Carlynton boys soccer making massive turnaround in 2012
Comparing the 2011 and 2012 Carlynton soccer teams is like comparing night and day.
The 2011 squad did not get its first and only win until Sept. 26. The 2011 Cougars did not record a single Section 3-A win and were outscored, 60-16 — including five shutouts.
Fast forward a year, and that all seems like a distant memory. The Cougars are 7-2-2, including a 4-2-2 mark in Section 3-A action. The only blemishes of the season are 2-1 losses to Bishop Canevin and Seton-La Salle — the top teams in Section 3-A. The team has six shutouts and has outscored opponents, 37-6.
“I think we are playing with more heart,” senior goalkeeper Phil Meighan said. “We have a lot of the same talent from last season. It is a lot of the same players with a couple of new freshmen stepping in. I think we all want it more and are more focused.”
Some credit should be directed to first-year coach Charlie Dagnal. He came into a tough situation: He was the third coach in three years and needed to respond to the Cougars worst season in a decade. But midway through the first season, he has his squad playing at a high level.
“When we go out and play our hardest and together, it gives this group confidence,” Dagnal said. “I know we have a good chance of winning in every game with our starters and the subs we send out onto the field. There was a little question mark on how many wins we could get. Now we know we can win every game.”
While a coaching change may be tough on a team — especially for the senior athletes on the squad — the Cougars responded to the change positively.
“Most of us knew coach Dagnal since he played here,” Meighan said. “We were excited to get a new coach.”
“Especially one that graduated from Carlynton,” Mason Herlihy added.
After opening the season 0-1-1, the Cougars went on a five-game win streak in which they outscored opponents, 30-1.
“They want more,” Dagnal said. “They are not satisfied with just being better than last season. We set expectations early on and they bought it. They expect to do better, not just me.”
The biggest turnaround may be in defensive intensity. Carlynton has shut out seven teams and held two others to a single goal.
Meighan was moved back into the goalie position, a spot he hadn't played for Carlynton in nearly two years.
The senior has been successful in the spot, though, as he has helped Carlynton to a 0.6 goals-against average.
“I love the move to goalie,” Meighan said. “I played there my freshman year because we really didn't have a goalie. I was moved my sophomore year and junior year and now I am back where I started.”
Dagnal said the key to the defense's success is that the entire team is buying into the scheme.
“When you have midfielders working back to win the ball 50 yards from the goal, it takes pressure off of the defense,” Dagnal said. “We have only given up two goals in the run of play. The rest have been set pieces and throw-ins.
“We have shown we are not easy to score on in the run of play.”
Last week was a big one for the Cougars. After a 1-1 tie with rival Bishop Canevin in a game they led for a majority of playing time, they rebounded with a 1-0 win over Avonworth.
The win over the Antelopes gave Carlynton a solid hold of third place. Seton-La Salle leads the section with a 9-0 mark and Bishop Canevin is second at 6-1-1.
Carlynton has a 4-2-2 section mark and a win over Avonworth, who fell to 3-5. Eden Christian is close behind Carlynton in the standings with a 4-4-1 mark.
Dagnal has been prepping the team for each squad it faces as he knows how important the final stretch will be.
“We have seen all of our section opponents once now,” Dagnal said. “We play a little different each game depending on the opponent we face.”
While things look bright for the Cougars, Dagnal said he wants his team to stay in the moment and focus on one game at a time.
Carlynton is on the inside track for its first playoff berth since 2009, but Dagnal wants to keep the attention to the current opponent.
“The most important game is the game you are playing,” Dagnal said. “I tell my guys that every game. We can't worry about the games you're not playing. You cannot do anything about them. We just need to take it one game at a time.”
The Cougars return to the field Thursday as they take on section-leading Seton-La Salle on the road. Start time is set for 7 p.m.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.