Six games into the 2012 season, theres ample reason for N.C. State mens soccer coach Kelly Findley to feel confident about the direction of the Wolfpack program.
N.C. State is 6-0 for the first time since 1982 and ranked No. 18 in the NSCAA poll. When the Wolfpack hosts No. 3 Maryland (4-0-1) tonight at 7 p.m., its not an exaggeration to say its the most intriguing mens soccer game that has been played at Dail Soccer Stadium, the Wolfpacks soccer facility that was opened in 2008.
Despite the signs of progress, Findley who is in his second year as coach doesnt think people should extrapolate too much about the state of the program.
It is only a start, Findley said. I think it helps cause the guys believe in what were saying, and you gain credibility when you have an idea tactically and philosophically. Then you put it into place, and they buy into it, and then they see the benefits.
So, yeah, to some extent, I think it does validate some ideas and some thoughts and team concepts, but really that judgment will be made at the end of the season; not only then, but in years to come.
After George Tarantini resigned after the 2010 season, N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow hired Findley to rebuild the Wolfpack program. Impressed by what Findley did when he was the coach at Butler, Yow is not surprised by what Findley has done in a little more than one season.
He is special, Yow said. Who else could elevate the Butler soccer program as high as No. 5 in the nation on a shoestring budget? That is what we saw in him an overachiever who also shared our academic values.
While Findley is taking a coachs perspective on the Wolfpacks strong start everyone says, oh, its a great start, but thats all it is he is impressed with the way his team has come together and formed a strong chemistry.
Important to that process was a 2-1 overtime win over Mercer on Aug. 26. The Wolfpack fell behind by a goal in that game before tying the score in the 86th minute.
It was the one game in which N.C. State really had to strain for the win. Otherwise, its been relatively smooth sailing the Wolfpack has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 18-4.
Findleys been especially pleased with the play of his back four. Matt Ingram, Ryan Metts, Moss Jackson-Atogi and Gbenga Makinde are all underclassmen, but all have demonstrated poise playing together.
Those guys dont get a whole lot of praise, but theyve grown as a group, Findley said.
The player on the Wolfpack who probably gets the most praise is junior transfer Alex Martinez. After beginning his career at High Point, the midfielder has been on College Soccer News national team of the week twice and leads N.C. State with five goals and four assists.
Of course, if the Wolfpack stumbles over the course of the ACC season, not many people are likely to remember the strong start of Martinez, the defense or the team as a whole.
I told the guys, Yeah, thats great were getting ranked, but you dont need someone else to tell you youre playing well, he said. Our goal is to finish strong on the year, and thats something we talk about in our fitness and every game.
I think were playing well. I think we can play a lot better if youre only six games in and youre playing as well as youre going to play all year, I think you might be in trouble.