The leaves have changed and the temperatures are cooling. It’s time for the Indiana soccer sectional tournament to begin. Washington and Washington Catholic will take to the field this week in search of a sectional championship.
After losing a wealth of talent, the Hatchets finished the regular season with a 12-4-1 record and a second place finish in the Big 8 conference. Washington will match up with Boonville tonight at 5 p.m. CDT, a team it beat 5-0 at the Sports Complex Sept. 18. Despite the final score, Washington only led 1-0 at half before scoring four goals in the second half.
Washington coach Quintin Myers said his team will have to come out with 40 minutes of intensity against the Pioneers, who the Hatchets beat 1-0 in the first round of the Boonville sectional last year. The Hatchets lost 1-0 to Castle in the semi-finals. Washington’s sectional location will move to Evansville North from Boonville in previous years.
“We know what we need to work on - it’s this late in the season we know the things we have to do to be successful,” Myers said. “We have got to start with high intensity Wednesday night against Boonville and not come out flat, because the longer they can hang on, the bigger chance they have to upset us. Hopefully we come out with the mindset that we take no prisoners and take it to them.”
Washington drew a bye in the first round, while avoiding Evansville North, Castle and Jasper in the first game. North defeated Jasper Monday night 4-3 and will face Castle in the second game Wednesday night. Jasper was the only team Washington failed to beat in the regular season.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better sectional draw than we have,” Myers said. “We can’t overlook Boonville Wednesday before we can even think about the championship Saturday.”
2013 was business as usual for Washington Catholic as the Cardinals completed the regular season with an 11-5-1 record and a fourth straight Blue Chip conference championship. The Cardinals were upset in the first round of last year’s sectional at Northeast Dubois after an undefeated regular season. The Cardinals will match up with Shoals tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the semi-finals of the Northeast Dubois sectional.
“Right now I feel we’re playing some of our better soccer,” said Washington Catholic coach Wayne Neace. “I think we have a really good shot at the sectional this year.”
If the Cardinals want to win their second sectional in school history (2011) they will need a strong effort from their offense to get off to a good start against a Shoals team they beat in the early part of the season. The offense begins with junior Blaine Fuhs, who scored 39 goals after the graduation of Colton Reed, who scored 45 goals to lead the Cardinals to an undefeated 2012 regular season.
“We just have to find Blaine’s (Fuhs) feet,” Neace said. “He’s such a great player that he does everything else on his own.”
Neace said one of the most important aspect of the game the Cardinals need to focus on is the ends of both halves and making sure they finish strong so there isn’t an opportunity for Shoals to take hold of momentum. The defensive game plan will be paramount to success tonight.
“The defense has to be on their game,” Neace said. “They have to find their man early and shut down as many runs as possible.”
In the first season under coach Stacy Bryant, Washington has taken their place back atop of the Big 8 conference as they enter its sectional matchup Thursday evening against the host school, Castle at 5 p.m. CDT. The Hatchets finished the regular season with an 11-5-1 record and an undefeated run through the Big 8.
Despite the strong regular season, Washington could be without sophomore Jenna Johnson after she suffered a left knee injury when she bumped knees with fellow teammate Ashley Downs during the Hatchets’ loss in the regular season finale at Evansville North 4-1. Johnson hyperextended his knee and her status for Thursday night’s game against Castle is up in the air.
The Hatchets are 2-2 against their potential sectional opponents. Washington lost its only matchup against Castle 2-0 in the first game of the season, but the Hatchets defeated Boonville 2-1 and beat Jasper 1-0.
“To play Castle 2-0, who is undefeated is saying something,” Bryant said. “It was our first game and their third game. Overall I think we have done well even against the Evansville schools. Evansville North was closer than the score sounds. Against Castle we had some scoring chances in the second half that we should have finished and hopefully we have the opportunity to finish those opportunities.”
One bugaboo that has plauged the Hatchets this season has been starting slow and giving up early goals. Bryant knows his team can’t allow themselves to fall behind early against Castle, the team they lost to in the sectional championship last season.
“Every week we put things in trying to fix it,” Bryant said. It’s like a Nascar vehicle that comes into the pits and says it doesn’t handle well in turns or it is getting loose in the rear end and they adjust something and send it back out there. They are always trying to fix it and soccer is that way sometimes. We don’t have one single driver that can give us the feedback, I really haven’t been able to put a finger on why we come out slow. 65 percent of goals scored against us have been in the first 15 minutes of the game. We’ve tried longer warmups, harder warmups, I’ve tried everything but it seems to be a personality quirk of ours.”
The Cardinals (9-2-3) will face Sullivan, the host school of their sectional as they try to face their first sectional championship. Last season ended with a loss to South Knox in the first round of the sectional. The Cardinals matchup against Sullivan Tuesday evening won’t be available at press time.
The Cardinals suffered a 2-0 loss at the hands of Sullivan earlier this season, but coach Kelly Neace feels confident that her team is better than the previous matchup and will bring the intensity for the sectional matchup.
“We just need to keep our heads straight on,” Neace said. “Sullivan beat us 2-0 earlier this yea, but we are a different team reight now.”
Senior leadership will be the key for the Cardinals and that starts with Elizabeth Perkins. Neace said Perkins has been the team leader all year and most of the young Cardinals look up to Perkins and are ready to give their all to make sure Sullivan isn’t the final game of the careers of seniors Morgan Smith, Vibeke Salmelid, Macy Kane, Lauren Madettis, Olivia Williams and Audrey Groves.
“She (Perkins) has stepped up a lot and she is working so hard to impact the demeanor about the whole team,” Neace said. “She lifts everyone up in spirit and plays her hard out and all the young players look up to her. Other seniors on the team have stepped up and when it comes to the end you can’t get that back.”