The Shakerite

Men’s Soccer Reaches Sweet 16 for First Time

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Coming off a heartbreaking loss to No. 2 Mentor High School in last year’s district finals, the men’s varsity soccer team is ready to write a new script. Alan Naigeon was hired this year to replace Nader Sullivan as this year’s head coach. Naigeon and his squad are hoping that this year will include the Raiders’ first-ever district championship and ultimately, a state championship title.

Compared to last season, the team is well on its way toward that goal. Shaker finished the regular season with a 12-3-1 record, second in the Northern Ohio Conference and the No. 1 seed in the Euclid District in this year’s Ohio High School State Tournament.

Naigeon credits both mental and physical improvements for that record. “We have focused a lot on the mental aspect of the games,” said Naigeon, “focusing on building a winning culture, and I think the boys are finally grasping this mentality.”

The 2014 team has also strengthened its offense and defense. Naigeon has coached his offensive players to take early leads, making their opponents play catch-up. On defense, most of the credit goes to the team’s junior captain goalie, Vincent Prochoroff, who tended eight shutouts among the team’s wins.

Prochoroff credits the Raiders’ improvement to Naigeon. “Despite this being Naigeon’s first year as head coach, he has really shaped us into a very fine team in a short amount of time,” said Prochoroff. “There is a lot more motivation in how we play on the pitch than there was a year before.”

Junior midfielder Evan Pascarella also believes Naigeon is the key to their success. “Coach Alan was the biggest impact for sure,” said Pascarella. “He wants us to win more than anything, but also gets along with everyone really well.”

Senior midfielder Tal Shutkin believes the success comes from the new offense Naigeon has introduced.  “Our new system, the 4-3-3, is a very offensively oriented and allows for creative play on offense,” said Shutkin. It is a system with four attackers, three midfielders and three defenders.  Most of the pressure Shaker exerts on their opponent comes from the offense.

Naigeon was an assistant coach at Case Western Reserve University, a Division III school, last year. As part of his learning experience, he sought a head coaching opportunity. “I took the job to develop my own coaching philosophy, learn on my own while trying out my own drills. I heard about the job opening and thought it was the right time for me to step out,” said Naigeon. “I was also coaching at the Shaker Youth Soccer program and knew that the soccer community is getting stronger and stronger here, so I didn’t need to think twice about it.”

After the Raiders saw a series of coaches in the last five years, Naigeon plans to be Shaker’s varsity coach for years to come.“With sports and soccer you never know,” said Naigeon. “Down the road my personal goal is to coach in college and at the professional level, but I enjoy Shaker and I told the boys I won’t leave before we win a district championship.”

“I still have a lot of things to learn before moving up,” said Naigeon. “Before even thinking about the future, my priority is to build a strong winning identity and culture around our soccer program. To do it, it takes time and a lot of determination to achieve the same common goal of becoming one of the best teams in the state.”

With those improvements, the team has enjoyed success in playoffs so far. In their first playoff game Oct. 17, they beat Euclid High School 10-0.

Shaker also avenged last year’s loss in penalty kicks to Mentor, winning this year’s district semifinal 1-0 Oct. 22. Jason LaMonica scored the winning goal in double overtime, at 99 minutes. Shaker played Eastlake North High School Oct. 25 for the district title.

 

 

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Men’s Soccer Reaches Sweet 16 for First Time