Timothy Long and his Providence High boys’ soccer team have been perfect so far this season.While many coaches and players wouldn’t want to talk about an undefeated record, like a pitcher who is throwing a no-hitter in baseball, the Panthers aren’t shying away from it.“We have actually taken the opposite approach, we bring it up quite often in practice and in games,” Long said. “There’s really no reason to try and hide from it. We want to keep our undefeated season going and we know every team out there wants to end it. So, we remind our players every practice, every halftime, even at the end of games with a big lead, that we can’t let down. Every second, every minute could be the difference for us in a tight game.”Providence, ranked No. 1 in the state coaches’ poll and No. 18 in the nation, according studentsports.com’s FAB 50 poll, has been dominant for most of the season, averaging nearly five goals per game and allowing less than a goal per contest.The Panthers are anchored by suffocating back four: all-state senior center back Connor Kirby, classmate center back Andrew Zendan, and sophomores Dan Dieringer and Shane Swisher at outside back. Sophomore goalkeeper Gordan White is also playing well.“Our main focus has always been on defense,” said Kirby, a co-captain with seniors Quincy Kroeschell Zendan. “Because we know if the other team can’t score, then they can’t win. We don’t like to give up anything.” Providence has been been tested with a challenging schedule and close wins over Cuthbertson (1-0), South Mecklenburg (1-0) and Olympic (2-1).The team’s biggest test came Sept. 30 at Charlotte Catholic, when the Cougars tied the game at one with less than 10 seconds left in the game.Providence responded with two goals in the extra session by junior center midfielder Matthew Nozedar, giving him a hat trick for the game. Nozedar leads the team with 21 goals. Senior forward Evan Pournaras (14 assists, 10 goals), who assisted Nozedar’s first overtime goal in the Catholic game, has been the team’s top play maker.“It was great to see our team have some adversity and respond like we did,” Long said. “We know that there are going to be some more games like that this year. So we have to keep doing all the little things to keep winning games.”Long and his senior class know just how narrow the margin between winning and losing can be. They have been eliminated from 4A playoffs in each of the past two seasons on penalty kicks, falling to Northwest Guilford in 2011 and Myers Park in 2012.Long’s senior class, which includes Clark Currier, Haris Duracek, Harrison French, Kirby, Kroeschell, Pournaras and brothers Andrew and Michael Zendan, don’t have to be reminded about their postseason past.“The whole senior class knows this is our last shot and we want to make it count,” Kirby said. “It’s been pretty tough to have our season end in PKs (penalty kicks) three years in a row. We have actually practicing penalty kicks on a regular basis. But we hope it doesn’t come down to that.”Long and his Panther team have broken their season into three part: non-conference, where they were unbeaten, the SoMeck 8 conference slate, where they are 10-0 right now, and the playoffs, where they hope to have similar success.“Dividing the season into three parts has really helped us focus on the short term,” Kirby said. “We can’t overlook anyone.”For Providence, the most important game is the next one on their schedule. They still have to play Ardrey Kell (Oct. 14) at home, at Harding (Oct. 16), and at South Meck (Oct. 21) before the regular season finale at home against Catholic (Oct. 23).Then Long says the team can focus on a playoff run, where it hopes to have home-field advantage. “It feels good to be on top of the conference and ahead of a lot of team’s we’ve been chasing in the past,” Kirby said. “But once the playoffs start that doesn’t mean anything.”Long shares his co-captain’s focus.“There are no prizes for being undefeated, right now,” Long said. “We have to have the same focus we’ve had all season, that it is always 0-0.”
Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
Providence High soccer has no problem talking about its 17-0 start
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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