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Carlynton boys soccer headed to playoffs for first time since 2009

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Signal Item
Senior Peter Muszalski, left, and the Carlynton boys soccer team clinched their first WPIAL playoff appearance since 2009 last week. Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item

In its season finale, the Carlynton boys soccer team finished the game against Brentwood in the most important way: winning.

The Spartans gave the playoff-bound Cougars a scare, though, in a 2-1 loss.

The Cougars scored on a throw-in during regulation as Grant Schuler threw the ball to Emanual Burton and got a second throw-in goal when Mason Herlihy threw it to Logan Schuler to defeat Brentwood (4-11-1).

“In the end we got the win,” Carlynton coach Charlie Dagnal said. “That's what matters.”

The victory improved the Cougars' record to 8-2-2 in Section 3-A action and 12-3-2 overall as the team enters its first postseason since 2009. Dagnal made the postseason a goal for this team entering his first season leading the squad.

Now that the Cougars have reached that goal, their coach wants them to take it further.

“Just making the playoffs is not going to be enough,” Dagnal said. “We need to strive for playoff victories. It is what we should expect.”

Carlynton enters the postseason playing its best soccer of the season. Over its final eight section games of the season, the Cougars went 7-0-1. The wins included a 2-0 upset of Seton-La Salle and four other shutouts. The Cougars did not allow an opponents to score more than a single goal during the stretch.

“We are clearly improved from the beginning of the season,” Dagnal said. “Other coaches have told me they have noticed the improvement. We have put players in position to be successful.

“The team is believing they can win. It is a mental thing. They had what it takes physically and had the ability. Now they have the mental aspect.”

After a 6-7-1 mark in 2010 and a 1-14 season in 2011, the Cougars have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2009. While limited playoff experience may be a concern — the squad has only the six seniors with postseason experience, and that was a single game their freshman season — Dagnal has confidence they will be ready for whatever they face.

“I don't think Class A soccer is what it once was with elite scorers everywhere,” Dagnal said. “It has really picked up. It gives us a chance. Our defense has played well this year. We have the threat of shutting out the opponent in every game.”

Entering the playoffs, Dagnal said Sewickley Academy will be the No. 1 squad. The Panthers enter the tournament with a 15-0-1 record, the lone tie being a 0-0 stalemate against Quaker Valley, a top Class AA team.

Outside of Sewickley Academy, everything is up for grabs.

“Sewickley is the team to beat,” Dagnal said. “Other than that, I think the rest of us are on the same level.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at nsmith@tribweb.com or 412-388-5813.

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