Canaan Christian Academy's boys varsity soccer team got off to a slow start this fall.
The Eagles dropped two of their first three games in NY/Penn League action, but recently righted the ship and are now one of the area's hottest teams.
With veteran skipper John Ashley calling the shots, Canaan has reeled off three straight wins and crested the .500 mark in regular season action.
The local lads defeated Summit (1-0), Muhlenburg (5-1) and Lebanon (3-1) this past week. Those wins pushed Canaan's overall record to 6-5-1, 4-2-0 in league competition.
"This has really become an enjoyable team to watch," Coach Ashley said.
"We're improving every week, especially on defense, and that's encouraging with five straight league games on our schedule."
The Eagles are ready for a very busy week that will go a long way toward determining playoff seeds for the upcoming tourney.
Canaan will journey to Triboro next Tuesday, then return home for a battle with Ross Corners.
On Saturday, the team heads to Elmira (NY) for its longest road trip of the year against Twin Tiers.
On a Roll
The Eagles began this recent run with a 1-0 white washing of Triboro.
The ultimate difference in this contest was a handball deep in Triboro territory. As a result, Canaan was awarded a penalty kick, which Spencer Beals promptly blasted home.
Rookie keeper Nick LaRosa made that goal stand up, carding 14 saves en route to the very first shutout of his varsity career.
Zach Eason, Blakely Hoffman and Adam Velez also contributed big plays for the Eagles.
Page 2 of 3 - "Moving Blakely to sweeper has given us much-needed speed on defense," said Coach Ashley.
"Zach is our leader on the back line and Adam keeps getting better all the time. He just hustles non-stop."
Canaan cranked up its offensive attack in its second game of the week, a 5-1 win over Muhlenburg.
Beals fired the opening salvo in this one, scoring a goal just 2:39 in. Less than five minutes later, the score was 2-0 when Jesse Lamberton tallied off an assist from Eason.
Muhlenburg got on the board a few minutes later, but CCA retaliated when Beals hammered home his second goal of the afternoon for a 3-1 lead.
Jamie Ashby also got into the scoring act before intermission. Just a seventh grader, Ashby snared a pass from teammate Jared Swartley and deposited the ball in the back of the net.
The game's final goal was also its most aesthetically pleasing.
Ashby dribbled the ball into a corner, but then unleashed a perfect cross that LaRosa headed home for a 5-1 victory.
Velez and LaRosa shared keeping duties and racked up 19 saves between them.
Over & Out
Canaan's final win of the week came at the expense of Lebanon Christian.
The Panthers came into this contest with a 6-1-0 record and hadn't lost since an Opening Day defeat at the hands of perennial powerhouse Westchester.
"Both teams had been on a roll lately, so I was very eager to see how each would respond," Coach Ashley said. "As it turned out, it was an excellent game."
Beals was at the center of Canaan's offensive assault in this one, peppering the Lebanon net with shots and eventually carding his first hat trick of the season.
Page 3 of 3 - Spencer got things going with a perfectly-placed chip that just eluded a young Panther keeper, good for a 1-0 lead at the 5:09 mark.
Eason (affectionately dubbed "Stonewall Zackson" by his teammates) led a spirited Canaan defensive charge that kept the Panthers' high octane offense in check throughout the match.
Beals staked Canaan to a 2-0 halftime lead with a SportsCenter-worthy goal.
Spencer elevated high above Lebanon defenders and headed home a pass from Hoffman that brought cheers from the home fans.
His third goal of the game came early in the second half, this one a 20-yard rocket to the far post that gave the Eagles an insurmountable 3-0 bulge.
The Panthers did finally notch a goal, but it was too little too late against LaRosa who finished his afternoon with 15 saves.
Score by Half...
CCA (6-5-1) 2 1 - 3
LEB (6-2-0) 0 1 - 1