Focused on finish

C. Milton Wright has gotten off to a fast start, but it knows the playoffs are what really matter.

October 05, 2005|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After getting a taste of success by making it to the Class 3A state semifinals last season, the C. Milton Wright girls soccer team has a thirst for more.

It's fitting, therefore, that their motto is printed on the cups they drink with in games and practices: "What's important is not how we start but where we finish."

To that end, the No. 4-ranked Mustangs are delighted with their 5-0 start, but they are keeping it in perspective.

"I think it's more of an incentive that we got there and we lost and we got a taste of it," goalie Katie Kolb said. "We want to win it and we want to get further than we did last year."

C. Milton Wright finished with a 12-5 record last year, winning both the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference and regional crowns. But this year's team is stronger, more experienced and much deeper.

The Mustangs have nine seniors along with five freshmen and some talented sophomores and juniors. Coach Paul Austin is carrying the unusually high number of 22 players on the team to give C. Milton Wright the depth and flexibility he thinks could be important this season.

"We're a deep team," Austin said. "We try to keep our people fresh and rotate them a lot. We've got a lot of girls who can play more than one position ... and everyone [gets] a role to play, whether they start or not."

The Mustangs have a wealth of team speed, which helps them create a number of scoring chances. They scored 21 goals in their first five games but also were able to come up with clutch goals, as three of their wins have come in overtime.

C. Milton Wright is doing exactly what Austin wants - making progress each week. The Mustangs have won 16 straight county or UCBAC games after winning the Harford County title in 2003 and the conference crown last year.

"We're happy that we've been able to win even though we can play better," Austin said.

Sophomore Lyndsie Ludwig leads the Mustangs with five goals and one assist, followed by senior Greta Houlihan (four goals, one assist) and junior Kelsea Genco (three goals, one assist).

Kolb has helped provide an anchor with her consistent work in the back, allowing only four goals with two shutouts. Kolb's been on the varsity for four years and posted 22 shutouts with a career save percentage of .910.

Kolb said that everyone accepting the fact that they have a role has been a key part of the team's success this season.

"We thought last year that we had lost a lot of key players; we never expected to get that far," Kolb said. "But everyone accepts their role, and no one's complained and everyone understands what their role is."

Said senior midfielder Erin Rawlick: "It's a big team ... but we don't have one or two superstars. The whole team just works really well together. I think we're more of a team this year than we were in the past."

Austin said he tries to separate the season into three parts: first the out-of-conference games, then the UCBAC games and then the playoffs. The coach deliberately schedules tough nonconference games like John Carroll and Eastern Tech to prepare his team for what could come later in the season.

That's why Austin is even happier that they've won their first five games against non-county foes as their conference schedule is beginning.

He's also just as pleased that the players are accepting their roles.

Austin said he knows he can use a number of different formations and substitution patterns, which could prove valuable in the playoffs when the Mustangs will be meeting other deep and talented teams.

If everything goes according to Austin's plan, the Mustangs will be playing their best soccer when the playoffs roll around in about a month.

Until then, Austin will make sure to preach the team's motto, although it seems unlikely his players will need the reminder.

"We have found ways to win, and I feel we have even so much more potential," Rawlick said. "I think we have a lot of room to grow."

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