With 17 years of soccer coaching experience coupled with a professional and semi-professional playing career that spanned more than a decade, Paul Turner has had no shortage of lessons to impart on the Canton High girls’ soccer team.
Interestingly enough, what this year’s team has learned from Turner, more than anything else, hasn’t come from a drill in practice. It has come from watching a coach that genuinely loves the game.
“Coach definitely loves what he does,” said tri-captain Vicky Tondre. “He’s always yelling and screaming for us, and when we score he is the best. [Turner] does these crazy celebrations where he runs up and down the sidelines jumping up and down. They’re funny, but really do help to pump up the team.”
“I think more than anything this year, it’s my passion that has rubbed off,” agreed Turner, who grew up in London with the dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
Before taking over as Canton's coach in 2010, Turner played nine seasons with the Cape Cod Crusaders of the United Soccer League, spending his final season as a player-coach.
“I think they’ve seen how much I enjoy this game," Turner said. "There’s only so much technical stuff you can teach. There has to be a passion for the game. I always knew when I got out of playing that I wanted to stay in the game and coach.”
That passion is paying off for the sixth-ranked Bulldogs (10-0-2), who sit atop the Hockomock League Davenport Division. Twelve games in, Canton is the only remaining undefeated team in both of the Hockomock divisions.
The Bulldogs are just one win away from clinching the Davenport, with two league games remaining.
“It’s not in the bag yet,” Turner said. “We still have some work to do, with two tricky league games left [against Foxboro and Stoughton]. “I’m hoping we take care of things in the first game.”
This season, the Bulldogs split their series with the defending Davenport champs in Oliver Ames, winning 3-0 in late September before tying them last week, 1-1. The two games made an impression on Tigers coach Britt Sellmayer, who referred to Canton as “the most technically sound team I’ve seen all season.”
Sellmayer, who picked up his 300th career win earlier this year, also said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bulldogs do some damage in the tournament this year.
After falling behind to Duxbury in an eventual 4-3 win in the first game of the season, Canton hadn’t trailed for a single second of play in 10 consecutive games before falling behind 1-0 to Oliver Ames this past Friday.
“Anytime you fall behind against a good team, it’s important to know that you can still comeback,” Turner said. “I knew we had it in us and a few minutes later we got the equalizer and I got maybe a little over excited celebrating for them on the sideline, but it was a great goal. We probably could have even won that game.”
At 3.8 goals per game, the Bulldogs boast the highest scoring offense in the league, thanks in large part to Lauren Berman (19 goals, 4 assists) and Brianna Duserick (4 goals, 16 assists). However, those two are far from the only players opposing teams needs to watch out for.
“In years past, teams could just focus on shutting down Lauren,” Turner said. “But now, with the talented players we have on this team, if you put all your attention on [Berman] you’re going to be in trouble.
“We play an exciting brand of soccer, which can sometimes leave us susceptible against good teams, but we like to come in guns-a-blazing and give the other team everything we’ve got.”
The defensive play of tri-captin Kensey Waterman has been a major reason Canton has had the freedom to be so aggressive on the attacking end. The Canton offense starts with its outside backs, Megan Barrera and Kim McNally, both of whom spend more time on the attack then they do defending, making Canton difficult to contain and creating more options on offensively.
“We focus on being as technically sound as possible,” said Turner, who often devotes 30 minutes or more of practice to technical drills. “We want our players to feel as comfortable as possible with the ball on their feet and be able to start the attack from anywhere on the field.”
From Berrera and McNally the ball will often find its way to the feet of Megan Lennon, described as the “energizer bunny” of the team by Turner.
“Lennon (who has eight goals and four assists) never stops working hard for us and there’s almost nothing we ask her to do that she can’t accomplish,” Turner said.
The best scoring opportunities are often set up by the Bulldog’s outside mid fielders; Brianna Waterman and Kayla Laughlin, both of whom are excellent crossers of the ball.
“If they’re both on target in the same game, they’re unstoppable,” Turner said.
The solid play up and down the field has expectations soaring in Canton. The Bulldogs were bounced from the tournament in the second round last year by a Medfield team that Turner admits was just better.
But that was last year.
“We’ve made a huge jump from where we were back then," Turner said. "We’re certainly not unbeatable. If a good team comes in and we don’t play our best, we’ll go down. But right now we’re good enough to go a long way come tournament time.”
Turner's tri-captain agreed.
“Were so close as a team and we all have the same goal,” Tondre said. “As we kept winning our confidence has kept growing and growing, and now I think we all believe we can win this.”
It’s that kind of confidence and shared passion for the game that keeps Turner coming back for more.
Games to Watch
No. 2 Lexington at No. 3 Winchester, Mon., 3:45 – The Sachems (6-1-3) still have a shot at the Middlesex League Large title if they can hand Lexington its first loss of the season. The Minutemen (9-0-2) saved their toughest games for last, with Belmont and No. 4 Central Catholic still on the schedule.
No. 10 Whitman-Hanson vs. No. 11 Duxbury, Mon., 5 – After a shorthanded start to the season the Panthers (12-3-1) have come on strong. Since tying Duxbury (10-1-2), 1-1, in early October Whitman-Hanson has outscored its last five opponents, 15-2.This game will likely decide the Patriot League Keenan Division.
No. 5 Lincoln-Sudbury vs. Westford, Wed., 4 – The Warriors (5-0) will do battle with Dual Country League Large rival Westford (5-1-1). L-S got the better of their first matchup, 1-0, in early October. The Warrior’s 3.3 goals per game are tops in the DCL.
No. 6 Bishop Feehan vs. No 7 Canton, Thu., 3:30 – This is the Shamrocks (12-0-1) chance to show they’re for real. They’ve average 6.0 goals per game against a weak Eastern Athletic Conference schedule. Canton (10-0-2) playing much stronger competition in the Hockomock is allowing less than a goal per game (0.80).
No. 14 Shawsheen vs. Billerica, Thu., 3:30 – The undefeated Rams (11-0) will look to finish strong against cross-town rival Billerica. The Indians (5-6-3) are coming off a surprising, 0-0, tie with No. 4 Central Catholic last Tuesday.
Players of the Week
Makisha Germain, Randolph – The junior has now earned back-to-back player of the week awards. Her four goals in The Blue Devil’s, 7-1, win over Southeastern on Tuesday helped Randolph improve to 9-4 for the season and qualify for the state tournament for the first time in school history. Germain now has 27 goals this season.
Morgan Branco, Brockton – The senior notched her 100th career point in Thursday night’s, 10-0, win over Taunton, becoming the first girl in school history to reach the 100-pont plateau in soccer. Branco’s two goals in the game give her 77 for her career.
Jenna Savi, Dedham – The senior captain’s four goals and assist in Tuesday’s, 5-1, win over Brookline gave her the school’s all-time scoring record with 125 points. Savi has 21 goals and 12 assists for the season.
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