By Frank Foreman
The Meadville boys soccer team, a four-win squad all of last season, put together another solid outing Thursday afternoon to keep the undefeated season alive with a 4-0 win over Erie East at Bender Field.
The Bulldogs are now 6-0-0.
The win, a rather dominating victory in which the Bulldogs were in control from the start, had just about everything: Early scoring, stingy defense, and even a 30-minute lightning delay.
Perhaps the biggest thing Thursday’s game had was a Meadville soccer team that, unlike a season ago, is finally playing like a team.
“Last year, we struggled as a team, but this year, there is no one special player on the field,” Meadville second-year head coach John McGlinn said. “Everybody looks out for everyone else. They are truly playing like a team, and it’s great for them.”
The Bulldogs wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, as the Bulldogs’ Cottrell McDonald found open space in front of the Warriors’ net and beat the keeper to make it 1-0 just seven minutes into the match.
Less than two minutes later, Meadville senior Dane Cessna took full advantage of an East turnover directly in front of the Warriors’ net and knocked home an easy shot past East keeper Nim Stallworth to put the Bulldogs up 2-0, taking full control of the game.
“It was important to get those early goals,” McGlinn said. “It usually takes us the better part of a half to settle down. It was good to build the confidence.”
Meadville controlled the ball and the play throughout the first half, as it appeared nothing would slow the team down.
Then the lightning struck.
With 10:34 left in the first half, the game was delayed for the mandatory half hour due to lightning, making it the only thing near Bender Field that could slow down the Bulldogs attack. Once play resumed, the Bulldogs had a pair of scoring chances but didn’t convert, keeping the score at 2-0 at the break.
Early in the second half, it was East that had the first good scoring opportunity as a shot off the crossbar just missed, keeping the Warriors off the board.
Also keeping East (0-1-0) from scoring was a Meadville defense that was tenacious and decisive, the perfect combination for the back line. East, which continually pushed extra players forward in the second half to generate offense, rarely had a good look at the Meadville net. As a team, the Warriors had just two second-half shots.
“I thought our defense played well. They are staying organized, and I think that’s the most important thing,” McGlinn said.
The leader of the defense, senior Sam Wyman, not only played a big role in shutting East down, but also had the nicest goal of the game.
Following a hand ball 20 yards from the Warriors’ net, Wyman stepped up and drilled a beauty into the far corner off the free kick with 17 minutes left in the game to push the lead to 3-0. The goal all but put the game away, and it was something that Wyman has been waiting for all season.
“I’ve been trying that shot for the past five games now trying to make it, and I finally did,” Wyman said. “It felt great.”
The shot had McGlinn smiling as well.
“It was pretty,” McGlinn said. “It’s nice for him to get a shot off since he’s the last guy on the field most of the time.”
Meadville senior Ethan Mona knocked home a shot from in front of the net off a cross two minutes later to add to the game’s final tally. Meadville finished with 14 shots to East’s four.
When you’re playing well and have yet to lose a game, spirits run high. For the Bulldogs, considering where the team is now compared to a year ago, having fun seems to be the easiest thing to do on the field.
Having the most fun on the field is the Meadville defense, a group that has come together since the first game of the season and is now the strength of the team.
Just don’t refer to them as any old defense, however.
“We call ourselves the Dog Fence,” Wyman said of the newly-branded nickname given to his team’s back line. “It’s catchy. We’ve been doing well, and we deserve a nickname in my opinion.”
For now, the nickname works, as not one Meadville player can reference ‘Dog Fence’ without, at the very least, a grin.
McGlinn is just happy to see his team smiling again.
“It took a little while to buy into a new coach and a new way things were going to be,” McGlinn said. “Really, the most important thing is that everybody is supporting each other and playing as a team. It also helps when you win.”
The Bulldogs have already done that two more times than all of 2012.