New coach Wilkins brings energy to Shaler girls soccer program

Thursday, August 9, 2018 | 10:27 PM

Employing a new strategy — combined with an improved attitude — has Shaler forward Olivia Deleonibus hoping this season might be different for the Titans girls soccer program.

The Titans missed the playoffs last year after struggling to a 6-11 record, which included a 1-9 mark in WPIAL Section 1-3A play.

“Everyone is more energetic this year and willing to put in the work,” Deleonibus said. “The new positive energy coming in is going to help with our season.”

Enthusiasm emanates from first-year coach Craig Wilkins. He’s hoping to jumpstart Shaler’s attack by encouraging an attacking pace supported by a deep roster.

“For us, it’s going to be all about depth with a lot of players,” Wilkins said. “I think we’ll be able to play a high-tempo style. Hopefully, we can rotate in a lot of players and press our opposition into our own end. We’re looking to score a lot of goals and get out of our own end when we can.”

Putting pressure on opponents wasn’t something the Titans excelled at last season.

Shaler was outscored 67-24 by its opponents last season.

Moving at a quicker pace is a welcome change. Even if it took time to get used to.

“I think at the beginning it is tough adjusting to something different and change in general,” Deleonibus said. “Right now, we’re all starting to get the hang of it, and it’s going to improve our season and make us more prepared than we were in the past.”

Feeding the attack will require large contributions from midfielders Molly Malachow, Jordan Dourlain and Megan Balkey.

Kiley Rowell will anchor the goal for the Titans.

“Craig’s big on fitness,” Dourlain said. “Being able to put pressure on with high speed would definitely help us.”

Shaler will return five starters and nine seniors.

Getting this group to the playoffs is especially important for Dourlain, who never has made the postseason.

“I know me personally and the other seniors feel the same way. It is our last year playing here,” Dourlain said. “We haven’t played in the playoffs yet, and we would like to make that goal.”

With how attitudes have improved, Wilkins is positive this group can make improvements.

Shaler wants to show it can make major strides.

“The enthusiasm level when you are coming from a program that has historically struggled a bit, I haven’t had any sense of that over the summer,” Wilkins said. “Everything I’ve asked these girls to do starting in April and starting as we get into preseason, they’ve brought 110 percent passion to it.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.


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