Maintaining consistency through a long, challenging ECNL season is no small feat.
Starting strong can go a long way in attaining that, and the CASL Chelsea U17 squad has begun that lengthy slog in a positive fashion through the first couple of months.
“We started positively with our league play,” head coach Paul Forster told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “We hope that we continue to build on the results we’ve got so far.”
Through five conference games, CASL is a solid 4-0-1 in the Southeast Conference, currently sitting in second place. The team has been progressing nicely since kicking off the season in early September.
At the end of the month, CASL made the trip out west to the first ECNL Showcase of the season in Arizona.
“It’s always fun when you get to travel and Phoenix is a beautiful place,” Forster said. “The ECNL does a wonderful job with the locations they use to play the showcase events. We struggled a little bit out there, we had some injuries going in, and picked up some injuries while we were there. We won our first game and lost our second too, and I wouldn’t have said we played as well as we could in all three of our games.”
However, Forster of course was quick to note that he’s been fine tuning and emphasizing the negatives of that trip, while also working on polishing what did go well during that three-game swing.
Since that trip, CASL has won both of its games, a 3-0 defeat of Carolina Elite and 4-1 against Gwinnett Soccer Association. Mary Gracin Palmer has helped lead the way with 7 goals in the team’s first 8 games, even more impressive considering she is coming off an ACL injury. Dominique Babbitt, Madison Blackwell, Mary Bowers and Alexis Pendergraft have also contributed significantly, but Forster says that this group has really embraced a team-first mentality that is obvious on the field.
Continuing early success is also an emphasis at the moment, and it’s simply the case of striking the right balance, particularly when the long break for high school soccer begins in the spring.
“We certainly don’t want to peak too early because it’s a long season, we play for several months with some breaks along the way and try to maintain that and the focus of the kids when they’re in a very, very competitive high school environment with regards to academics is very important,” he said.
Despite the fact that his group is getting closer and closer to college age, the club doesn’t really alter much in terms of the approach to the season. The team has set some goals, and now it’s a matter of going out and executing them in similar fashion to years past, looking especially to maintain the momentum of the strong start.
“We’re fairly consistent with regards with the way the ECNL is structured,” Forster said. “The 14s through the 18s pretty much play the same teams on the same weekends, and the goal is the same in the terms of the style of soccer we want to play as a club, which is a possession-oriented, passing style of soccer, which hopefully is attractive and fun to watch, and ultimately that’s the same across the board, whether it’s the U14s or the U18s. And the idea is regardless who we’re playing on a Saturday or a Sunday as a club we want to win games regardless of the age group.”
CASL U17 Roster
Dominique Babbitt, Madison Blacwell, McKenzie Blackwell, Cailyn Boch, Mary Bowers, Abbey Crider, Caroline Duncan, Sydney Frizzelle, Amanda Lasater, Colleen Malarkey, Mary Gracin Palmer, Charlotte Pearsall, Alexis Pendergraft, Katarina Pidl, Emma Proctor, Bayley Rigsbee, Kenley Sigmon, Cheyenne Warrick