C.M. Wright star Mang back after two mostly lost seasons
After 2 ACL tears, junior has 12 goals, five assists this year
On the soccer field, C. Milton Wright star Carolyn Mang is constantly considering her next move.
It can be a perfectly timed run to get behind a defense. Or a one-touch pass that breaks free an open teammate. In both cases, the result is often a goal for the Mustangs.
What the 16-year-old junior midfielder no longer thinks about is what kept her off the field for most of the past two seasons.
During her exceptional freshman season in 2014, after posting 11 goals and three assists in the team’s first 10 games, Mang tore her left ACL. After surgery, six months of rehabilitation and then feeling as if she was just getting back to top form, she tore her right ACL playing club ball last year in May. More surgery, more rehab and a lost sophomore season.
For Mang, who has been playing soccer since she was 6 years old and had never suffered a serious injury, the significant setbacks were devastating. But through it all, she has come to appreciate so much.
“I learned a lot about myself,” she said. “It’s definitely not easy rehabs, and it really taught me how much I can overcome and how strong I truly am, especially emotionally.”
This season, the Mustangs are 7-3 and Mang has picked up where she left off as a freshman, already scoring 12 goals and adding five assists. She is a captain, a catalyst and an inspiration to her team with a natural feel for the game that few high school players can match.
It was evident in a recent game against Leonardtown, when she scored a tying goal in the final minute of the first half.
In an instant, she recognized the gap between two defenders and burst through to reach a ball sent forward by a teammate.
Her explosive pace left her alone with the goalkeeper to find the open corner at the far post.
There’s a running joke on the sideline between C. Milton Wright coach Paul Austin and his assistant, Jamie Filiaggi, and it was told yet again after the goal.
“Every time she makes a fabulous play, I always tell Jamie, ‘Yeah, it’s all coaching,’ ” Austin said. “And then we laugh.”
Mang has already given Austin plenty of material.
“Against John Carroll, you should have seen it,” he said. “She had a ball come to her over the top that was maybe 35 yards out in between two defenders. She headed it forward to herself and it came down and then, on the volley, she scored from 30 yards out. I turned to Jamie and said, ‘I taught her that.’ ”
Soccer came naturally to Mang and it was noticeable immediately.
She was fast and aggressive, the one who always scored after coming out of the pack of tiny players with the ball. She would come home from school, grab her soccer ball and off she would go. It was nothing for her to watch an entire professional game on TV, closely examining the players’ moves and the tendencies.
Over the years, Mang started playing on travel teams that were one age group ahead of her to go up against the best players and improve her skills.
“As soon as she started playing soccer, she just had a really keen interest and she didn’t want to play any other sports. It was kind of love at first sight with the sport and her,” said her father, Steve Mang.
For the past six years, she has played for the touted Bethesda Soccer Club, which is sponsored by adidas and is a member of the Elite Clubs National League. During the spring season, she practices two to three times during the week in Montgomery County — the typical five-hour round trip from Bel Air includes doing her homework during the drives. She plays in games and college showcase tournaments during the weekends. Away games in the ECNL can be Carolyn Mang also plays with Bethesda Soccer Club, doing her homework on the way to and from spring practices. as far away as North Carolina, and in August, Mang’s soccer talents took her even farther.
Nominated by her club team in conjunction with generation adidas international, Mang was one of 30 girls throughout the country selected to participate in a oneweek training camp in Germany with the FFC Frankfurt women’s team, widely considered the top club in the country.
“That was really cool — an awesome experience,” Mang said. “It’s definitely different soccer played over in Germany from what we play here. I think a lot of times here we focus so much on the athletic aspect of the game — how fast can you run and how big you are. In Germany and other parts of Europe, they play more technical, which really suits me well because I’m not very big and like to play technical with the ball and see the field well. It was perfect for me.”
Playing for the Mustangs also suits Mang just fine. High school play is not the same as club ball, but she loves her teammates and they love her. When describing all of the attributes she brings to the team, Austin first talks about how humble she is and her team-first approach.
Days after her first injury, Mang was back at practice supporting her teammates. Last season, as hard as it was having to watch instead of play, she served as the team manager and provided positive instruction.
On the field, she always wants to set up teammates as much as to find her own shot.
Senior defender Alecia Rotunno had a rare chance to play up front during her sophomore year and Mang, then a freshman, made sure it was memorable.
“She really wanted to help me get a goal. So I remember she sent me a perfect ball and we actually scored off of it. That was a great moment for me,” Rotunno said.
Despite the shortened freshman season, Mang was easily chosen the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference’s top player by league coaches. She earned all-state honors along with being named to The Baltimore Sun’s All-Metro second team.
That season, the Mustangs came away with a 3-1 win over Harford County rival Fallston with Mang scoring a goal. Cougars coach Mark Hannahs remembers how long it took for him to take notice of Mang.
“About one minute. Her skill level was apparent. She moved down the left side and the way she kept the ball so close to her foot, I was like, ‘Wow, we may have our hands full,’ ” Hannahs said.
“She’s a team player. She could probably dominate every game, but she tries to get everybody involved.”
With 10 starters back from last year to go with Mang’s return, the Mustangs have the goods to make it a special season. And what’s on Mang’s mind right now? “It’s going to take us all on the same page, working hard all the time and I think we have a really good chance of winning a state title this season,” she said. “There’s a lot of good competition and it’s definitely going to be fun.”