Coming into the 2021-’22 season, players on the Cinnaminson boys soccer team already had chips on their shoulders.
After being forced to forfeit its postseason run last year when fall sports were cancelled because of COVID cases at Cinnaminson High School, the team was unable to capitalize on its 8-1-2 record, which included ending their season with three consecutive shutout victories. They peaked at the right time.
After a 6-0 start to the new season, goalie Sean Kennedy and the Cinnaminson defense picked back up where they left off: Kennedy has been flawless in the net for the Pirates, after not being scored on in nine consecutive games.That puts him on track to break the program record in Cinnaminson’s next game.
Coach Matt Digney, currently in his fourth year with the team after previously coaching the girl’s squad, said following the team’s start to the season, it was brought to his attention that the record was within reach.
Despite a heartbreaking way to end last season, Cinnaminson did win its last three games before being shut down, showing their efforts and plans were working. Going into this year, replacements for seniors who graduated required a few players to step up and fill needed roles.
Through the team’s first six games this year, Digney said he likes what he’s seen.
“Through some conversations with other people about postseason runs and regular-season records in the area, it was brought to our attention that the minutes streak that Sean — and the entire defense for that matter — attained would be a record for our program in what we’ve been able to track down,” Digney said.
“Our defense has obviously changed a little bit in the scheme and in the guys we have out there, but it’s still great that we’ve been able to pick up where we left off. Last season, we finished incredibly strong and they’re still playing like that.”
Speaking of Kennedy specifically, Digney said it’s easier for his team to play when they have a three-year starter like him guarding the net.
“He will have one or two extraordinary, game-saving saves every game we play,” Digney said. “He’s so consistent and steady in the net, he can almost just make it look so easy back there.”
The only two goals Cinnaminson has allowed so far this year came in the team’s opening game against Holy Cross: After jumping out to a 6-0 lead, Cinnaminson put in backups who were able to wrap up a 6-2 victory. Kennedy left with the teams’ other starters with about 10 minutes left in the game.
According to team officials, Kennedy’s shutout streak currently sits at 720 minutes spanning the last two seasons. Another game of scoreless soccer on behalf of Cinnaminson’s defense would break Kevin Lynch’s program record, previously set in 2007 under coach Bill Dent.
Kennedy said he wasn’t aware of the record until recently, and while he certainly wanted to limit scoring chances and goals, having a streak as long as this wasn’t something he’d thought of before.
“I wasn’t really aware this was a thing to be honest,” Kennedy said with a laugh. “But it’s cool knowing that we’re so close to it. If I can get it, it’ll be cool having a record like that.”
Most importantly, Kennedy said such a record would speak volumes about how well the defense is playing in front of him as well.
“Breaking a record for the defense as a whole would be cool; we’d get to hold that as a unit and it would be some good recognition, since usually when you’re winning games, people typically look at how many goals your team scores first,” Kennedy said. “To be honest, I’ve had to make a minimal amount of saves thanks to how they’ve played.
Senior Gavin Welsh, a center back for Cinnaminson, was the lone returning starter for the defensive line this season, with the potential to bring early-season woes to the new starting combination in its first few games. But the aforementioned 6-0 start to the season shows that their team chemistry and hard work is paying dividends so far.
“I was the only returning starter along the backline, but I knew the guys that were going to get those spots this season were capable of doing what they needed to do, and they absolutely deserve the credit for what they’ve done,” Welsh said.
“I knew Will Frasso would be a great guy out there next to me, having played with him on my club team,” he added. “And then, Tim Morrell and Jack Salmon have also really stepped up in holding down the fort.”