January 30, 2009
CALEDONIA - Sometimes things just click.
Entering the 2008-09 season, the Caledonia High School boys soccer team and first-year coach Morgan Mansfield had to find a way to figure out how to solidify the defense.
The Confederates lost three starters from the unit from the previous season and needed to shore that unit up if they wanted to compete for another district title.
Mansfield and his players could only have imagined things would have turned out so well.
Buoyed by the addition of a freshman, Caledonia''s defense found its experience and the sum of its parts.
The results has been a defense that has provided the foundation Caledonia has used to help it accomplish a first in the program''s history.
Coming off the school''s first boys soccer playoff victory, Caledonia (13-4) will try to make it two in a row at 2 p.m. Saturday when it plays host to Hernando in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Senior goalkeeper Tyler Aldridge and senior defenders Cory Hayes and Zack Boyer join sophomore Kye Van Someren and freshman Nick May in forming a unit that has proved to be stingy and to be creative when it comes to helping kick-start the offense.
"We are all good friends, we hang out a lot off the field, and we have a good time when we''re on the field," Hayes said. "We have played with each other for a long time and know each other''s strengths and weakness and are always there to back each other up."
As spokesman for the group, Hayes, who is 6-foot-2, can control the air from the back. He said speed is the unit''s strength and helps it cover for its teammates and recover if an opponent is shifty enough to get behind it.
Hayes credits Mansfield, who spent the past three seasons as coach at Horn Lake, for helping to teach the Confederates a lot of new things and to push the players to realize their potential.
Mansfield said it took a few games for the defense to round into shape. He said he started the season with Van Someren as a center midfielder, but Van Someren told him he wasn''t comfortable at that position. The decision to move Van Someren back to defense, where he runs the unit''s offsides traps, turned out to be the perfect fit.
"They just work well together," Mansfield said. "They are fast and they are aggressive. They kind of start the counterattack in the back. If we have to put it out of bounds, we will. But we''re trying to get to the flank and get it worked up if we can."
Mansfield said Van Someren''s experience at the select soccer level has proved to be valuable. He said Van Someren and Aldridge, who also was the quarterback on the football team this past season, communicate well together and bounce ideas off each other.
As a result, the defense is able to link with the midfield and then to forwards Taylor Chisolm and Seth Wood to get the Confederates going.
"It took them about three games before they finally got it going," Mansfield said. "They had worked well together the year before and kind of knew each other''s strengths and weaknesses."
Mansfield said the unit gained its most confidence when it shut down Kosciusko and Neshoba Central in consecutive games. The team worked so well together that both teams crossed midfield only twice the entire match.
Hayes said the defense''s speed and knowledge of the game have helped it be so successful. But Hayes admitted that even though he knew his teammates'' strengths he didn''t know how well the unit would come together.
To say he has been surprised is an understatement.
"It has surprised me a lot because we lost three of our starters on defense from last year," said. "Sticking three new people back there, I think it has turned out a lot better than everybody expected."
Caledonia enters today''s match riding the momentum from a five-goal effort from Chisolm on Tuesday. The defense had a few lapses in the first half of a 5-1 victory against New Albany, but Mansfield feels the Confederates rebounded very well with a strong second half.
Today, the key will be putting two halves together and relying on a smart, quick defense to set the pace.
"We just have to control the game and play our game," said. "Against New Albany, we scored the first goal and then we kind of laid back and we started playing their game. We have to play our game and control the ball and give our forwards a chance to score."
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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