CRESAPTOWN — Calvary Christian Academy’s Ryan Chaney has been down this road before as a player.
Now, he’s more than happy to do it as the head coach.
The Eagles are headed to Dayton, Tenn., to compete in the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) national soccer tournament, which kicks off Wednesday. Calvary will play Shenandoah (Va.) at 9:30 a.m. and Portage (Ind.) at 12:10 in pool play the first day.
Teams are seeded after the first day, with play continuing Thursday and Friday.
Calvary heads to the tournament with an 18-3 record and as Mason-Dixon Conference champions for the first time since 2005, when Chaney was a senior forward and the area player of the year while playing for coach Geoff Wheeler’s team, which went 20-4-1.
Chaney played in the NACA Tournament in Tennessee several times. The 2004 team was runner-up after a 2-1 loss to Grace (N.C.) in their division’s championship game.
When this year’s Calvary team began practice several months ago at Liberty Field, Chaney knew he had a good team. Just how good would be a question the players would have to answer.
They did so rather well, with an 11-game midseason winning streak, 87 goals scored, 21 goals allowed, 10 shutouts and a conference crown.
“I thought this would probably be the best team we’ve had since the 2005 or 2006 teams because we had a lot of talent and experience coming back,’’ said Chaney, whose had at least nine players with starting experience.
Eleven players have scored goals, led by juniors Austin Heavner (23 goals, 9 assists) and Joshua Snyder (16 goals, 9 assists) and sophomores Zack Nelson (15 goals, 4 assists) and Caleb Snyder (5 goals, 15 assists).
“Austin has been there for a couple of years, was the area’s co-offensive player of the year last season, and has had a another great year,’’ Chaney said. “He may have not scored as many goals as last year, but that’s because people were planning their (defensive) game plans around him. He’s very creative and unselfish.”
The defense has been strong, too, having allowed one goal or less in 16 of the 21 games. Goalkeeper Matt Dillow has 10 shutouts.
“It’s been a very good mix this year. We’ve had a lot of different scorers, which says a lot about the depth of the team,’’ said Chaney. “At the same time, we’ve had a lot of shutouts and only a few games when we’ve given up more than one goal, which says a lot about our defense and goalkeeper.”
One of the keys to the defense was Levi Hartsock, who made an unselfish move from forward to center back.
“He’s a senior leader who converted from forward to defender and stepped up big time for us. We’ve gotten great performances from our defense all year, and it’s a very strong unit,” Chaney said. “Levi was in the top 20 in scoring last year but we were looking to fill a position on defense and thought he had the potential to do it for us.
“Tyler Michael is the other center back with Levi and he doesn’t get enough recognition for what he does. A lot of our attacks on offense begin with him on defense. He controls the ball, passes and distributes it well, and has filled in wherever needed.”
Chaney, in his third year as head coach, has a 46-17-3 record with the Eagles. Although the majority of their schedule consisted of league games, the Eagles played four area teams. They beat Bishop Walsh 3-2, Hampshire 4-0 and Frankfort 5-0, and lost to Fort Hill, 2-1.
“Our game against Bishop Walsh in September was a big one for our guys. We knew BW had a good team again this year, and we met the challenge and played with more energy than we have for a long while,’’ Chaney said. “It was one of the benchmarks of our season, where we went from a good team to a really good team, when we play with that kind of energy.”
With 18 wins, Calvary is three shy of the single-season school record, set by the 2003 team and matched by the 2004 squad. The Eagles were No. 4 in the final Times-News regular-season poll. The final poll will be released following all postseason games.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org