By Jen Toland, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Clark men's soccer coach Matt O'Toole, who is in his fifth year with the Cougars, told his players a couple of seasons ago they were building toward something good.
"We all believed in it," junior goalkeeper Connor Maguire of Dunstable said.
Clark won six games in 2015 and finished below .500 for the fourth straight season, but the Cougars kept believing. This year, Clark won a record nine straight games to open the season.
"Coming into this season, we knew this was going to be the season," Maguire said, "and we all knew we had to put in the work this year to really turn it around. I think it's apparent we put in a lot of work in the offseason. The returning guys came back stronger and better, and the new guys came in strong and ready to go."
Clark (9-1, 2-1 NEWMAC) suffered its first loss to unbeaten Springfield last Saturday. The Pride scored the go-ahead goal in the 84th minute to take a 3-2 victory.
Clark has been a solid defensive team in recent seasons, and that is the case this year, too. Behind Maguire, who has started eight games, the Cougars have a 0.59 goals against average.
Springfield was the first team to score more than one goal on Clark this season. Clark's offense has improved in 2016. The Cougars are averaging 2 goals per game, up from 1.18 last season, and that has taken some pressure off the back line.
Clark lost five games, 1-0, last year and four losses came in overtime.
Maguire, who played at Groton-Dunstable, has allowed six goals. He has posted one shutout.
Maguire thinks Clark's 2-1 double-overtime win over NEWMAC rival WPI, which was the Cougars' first win over the Engineers since 2011, was the key moment of the season to this point.
"We realized we were a good team this year," Maguire said, "and if we kept working and kept grinding, we could have the year we all want to have this year."