North Xtra: Fox Chapel soccer gets everyone involved
Fox Chapel midfielder Jack Dickens battles for possession with Allderdice's Cameron Fels, left, and Xavier Kandler.
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Last season Fox Chapel Area boys soccer coach Erik Ingram decided to change radically the way his team was going to play soccer.
Rather than focusing on a few players, Ingram's teams involve all 10 field players, a drastic change for the program. But the Foxes have had no problem adjusting; it's the opponents who are having difficulty adjusting.
Fox Chapel finished in second in Section 3-AAA last season and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals. This year the Foxes are 9-2-1 overall and 7-1-1 in section play.
"Our style of play incorporates the entire team instead of focusing on one or two or even a handful of key players," Ingram said. "This is our style of play. The guys rely on each other a lot more. There is no selective passing with this team, it is more of an integrated system of play."
The system seems to be working and there is plenty of proof of it. Ten different players have scored goals for Fox Chapel this season. Arguably the top player on the team, junior Jack Dickens, was forced to miss a crucial game against Plum after receiving a red card in a previous game. His teammates picked up the slack and played one of their best games of the season in a 4-0 win.
"Last year we had the right group from top to bottom to start playing a whole new style and reinvent the program," Ingram said. "The boys last year did a really nice job of getting that kick-started. This year we are building on that. A lot of it really comes down to the boys really understanding our style of play."
The team is so balanced Ingram is already dreading the day when he has to submit his all-section ballot and only list five of his players.
"I don't know if I could do that without losing a little bit of sleep," Ingram said. "There are guys coming off the bench scoring key goals."
Ingram said his team had the best preseason camp in his seven years with the program.
"They have really run with the idea that we want to build through the season," Ingram said. "We don't want to peak too early. We really want to be hitting our stride over the last few weeks of the regular season, heading into the playoffs and it seems to be happening."
The improvement from the first half of the season to the second half has been noticeable. Fox Chapel barely edged Plum, 1-0, earlier in the year. It blew a 3-0 first-half lead against Allderdice and ended up tying the former City League power, 3-3. The Foxes also let a 1-0 halftime lead at Central Catholic slip away as it lost, 2-1, to the section leaders.
When the second half of section play started, it looked like a brand new Fox Chapel team. They blasted Plum, 4-0, on Saturday and blanked Allderdice, 2-0, on Monday.
"We've been playing some really good soccer," Ingram said. "It is attractive soccer."
Fox Chapel graduated eight seniors last year, including six starters.
"We didn't return a whole lot of starters but we did return some guys with experience," Ingram said. "It is the same every year -- you go into the season with a lot of new players, but we have a lot of smart kids who have a strong understanding of the game and can fit right in."
Fox Chapel has outscored its opposition 40-8 through 11 games this season.
Overall, the Foxes are one of the younger teams in the section. Two freshmen and three sophomores see plenty of varsity time and there are only four seniors on the roster.
The Foxes are scheduled to play host to Penn Hills tonight. The team will close out its section schedule with a rematch against Central Catholic next Thursday.
First Published October 4, 2012 12:00 am