Oley Valley High School boys' soccer team is more than ready to go

File photo by Aimee Herbert Marcus Frangakis is one of several returning starters on the Oley Valley High School boys' soccer team.

Yes, the Oley Valley High School boys’ soccer team finished with a record of 6-3-1 (league) and 8-7-1 (overall) and makes the Berks County League playoffs where they lost to state runner-up Wilson 2-0 in 2012. Wilson’s second goal came with less than a minute to go in the match.

Well, As the old saying goes, close but no cigar, and close but yet so far away, or close only counts in horseshoes, quoits or grenades.

The Lynx came even closer to making the district tournament. According to Oley head coach Shawn Meals they were .0001 of a point away of qualifying. You can get much closer than that without getting there.

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“That’s something that they’re feeding on,” said Meals. “A game here and a game there you know. But now they know, there’s no room for laps. We remind them every other day at least of how close they were to districts. They’ve got to do more than talk about it, they actually have to go out there and do it.”

The team is anxious and ready for the season to kick in. They hope to put last year’s disappointment behind them. “There’s a positive mood right now and they have some high expectations for themselves and the program,” said Meals. “That’s where a lot of the anxiety comes from. They have their expectations and they want to prove to themselves, and the community, that they can meet them.”

The team has very high expectations going into the 2013 season and for good reason. “I don’t think anyone’s going to except anything less than county and districts playoffs,” said Meals. “They are itching to be the first Oley team since 1995 to make the state playoffs, but it’s one goal at a time.

He feels that these are very realistic goals. They have a strong group of players, including several seniors who have played important role for the team since they were freshmen or sophomores.

“They are seasoned and they know what’s expected of them,” said Meals. “There’s a lot of versatility amongst those players.”

This is most definitly a veteran group. There are 11 seniors on the team. There are also some juniors who will be contributing. There are also a couple of sophomores and freshmen that could contribute as well.

With 11 seniors returning, they know what to expect had have been through the battles of Berks County matches. A lot of those seniors have been thrown into the mix since they were sophomores at Oley Valley. They have experience and know what to do.

The team will have to replace graduating Dylan McKently and his five goals and three assists in league play. Meals and his coaching staff need others to step up their game. The coaches aren’t looking for a seven or eight goal scorer; they’re looking for a double digit scorer - and more than one. They don’t want to have to rely on any one person.

Balance scoring across the board is something that Meals and the Lynx will need to be successful. Last season they had a handful of players that they relied on for scoring, which is something they want to change.

“We want to spread the wealth this year,” said Meals. We want to make teams realize we’re more than just a one horse deal.”

Returning starters for the Lynx include Gabe Duran, Marcus Frangakis, Ryan Krall, Austin Swoyer, Greg Whitehouse, Zach Russo and Tristan Weller.

Other returning players who got significant time for the Lynx last year are Matt Burns, Ben and Chad Meier, Gabe Velasquez, and Ben Kerkeslager. Swoyer had eight goals and one assist while Frangakis had five goals and four assists in league play last year.

The one thing that Meals is looking for from his seniors is leadership. This is their last chance to win a Berks County title. Meals and his assistant coach (Jason Moll) want them to step up.

“Ben definitely proved himself towards the end of the season,” said Meals. “He started the season playing JV, but by the end of the season, he started and played up top for us in the county game.

“AI want them to take ownership like everyone. It doesn’t matter if they’re seniors, juniors, sophomores or freshmen. There’s no finger pointing, there’s no this or that. It’s a team effort.”

This will certainly be a strong team with lots of talent and experience. But Coach Meals also believes that getting out of their division won’t be easy.

Tulpehocken will be tough. They lost players, but have some key players returning with playoff experience. Kutztown will be tough and is a team that handed the Lynx a loss in the division last year. They had a young team last year, so Meals knows they will be tough. Brandywine is another team that always plays the Lynx tough. Wyomissing has a new coach, and split with the Lynx last season.

“Our division right now is wide open,” said Meals. “It’s wide open until the games are played.”

To ensure they’re in the county playoffs, they know that they need to win their division. “That’s the issue, we have to play the games and we have to win the games,” said Meals. “You can’t just talk about it. We can set the goals, and now we have to perform to achieve that.”