Ryan Murphey has a dream job that he is chasing.
The longtime Mount de Sales goalkeeper wants to walk on to the Tennessee football program and kick for the Volunteers.
For the next month or so, however, that dream takes a bit of a back seat, as Murphey and four other Mount de Sales seniors are chasing something else: success on the soccer field that has been elusive in recent years.
“Team chemistry is working out,” Murphey said. “We’re young, and we still are young, but we’re getting better.”
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Last a state champion in the GISA in 2011 and a GISA finalist as recently as 2013, the Mount de Sales boys soccer team has struggled a bit since heavy graduation losses coincided with a move to the GHSA. But things are coming together this year, as the Cavaliers (7-5, 6-0 area) are one of two teams that are unbeaten in Area 2-1A play with a little more than two weeks remaining in the regular season.
As part of that strong run in area play, Mount de Sales has completed a season sweep of the other three Macon private schools, including 2015 GHSA Class 1A runner-up Stratford.
“We’ve been rebuilding our program the last three years,” Mount de Sales head coach Iain Jones said. “Long story short, I tell everyone between 2011 and 2013 we graduated 29 players, and replacing 29 players is difficult, especially when the current senior class, when they were playing middle school, we only have five of those players. We only had eight middle-schoolers playing at the time, and out of those eight, five are still playing.
“It’s been a slow, arduous process. Our senior class has faced a lot of adversity. We struggled immensely the last two or three years, but this year things have really started to click for us, and that’s why we’ve had the success that we’ve had.”
This year’s run is one that has come from the perseverance of those who have stuck with the program.
Murphey, who played varsity for the Cavaliers as an eighth-grader in the team’s GISA days, has given the team a strong presence in goal, along with a fullback line that is growing in experience. Heading into Friday’s scheduled game at Peach County, six of Mount de Sales’ seven victories came via shutout.
Three of those shutouts came against some of the biggest rivals on the schedule. Mount de Sales blanked FPD, Stratford and Tattnall Square, outscoring those three teams 13-0.
Mount de Sales’ losses have come against much larger opponents: Class 7A Collins Hill, Class 6A Houston County, Class 5A Veterans and Warner Robins and Class 4A Mary Persons.
“It was team chemistry. Everyone came out expecting to win,” senior center back Luke Guillory said of the wins over the city rivals. “We came out, and we showed it.”
Jones said Mount de Sales’ strength continues up the middle of the field, through the center midfielders and up to striker Nick Maiorana, who moved into the position this season after playing midfielder. He has a team-high 24 goals.
“The spine of our team is very strong,” Jones said. “Our center backs have done a phenomenal job. Our goalkeeper has really stepped up this year. ... Our defense has done really well. Our center mids have done a really good job, and our goal scorer, Nick Mairoana, has scored some big goals for us.
“(Maiorana) was being man-marked against FPD, and he scored three goals, and he scored two goals against Stratford. If it wasn’t for the struggles the last couple of years, he’d probably be the leading goal scorer for our program.”
A No. 3 seed in the Class 1A playoffs last year, Mount de Sales is in contention for a first-round hosting seed as the small-school classification expands its playoffs from 24 to 32 teams.
The Cavaliers have two regular-season road trips remaining, and both will play large in the area standings. Mount de Sales heads to Brookstone, a team with one loss in area play, on Monday, and the Cavaliers conclude the regular season April 20 at Pacelli, which is also unbeaten in area play.
“Ryan has kept it solid back (in goal), along with the back line,” Mairoana said. “It’s good to get some serves from our midfield, which has been doing well. It’s a team effort.”