Building a Winner: PC Soccer Coach Chaka Daley

Going into a weekend double header against Syracuse and perennial soccer power St. John's, the Providence College Friars are the only remaining undefeated team in the Big East Conference's eight team Blue Division. It is the best start for a Friar soccer team since the 1972 squad went 11-2.

Is this the start of a special season for Providence men's soccer? Friar Insider recently caught up with Head Coach Shaka Daley to learn more about the surprising 2005 Providence soccer team.

Soccer is a Tier I sport in the Big East Conference, and as a result three quarters of the conference members fully fund soccer with a maximum of 9.9 scholarships. Over the last five years, St. John's, Connecticut, and Notre Dame has proven to be well funded and the most successful of the Big East soccer programs. Providence College, while not at the maximum, has in recent years begun to inch closer to full funding for men's soccer. Five years ago, the team only received funding for 5 scholarships, but that has improved to currently 8 fully funded scholarships. While that still puts the Friar program at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to the top programs, Head Coach Shaka Daley, now directing the first senior class that he recruited, is showing signs of turning Providence into a legitimate competitor in the Big East.

Last season was a long struggle filled with hard luck and a rash of injuries. The Friars struggled as they suffered 5 injuries to major contributors on the squad and lost 10 games by only one goal. A new season has brought a healthy team once again and the infusion of some young talent to complement six seniors who are all either captains and/or contributors on the field. When Coach Shaka Daley was asked what it will take for the Friars to make noise this season, he stated it would require at least finishing in the top eight and making a good showing in the Big East tournament. In the Big East, the Friars will need to finish in the top six of their division to make the conference tournament.

As one of only ten people on the NCAA Selection Committee, Coach Daley also indicated that in the old Big East of 12 teams, about 5 or 6 teams made the 48 team NCAA tournament field. With the conference expansion, Daley feels that 8 bids is not unrealistic on a yearly basis in the New Big East. There are 23 automatic bids and 25 at-large bids which are extended to the best teams in the country every year. Overall, the Big East is one of the top 3 to 4 conferences in the country along with the ACC, the Big Ten, and the PAC Ten.

So they aren't fully funded, and don't have a particularly rich soccer history with their last NCAA tournament appearance being in 1983. How have they managed to stay undefeated through six games, most of which have been on the road and home openers for opposing squads? Coach Daley told us that this Friar squad is extremely cohesive and while not the most talented team in the conference, the Friars have a few difference makers and overall balance throughout the roster.

It starts with Eoin Lynch, a senior captain and the leading scorer over the last three years and Chris Konopka, junior goal keeper who has solidified the back of the defense. Both of these players received Conference recognition for their superior play over the stretch of six games that the Friars have remained undefeated. Coach Daley also pointed out the significance of his other two captains, Anthony Petrarca and Zachary Tobin, two native Rhode Islanders who have both led the team on the field with their play and have brought along some of young talent on the team, getting them to contribute earlier in the season.

With an emphasis on defense first and the use of a counter attacking style that takes advantage of mistakes and the over aggressiveness of some opponents, Coach Daley has thus far found a formula for success on the pitch. With continued good health, a little luck, and an consistent approach of taking one game at a time, the upbeat attitude of Chaka Daley has proven to inspire the men's soccer team. Beginning with home games against Syracuse and St. John's this weekend, the Friars will need plenty of inspiration to continue their impressive unbeaten streak. However, with 11 more games to play before the Big East tournament, Coach Daley hopes that this season will mark another big step toward his goal of making Providence College synonymous with entertaining and winning college soccer. The Friars take the field against the Syracuse Orange on the Providence campus Friday at 4:00pm.

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