Great Expectations - Carlisle Soccer Gunning For Championship
Carlisle's new head coach, Enda Crehan, didn't get to watch many Carlisle games last year, and though the 2010 Chiefs team finished with a 17-6-1 record en route to a state semifinal appearance, he's not ready to make predictions or go on the record about season-ending goals for this year's team.
His players are a different story, however.
"Our end of season goal is the one almighty goal, which is to get that win at state," said senior defender Miles Rachner. "And I believe we can make it there this year, for sure, because honestly, there's lots of teams in our division that we know, that we've played, that have lost lots of seniors" to graduation.
The same cannot be said about the Chiefs.
Carlisle brings back all but one starter from the 2010 team -graduated defender Tanner Barbour - while adding two talented transfer students and several promising up-and-comers from the junior varsity program.
"I think we haven't lost any talent on the field," said Rachner, "maybe even improved."
Central defender Marvin Soyka, another returning senior starter, didn't feel the need to qualify his statement with a "maybe."
"I think we're way better," said the native German flatly.
Indeed, talk to the players on this year's team, and it's apparent that not only do they want to win the program's first VISAA Division II state championship, they think it's an extremely realistic goal.
In contrast, Crehan, who replaces retired skipper Harry Lance, is holding his cards a little closer to the vest.
"It's a big year for us. A big year for Carlisle soccer," said Crehan, who previously served as an assistant coach for Averett University's men's soccer team, as well as the director of coaching for PYSL. "We're blessed to have some good players all over the park, but again, everything depends on how we play. And then you need a little luck along the way, as well."
The Chiefs have been experimenting with a number of different playing formations, and entering Thursday night's season opener at North Cross - which Carlisle won 2-0 - several starting positions were still up for grabs.
That being said, the key contributors are taking shape for the Chiefs (1-0 overall), who will most likely use a 4-3-3 formation the majority of the time.
Up top, Carlisle will be led by forwards Corey Gaylor (Jr.), Reuben George (Sr.) and Jihun Lee (Jr.), who goes by the nickname "Duke."
"Corey, Reuben and Duke, all of them last year scored a lot of goals for us," said Crehan.
"I think once we click, we'll be golden," he added.
Probable midfield starters include returners Preston Key (Jr.) and Jermaine Soyka (So.), as well as first-year foreign exchange student Osman Sillah (So.), a tall, talented player from Finland.
"They're all in shape. I expect a lot out of them," Crehan said of his midfielders, noting that Sillah and Key could also see time at forward. "They know I expect a lot out of them. And if we can get all I'm gonna ask out them, then we'll be successful."
On the back line, Crehan expects central defenders Marvin Soyka (Sr.) and Bassett High School transfer Bennett White (So.) to form a strong unit with outside defenders Rachner and Nick Clark (Jr.).
The coach added that 2010 starter Dong Lee (Sr.) could also start on the outside, while Clark might see some time in the midfield.
"On defense, we have a lot of good players, on offense, we have a lot of good players," said Lee, a foreign exchange student from South Korea. "In general, we are good."
In goal, Carlo Pacifico (Sr.) edged Michael Decker (Sr.) for the starter's spot. Pacifico finished with three saves in the Thursday's shutout win.
George, the striker who finished with 19 goals and seven assists last year, said this year's team should be "way better" than last year's.
"This year we are both physically and technically stronger," he said.
Crehan probably wouldn't argue with that assessment, though he will continue to look for areas that could improve on a club that lost 3-0 in the state semis last year.
"I think we're strong. I think we're strong in all positions," he added. "Again, it's all a matter of how we perform that day. You see the best teams in the world, and (sometimes) they have an off day."