relentless. She rarely leaves the floor and draws the assignment of guarding the other team’s top ballhandler for every second she’s in the game. While Dowd is quick to attribute a lot of her success to her teammates, Dowd’s defense is a huge part of what led Souderton to the No. 1 seed in the District I 6A bracket.

The Indians will be relying on Dowd’s lockdown prowess starting Wednesday when they host No. 16 seed Haverford in the second round of the tournament.

It’s been a growth too, with the 5-foot-7 guard getting better on the defensive end with each season. For Dowd, it’s become about time and place. There’s a right time to go for a steal or deflection and the rest of time, just keep her player in front and trust her help defense.

“Defensively, she is absolutely relentless,” Souderton coach Lynn Carroll said. “That kid has a motor unlike anybody I’ve ever seen and a drive unlike anybody I’ve ever seen. She gets angry if somebody beats her to the basket.”

Defense is both difficult and tiring. Offensive players inherently have an advantage while the defender can only react, and try to do so without fouling. It’s a task made only more difficult the more a player on offense has the ball.

By guarding point guards, Dowd usually plays a lot of defense in a given game. Still, the senior never seems to slow down.

“I think every time I make a big play it’s motivating and makes you want to do it again,” Dowd said. “It feels good, everyone is cheering and you have the sense you made a big impact.”

Dowd will be playing next season at Muhlenberg, one of the top teams in the Centennial Conference. She said most of the colleges in the Division III conference recruited her and she visited most of them, but felt most comfortable with the Mules.

Muhlenberg, and most of the rest of the Centennial, was also after Dowd for a different sport. The senior was also a standout on Souderton’s girls’ soccer team where ironically, she was known for her offensive contributions.

“I think about it all the time how weird it is,” Dowd said. “I just felt that was the best place for me to try and make a play that would impact the game.”

The senior said she’s always preferred basketball and while Muhlenberg had interest in her for both sports, that wasn’t a route she wanted to go down. Dowd hopes to be a physician assistant and felt trying to balance two sports on top of academics would have been too much.

Carroll noted that Dowd could have chosen to pursue soccer in college and would have done very well, just as well as she’s expecting the guard to do in basketball.

“If I’m a Division III coach, it’s a no-brainer that I try to get her on my team,” Carroll said. “What she does, you cannot coach a kid to do. She just does it, it’s in her DNA to work hard and she doesn’t know how to not work hard.”

In Souderton’s 4-3-3 formation, Dowd played as a wide forward so she spent matches flying up and down the flanks and going to goal looking to score. It’s a taxing, high-energy role which requires similar energy to what she does playing defense in basketball.

She contributed 10 goals and five assists this past fall and was an All-SOL selection as a junior and senior. With Dowd playing on the opposite flank from leading scorer Allie Trick, when the Indians got both flankers going around center forward Cara McCausland, they were a potent attacking side.

“Sometimes we overplay to Allie’s side but we have to get Tori busy too,” Indians girls’ soccer coach Chris Felber said during the fall season. “When Tori’s busy and Allie is busy, it really stretches the other team.”

Dowd’s hustle was readily apparent on a soccer pitch and Felber had a running joke that seemingly every goal Dowd scored was only after she went all-out sliding across the ground to tap in a pass nobody else could have gotten to.

Souderton moves the ball well as a team, so Dowd doesn’t always rack up a ton of direct assists but often makes the pass before the pass that leads to a hoop. She also puts her energy to work in other area, ripping down a team-high nine rebounds in the SOL Tournament title game against CB South.

This year, Dowd has also seen an uptick in her offensive contributions. She’ll likely never lead the Indians in scoring, but there have been plenty of instances this season where the senior looked to attack when she would have passed in prior seasons.

“Tori is playing with a lot more confidence on offense,” Carroll said. “She’s looking to make stuff happen when the ball is in her happens.”

“I like to pass more than shoot,” Dowd admitted. “But my teammates have been getting on me recently and just giving me a lot more confidence and that’s been helping.”

As one of three senior starters and four seniors in the rotation, Dowd is motivated heading into her final playoff push. Souderton made states last year, advancing all the way to semifinals and that run has been the motivation for the team all season.

“It comes down to keeping the girl in front of you and knowing your limitations,” Dowd said. “Everybody wants to get a steal, but there’s a time and place so it’s better to keep the girl in front of you than go for a steal and let her score.”

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