By Dennis Glade
WASHINGTON — After disappointing finishes to the 2012 season, both Washington and Washington Catholic are back on the pitch looking for a sectional championship.
Washington’s boys soccer program is the elite of Southwestern Indiana, but the Hatchets have hit a speed bump with a two-year sectional championship drought. After losing eight seniors to graduation from a team that fell to Castle 1-0 in the second round of the Boonville sectional. Washington coach Quintin Myers said the team lost some talented players, but the team has come into open fields and practice very hungry.
“Some guys are really stepping up in practice and getting after it,” Myers said. “The guys realize that the spots aren’t guaranteed and there are lots of spots to fight for.”
With so much talent missing from last year’s squad, Myers has seen senior Austin Ghirardelli step up voluntarily in the leadership department. Ghirardelli knows he has one last shot with the Hatchets and he’s made sure everyone else is doing their jobs.
“Austin Ghirardelli is doing a fine job,” Myers said. “He’s helping to guide the other guys. We haven’t announced our captains, but he’s acting as one right now. He’s getting the work rate up, and his work rate is high, so he’s getting the guys to stay with him. It’s nice that Austin (Ghirardelli) is stepping up this year and making it his team. He wants to win conference and the sectional.”
With the loss of so many experienced players, the Hatchets have been looking for others besides Ghirardelli to fill the void, and some of that support has come from an unlikely source. Senior Andy Garland has come on in open fields and practice to gain a starter spot for the Hatchets. Garland has been a standout on the basketball court, but is in his first year playing soccer.
“He’s (Garland) looking to play up top as a striker, and he’s done a great job for us,” Myers said. “He’s given us a lot of looks that we didn’t expect to have this year.”
As usual with Washington boys soccer, the expectations couldn’t be higher, but Myers knows his team will have to be very good in all aspects of the game to get the results they desire with less talent than in years past. With just one week until the season opener at Princeton, one important and hotly contested position battle has been at goalie between sophomore Nick Gray and senior Brooks Brown, which looks to be a dead heat at this time.
“We need to focus in on defense, and being a high intensity team where we are constantly attacking the other team and applying pressure, so that there is no time for our opponents to pick up their heads and turn with the ball,” Myers said. We are going to have to show up every game and battle every game. We can go a long way depending how they work together. I expect to win the Big 8 conference and the sectional championship.”
Following one of the best regular seasons in the program’s history, the Washington Catholic Cardinals are reloading for the school’s second sectional championship. The Cardinals lost eight seniors to graduation including standouts Colton Reed (45 goals), Brantly Smith (25 goals and 20 assists) and Christian Neace (20 goals and 30 assists) from a team that finished the season with a 16-1-1 record. Washington Catholic coach Wayne Neace said the team is young, but hungry to pick up where the 2012 team left off.
“We lost a lot of power,” Neace said. “We’re young, we’re small, but we’re hoping that with kids with a lot of energy that we’ll be OK. It will be a learning year, but we’re hoping to build not only for this year, but for next year. We have a lot of juniors, and we’re going to focus on those guys, and we’ve got a couple of solid seniors too.”
Neace said the Cardinals will depend on seniors Brody Wilson and Josh Fiscus, along with Dylan Walker and Thomas Bradley, who are new to the soccer program. Wilson is a four-year starter for the Cardinals, who will try to take over the leadership mantle vacated by Reed, Smith and Christian Neace. The offense will look a little different, but Neace said the team will try to get up and down the field.
“We still have a little bit of firepower,” Neace said. “We have Blaine Fuhs, a solid junior, an Olympic Development Player, who plays travel out of Evansville and he brings a lot of experience and ball skills to our team. Between him (Fuhs) and Brody (Wilson) — we’ll try to form the team around those two and try to run them down the center. We have a player in sophomore Zach Taylor, who’s also played travel ball down in Evansville — I’m expecting a lot out of him this year. If they get it all together, I think we’ll be a solid team.”
There has been a drop off in talent for Washington Catholic, but for Neace the expectations stay the same.
“Our No. 1 goal every year is to win the Blue Chip conference,” Neace said. “The next goal is to win the sectional. Our knowledge of the game, and speed of the game. They aren’t as experienced as the crew I had last year. Those guys last year knew when to pass, when to dribble. We have to learn that — we have to know when to get rid of it. We really try to play a possession game, and we’ve been putting that into their heads this year. I think a couple games into the year will really tell us where we are at.”