Golden Tide boys soccer team set to open season today|
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
By Rich Murawski Assistant Sports Editor
CURWENSVILLE - After a streak of three consecutive years qualifying for the playoffs, the Curwensville boys soccer team has fallen on hard times, failing to punch its ticket to the postseason in 2010 or 2011.
But a senior-laden team featuring a total of 10 letterwinners has been working hard to improve, and sixth-year head coach Bob Shearer has really liked what he's seen from the 2012 version of the Golden Tide.
"Most of the guys that are here now played spring ball, and we saw a lot of good things," he said. "We really worked a lot this spring and during the first two weeks of fall practice on our passing game. We desperately needed to improve that, and I think we are well on the way."
While passing was a bit of a weakness for the Golden Tide a season ago, it was scoring that was their Achilles Heel.
"Another big problem we had last year was getting the ball in the net," Shearer said. "We had very few goals. We put a lot of emphasis on the positioning of the kids and where they need to be.
"We had games last year where we played in our attacking third over half the game, but not get a ball in the net. That has to drastically improve this season."
Shearer hopes to get some offensive punch from junior letterwinner Pat Shearer and senior letterman Jeremy McCracken as the Tide's two main forwards.
"We're looking at Pat like that bull moose to get the ball in the net," Shearer said. "He has the strength and the power to be able to do that.
"Jeremy has a real strong leg and has that ability to be in the right position at the right time. He has "soccer sense," and he has the ability to hit the net from different angles."
Shearer also hopes to get some scoring from his midfield where senior letterwinner Corey Bennett has moved from striker to right wing. And left-footed sophomore Aryan Shearer will provide some punch from the other flank.
"Corey played a lot of striker last season, but we need someone out on the wing that has experience," Shearer said. "And Aryan will be on the left side. You don't get a lot of left-footed players, but we have one, in Aryan and we are going to use him where he is most effective."
The center of the midfield should be very strong, according to Shearer, with senior letterwinner Jordan Schultz and junior letterwinner Brett Gardner seeing the lion's share of time.
"Brett has that strong leg up the middle," Shearer said. "And Jordan has the ability to see the field and distribute the ball well."
And then there is the calling card of a Curwensville boys soccer team - its defense.
"The one thing I can probably always brag about with a Curwensville team is defense," Shearer said. "And probably the one thing in our league that we are always known for is our defense.
"And it was our defense, even though we only won one game, that kept us sane last year. This year won't be any different."
Senior letterwinners Mahlon Kester and Brady Palmer and junior letterwinner Jason Thorp will reprise their roles on the back line for the Tide while junior Dillion Davis will be the fourth member of the starting unit.
"Mahlon Kester and Jason Thorp are the primary two that are going to hold down that back line for us," Shearer said. "I can't say enough about them. And Brady Palmer will take up the right-hand side at fullback like he did last season."
"The big difference this year is we need a new goalkeeper, and we got lucky. Josh McGarry came out for the team. He's played rec soccer quite a bit, but he's never played varsity. He's come along very well."
The Golden Tide also have the luxury of having some talented depth as senior letterwinners Zach Bloom and James VanValkenburg will likely be the first two off the bench and can sub in pretty much anywhere on the field.
"We need a good utility-man, and Zach is excellent at any position we put him at," Shearer said. "This spring he played anywhere from center-mid to striker to right fullback.
"I feel really good that I have that kind of player that I can sub in and out.
"James is the same way. He's an all-around good utility player."
Senior Lucas Frailey, junior Roger McKenzie, sophomore Bryce Palmer and freshman Alex Collins should all see playing time at midfield and perhaps other parts of the field as the Tide sub in and out.
With the experience and depth on the team this season, Curwensville is hoping to be able to meet its goals.
"Obviously we need to win more games," Shearer said. "That's the most overwhelming goal. Secondly, we want to have a sufficient winning percentage that we can go to districts."
Those goals can certainly be attainable, given the cohesiveness and cooperative nature this squad exhibits.
"I thought I had a very cooperative group last year - and a lot of these guys were on that team - but this is my sixth year as the head coach and this is probably my most cooperative team I've ever had," he said. "They are very committed to what we are trying to do."
Curwensville opens its season today at Elk County Catholic.
*Corey Bennett, *Zach Bloom. Lucas Frailey, *Mahlon Kester, *Jeremy McCracken, *Brady Palmer, *Jordan Schultz, *James VanValkenburg.
Dillion Davis, *Brett Gardner, Josh McGarry, Roger McKenzie, *Pat Shearer, *Jason Thorp.
Bryce Palmer, Aryan Shearer.
4-at Elk County Catholic, 7 p.m.; 6-at Punxsutawney; 11-Brookville; 13-at DuBois Central Catholic; 17-at Forest; 18-Brockway; 22-at Ridgway; 25-Punxsutawney; 27-Elk County Catholic; 29-at Brockway, 1 p.m.
2-at Brookville; 4-Forest, 3:45 p.m.; 10-DuBois Central Catholic, 7 p.m.; 11-Keystone; 13-Ridgway, 11 a.m.; 15-at Redbank Valley, 7 p.m.; 18-Kane; 20-at Clearfield, 6 p.m.
Matches begin at 4 p.m. unless noted.