Gerstell junior defender Max Friedman talks about the impact of first-year coach Ashley Murphy. (Tom Worgo/Carroll County Times)
Ashley Murphy wants to change the culture of the Gerstell Academy boys soccer program.
Murphy can do that by staying at the school for more than a year. Continuity has been a recent problem for Falcons.
"I feel sorry for the seniors," Murphy said. "For the past four years, they've had a new varsity coach every year. The seniors have never had a role model and a leader to look up to, so I am here for the long term. I want to grow the program by coaching, recruiting and bringing talent into the school."
Gerstell athletic director Christine Hryzak expects Murphy to be the mainstay for years to come.
"He is committed to a plan," said Hryzak, who recently took over for Cap Poklemba as AD. "He constantly talks about what he wants to do not only in the immediate future, but in the long term. It's refreshing to be around such a positive person. He came on board with such enthusiasm and a passion for the sport."
Murphy, who is replacing Geaton Caltabiano, has quickly established a commanding presence in practices, which started Aug. 15.
He's very vocal, the Falcons say.
"He just brings a different intensity to practice everyday," junior defender Max Friedman said. "He makes our whole team better. We are all trying to play as a team rather than a bunch of individuals. He has us putting the pieces together and it has been a great experience."
Murphy, 28, comes to Gerstell from Century High School, where he coached junior varsity the past three seasons and served as the school's assistant varsity coach during the previous two seasons.
"We want to be known to have that workhorse and blue-collar mentality," Murphy said. "We are not going to get beat on conditioning, in the air or on the ground. We are going to fight for every ball."
Murphy inherits a team that returned six starters, including Friedman, senior midfielders Nate Dresin, Brennan Sedney, and Brett Lewis, junior forward Malachi Darden, and senior defender Brendan Sanders.
The Falcons went 8-10-2 last year and finished fifth in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference with a 8-6-2 record, losing to Park School in a quarterfinal playoff game in late October.
"We always make it to the quarterfinals and end up being beat," Friedman said. "To make it to the semifinals would be a great achievement."
Reaching that goal would be good step forward for the program.
"I want the public schools in the area to realize there is a school called Gerstell down (Md.) 140," said Murphy, who grew up playing soccer in England and also coaches in the Freedom Soccer Club program. "Gerstell hasn't won the B Division since 2013 and I want to change that."
For Gerstell girls varsity soccer team, the expectations have never been higher.
Third-year coach Giuliano Celenza welcomes back 11 starters from a team that went 11-3 last year.
"As a coach, you wish you had this every year," said Celenza, who played for the Baltimore Blast for 11 seasons. "It's very rare that you get so many starters back. Being in soccer for so many years, I don't think I've ever been involved with a team that had its starting 11 come back."
Sophomore forward Lauren Messinese and senior forward Jillian Wilson should spearhead the offense.
The midfield of senior Maddie Bauhof, junior Tyra Echevarria, and sophomores Rachel Manning and Emily Fenwick will be feeding those two standouts the ball. Bauhof and Echevarria lead the midfield.
"They can play a full 80 minutes if I need them to," Celenza said. "They have great field vision and really control the ball."
The defense of seniors Abby Best and Jess Lyons, junior Gabby Manning, and sophomore Sam Best will protect junior goalie Noel Talbot.
"The team chemistry we have seems like it's one of a kind," Celenza said. "They are all sisters and with the new girls that come in, they welcome them with open arms, so no one that comes in misses a beat. They fight for one another and work really hard."