The first men’s soccer game in Carroll Community College history is three weeks away, and everyone involved with the Lynx’s inaugural team seems to be sharing the same attitude.
“Good energy level,” said Tom O’Brien, Carroll’s coach, who watched his players go through their stretching and footwork drills to begin practice Monday afternoon. “They’re starting to organize on their own, they’re starting to communicate well. They’re starting to get to know each other. They’re working hard. I’m happy so far.”
O’Brien, who goes by “OB,” is a former standout at Towson University with college coaching experience at different levels. He wore a blue Adidas T-shirt Monday, but also sported a black Stevenson cap — O’Brien spent the past four years on the Mustangs’ men’s soccer coaching staff.
Soccer balls were rolled out of their bags, and orange cones dotted the perimeter of the college’s upper field as O’Brien and assistant coach Jay McClenahan put together lineups and watched their players go through practice.
The men’s program will be Carroll’s lone soccer squad this fall with the college’s recent decision to hold off on starting women’s soccer in 2019 (the school cited lack of turnout on the women’s side). Carroll is also fielding men’s and women’s cross country teams this fall.
But the historic first intercollegiate sporting event is set for Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. when the Lynx host Hagerstown Community College.
“I feel like we have a great group of guys here, and we’re building something special here,” said incoming freshman Mason Hale, a Francis Scott Key High School graduate.
Hale, a midfielder, played four years of soccer at FSK, and said adjusting to the junior college level has been exciting. Carroll is fielding a roster of freshmen and sophomores, but Hale said Carroll’s talent is already showing.
“Maybe [practice] isn’t as fun as playing games, or kicking with the ball under our feet, but it’s going to prepare us and make us better throughout the season,” said Hale, clad in a blue Carroll Lynx soccer shirt with the school’s new logo in the center. “And it’s going to be a good season.”
Carroll has a scrimmage set with Stevenson on Aug. 21, six days before the real thing gets underway. The Lynx have nine games slated in September, and five more in October. They’ll be competing in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference, which had 12 men’s soccer teams in 2018 and has 14 this year.
O’Brien said Carroll’s practices have been successful so far, and the coach recently used a fitness test made famous by Manchester United to gauge endurance and conditioning. Players are timed on 10-yard dashes, with the first 10 runs (levels) set for 25 seconds and the next 13 dashes required to be done in less and less time.
O’Brien said he had seven players at Monday morning’s practice at level 20 — 100 yards in 15 seconds, then 45 seconds to get back to the starting line — of the fitness test.
“That’s impressive,” O’Brien said. “It shows me that some of these young men worked over the summer, they worked hard to be fit. Now it’s a matter of finding out what roles they best fit into.”
O’Brien said the Lynx are looking forward to the list of firsts they’ll be experiencing soon. The first game is just ahead, but after that it’s up to the players to see how things progress.
“Boy, I wish the sequence was: our first goal, our first win, our first shutout," the coach said. “It might not come in that sequence, but we’ll see how it comes. We’ll go from there, and then we’ll start to see who’s going to rise above. This is cool.”
Hale agreed, and said he felt similar vibes when he played high school soccer at Key.
“Everybody cared,” he said. “There was a good camaraderie being built, and I can feel [it] being established here. It’s good, but I feel like there’s a really great potential for us to succeed with the group of guys we have.”