Beefed up schedule helps Canon-McMillan boys’ soccer
Canon-McMillan could have been content with just surviving Section 5 play, but the boys’ soccer team beefed up its overall schedule in an effort to unseat rivals Peters Township as WPIAL champion and Upper St. Clair as PIAA winners. In addition to facing those clubs twice during the regular season, the Big Macs will battle perennial playoff squads such as Norwin, Mt. Lebanon and Pine Richland. Plus, there is PIAA power Erie McDowell.
“This is the toughest schedule we have assembled since I have been here,” said C-M skipper Larry Fingers. “Certainly our section games are very important and our non-section games will offer us great competition this year as well.
“As always, we play in the toughest section in the WPIAL and State,” Fingers continued, noting the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the division would make playoffs in most other sections.
And, while all section games are meaningful, the Big Macs are taking the proverbial approach to the season. “Although it is very cliché, we are taking it one game at a time, as getting through section play is a battle in itself,” Fingers said. “We would like to get into the playoffs and then take it from there.”
Experience will get the Big Macs there. They return seven starters from last year’s 11-4-2 team that finished third in Section 5 with an 8-2-2 slate, behind champion Upper St. Clair (11-0-1, 23-1-1) and Peters Township (9-2-1, 18-4-2). The Big Macs lost to the Indians, 4-0, in the WPIAL semifinals and 2-1 in the PIAA tournament.
C-M returns its top three goal scorers in Josh Kruczek, Nick Sodini, and Jake Wilcox. Kruczek led the way with 20 goals, Sodini with 13, and Wilcox with 11. Along with that threesome, the Big Macs return central midfielders Jake Trainor and Luke Maher as well as goalkeeper Christian Snatchko, who racked up 13 shutouts last year. Alex Ablak is an additional veteran. He will help anchor the backline.
“We return three very good goal scorers and have added a dangerous attacking player; so I hope that and goalkeeping are our strengths. In Christian, we have one of the best goalkeepers in the WPIAL.
“We have a solid group,” Fingers continued of his magnificent seven.
However, at present, the Big Macs are sorting through a variety of positional situations with the team. “We have players that are great defenders that we are looking to play elsewhere. So, we are looking at getting a consistently cohesive back line together. We have the talent in the team, but we just need to see what group is right for what situation.”
Though they did not play soccer at Canon-Mac last year, Caiden Meier and Connor Coleman could be right in any situation as could be Ryan Burke, who was unavailable last year because of injuries. “[Caiden] and [Connor] have been successful soccer players in recent years and as upperclassmen, we hope they can add to our group in terms of their play and their leadership,” Fingers said. “[Ryan] looked great in the preseason and we hope that he can be paired with Ablak in the back.”
Defense in Section 5 is key to any team’s success and the Big Macs are no different. Though they are still sorting out their personnel, Fingers expects Canon-Mac can be sound defensively.
The Big Macs also need to avoid the injuries that have plagued them during the preseason and display composure when finishing goal scoring opportunities. If Canon-Mac does those things, Fingers says, they will be successful.
“Injuries have been an issue and with several key players out it affects how we play, but we look forward to getting them back into training,” Fingers said.
“Effort, work rate, creativity and coachability all have been strong points with the group this year. I have really enjoyed working with this fantastic group of young men and hope that their personal character qualities translate into another successful season for C-M boys’ soccer,” Fingers concluded.