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Carlynton girls soccer getting serious

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item
Olivia Kalimon and the Carlynton girls soccer team are off to their best start since the 2007 season.
Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item
Pam Meighan, left, had four goals in Carlynton 9-0 win over Eden Christian last week.

Carlynton girls soccer isn't a laughing matter anymore.

After a five-season span in which the Cougars won eight games — and only two section contests — the team is on the prowl for wins in a turnaround season.

“I don't think teams take us as a joke anymore,” senior Jacqueline Roussos said. “They know we can compete.”

“And we don't take ourselves as a joke,” junior Pam Meighan added. “Not that we did before, but we now have something to fight for.”

The Cougars entered the week 5-5-2 and 4-4-1 in Section 3-A play. Carlynton is fourth in the section standings and in playoff contention for the first time since 2007 as the top three teams from each section earn a postseason berth.

Part of the change in the team's fortune can be credited to the coaching change at the beginning of the 2012 campaign.

Previous coach Jocelyn Rowe resigned from the position three practices into the season. David Zinski was supposed to coach the boys junior high program but jumped at the opportunity to coach the girls squad after hearing about their predicament.

“Before our new coaches, we would barely have enough girls to fill the field, and we didn't have subs,” senior Courtney Zofcin said. “We would be losing 9-0 by halftime. We just had a hard time scoring.”

The Cougars won only two games last year, but that is where their progress started. The team went to several indoor tournaments, and many of the girls played on a spring team together.

“They were together most of the summer,” Zinski said. “Alumni from the soccer teams came back, and the boys and girls teams all played together. Playing better competition does a lot.”

While Zinski wanted to challenge the team physically, he was just as concerned with the team's mindset. He came in knowing the program was struggling and wanted to change expectations from losing to winning.

“The first thing I tried to do was get rid of the losers' mentality that Carlynton girls soccer has had,” the second-year coach said. “We started to get rid of it last year, and they started to play hard. We expect the girls to win a lot of games.

“Instead of it being, ‘We only lost 2-0,' the girls are actually pretty upset now if they lose. That is a big change.”

The change in attitude hasn't come without its share of bumps. Carlynton had a rough start to last week with losses to Avonworth and Bishop Canevin but rebounded with a 9-0 win over Eden Christian.

Freshman Natalie Quinn got the scoring going just more than four minutes into the game. After that, Meighan scored four straight goals to put the Cougars up 5-0 early in the second half.

Cameron Bogats, Olivia Kalimon, Mackensie Ellis and Zofcin rounded out the scoring.

Things look bright for the program. The team has only two seniors on the roster — including Roussos, who is out for the season due to a dislocated knee — and 11 underclassmen. A lot of production comes from the team's six-play junior class.

But Carlynton isn't thinking about the future as it is in the hunt for a playoff berth this year. The Cougars entered the week two wins behind Bishop Canevin and Vincentian Academy, which are tied for second with six section wins.

Entering October still in the playoff chase is a new experience for the Cougars, and they have their minds set on making the most of it.

“We want to make playoffs,” Meighan said. “None of us have been to playoffs before. That is the goal.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or 412-388-5813.

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