Coaching shake up not stopping Lady Cougars
When an athlete enters their senior year of a sport, a higher expectation is placed on them. They are expected to lead by example, help the underclassmen on the team mature and leave a lasting legacy on the program.
The four seniors on the Carlynton girls soccer team had extra pressure placed on them early in their final season.
During the third practice of the season coach Jocelyn Rowe informed the players she would no longer be their coach. Rowe had coached the Lady Cougars from 2009 through 2011 and compiled a 4-44 mark. Rowe was unable to be reached for comment.
“She told us she wouldn't be here and walked away,” senior midfielder Maria Kalymon said.
It was a stunning blow to the entire team. But that is when senior leadership kicked in. The four seniors – Kalymon, defender Jessica Battyanyi, defender Amanda Dodd and midfielder Julia McNamara – ran the practices despite the uncertainty of the coaching situation.
“We knew we had to do it,” Kalymon said. “For about the first week we had to get everyone to do everything they needed to do.”
Word quickly spread that the Lady Cougars were without a coach. David Zinski – who was scheduled to coach the boys junior high program at Carlynton – heard about the opening and decided to take action.
“I was a health and physical education major so I always wanted to be in coaching,” Zinski said. “I heard about the situation and jumped at the opportunity.”
Zinski first met the team on August 18 – nearly a week into preseason practice. When the Lady Cougars first met their coach, there was some hesitation.
“We wondered if he really wanted to be here,” Kalymon said. “Like if he was being forced. But he told us how he really wanted to coach us. Now we really like him as a coach.”
Zinski didn't rush the team in practice despite the late start. He kept the opening practices very basic to see where everyone was and to evaluate the talent.
“We all got moved to different positions,” Dodd said. “They changed everything. But the coaching change was for the better. Anything is better than not winning.”
Zinski said he is happy with the 17 girls he has on the team. There will be a youth movement on the team in 2012 as eight of the players are sophomores.
“We are going to be pretty young,” Zinski said. “I am happy with having 17 girls though. I was told a few seasons ago they had only 11 girls come out. I would love to have 20 to 22 in the future but 17 is a good number.”
Zinski said the offense will be boosted by two of the sophomores in forward Pam Meighan and midfielder Oliva Kalimon.
“They have been doing most of our free kicks and set pieces,” Zinski said. “We also have juniors and seniors we will mix in. We have a lot of track people on the team. They can run all day. We are going to let them wreck havoc.”
The defense will be helped by the play of Dodd and Battyanyi. Zinski said he has been impressed with both during the two scrimmages before the season and said the defense will go with how well they can control the game.
“We are going to be much better defensively,” Dodd said. “We changed it all. It is going to be a lot stronger than last season.”
The goalie position will be a position that sees change as the season goes along. Junior Courtney Zotcin – who normally plays as a defender – was injured and cannot play her normal position. Sophomore Erica Rodriguez normally is in front of the goal but is currently playing backup due to not being 100 percent as well. Zotcin will fill the goalie position until both are fully healed.
Zinski said his No. 1 goal this season is to change is the attitude surrounding the Carlynton girls soccer program.
Over the previous three seasons, the Lady Cougars have only won four games. Zinski – who played on the Carlynton's boys soccer team as a defender from 2001 to 2005 – and new boys soccer coach Charlie Dagnal have discussed how they both want to change the perceptions of the Carlynton soccer programs.
“I think this team has a little bit of a losing mentality,” Zinski said. “I know the boys coach and that is the first thing we talked about.
“The mentality has to change. If someone scores, it doesn't mean you are going to lose. You have to keep your head up and come back from it.”
The change in attitude has started already. The players said they know they have a lot of work to still do to improve but feel the coaching change may provide a spark they have needed.
“We are more confident heading into this season,” Kalymon said. “The coaching change has been good for us. We feel more structured. We have more skills.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.