New coach, new attitude means success for Eagles
DENVER – Dane Perry has gotten the best out of his Lincoln Charter girls soccer team this season.
The Eagles were an uncompetitive bunch in 2011. They won two games and never scored more than three goals in a match.
“We lost focus early (last) season,” Eagles sophomore midfielder Tori Jackson said. “It was hard to keep up hope. Honestly, we entered games hoping to lose by three or less goals.”
That all changed when Perry, a former coach at Lake Norman High and Mallard Creek High, joined the program in June 2011.
A strong freshman class – led by Courtney Miller, Caitlyn Miller and Madelyn Holmes – helped instill a sense of confidence when practices started in February.
“We felt like we could surprise some people,” Perry said, “but we didn’t know what we were capable of doing when we started. We had an early goal of (a .500 record).”
The Eagles didn’t shock the world with their start. A 5-1 loss to North Lincoln on March 12 dropped their record to 1-5. Perry made his team watch a recording of the defeat, and it wasn’t pretty.
“We had a 1-0 lead and gave up five bad goals in 30 minutes,” Perry said.
Courtney Miller said she didn’t enjoy watching the team’s mistakes again, but the viewing party served its purpose.
“We didn’t want to have that happen to us again,” Courtney Miller said.
The Eagles never lost another regular season game. They finished the Piedmont Charter Athletic Conference portion of the season with a 5-0-1 record – good enough for the league championship.
Lincoln Charter’s numbers compared to last season are striking: 38 goals, versus 12 in 2011. The Eagles’ offense skyrocketed, but the defense has tightened up as well, allowing just 30 goals compared to 53 a year ago.
Jackson said the turnaround was satisfying, especially after being one of few bright spots on a two-win team.
“We just stayed confident (this season),” Jackson said. “With girls soccer, you never know what you can come out with, but we definitely accomplished what we wanted to (with the PCAC title). It’s (thanks to) that determination and confidence that you know you’ll go in and get the job done.”
Caitlyn Miller attributed that mind-set to Perry, whose technically sound coaching style focused on maximizing performance. Perry knew the transformation from PCAC doormat to Class 1A state playoff contender was complete when the Eagles coach had no more negative film sessions.
“At the beginning of the year, we went on the field hoping to compete,” Perry said. “At this point we go on the field expecting to win. There’s no fear.”
Fearless is a good way to describe this year’s Eagles team. They’re the new kids on the block – but not just in terms of acclaim.
Lincoln Charter’s roster is barely older than many junior varsity squads, with only five upperclassmen on the team.
“With this group of girls, as young as they are, we saw (promise) in the future,” Perry said. “We just didn’t necessarily expect for it to be this quick.”
Perry said the Eagles’ undefeated run to the PCAC title was gratifying. But a non-conference 2-2 tie against perennial Class 2A playoff contender East Lincoln on April 24 showed the Eagles could compete with anyone they meet on the field.
“We’re starting to show we can go outside the comfort zone of these small schools we traditionally play,” Perry said. “We had a shot on goal to win with 15 seconds left that was barely stopped. We could’ve won it.”
Jackson said the Eagles’ future is bright.
“It’s still been unreal to me, because last year was so challenging,” Jackson said. “But every game has been special.”