The boys soccer team’s first game this year had to be postponed because they didn’t have enough eligible players.
When they finally had enough to face Southwestern, Aug. 25, they lost 5-0.
They followed that with a 2-1 victory over Cascade Aug. 27, then fell to Edgewood 2-0 three days later.
The Hoosier Cup Tournament Sept. 2 and 3 gave them a shot at redemption. After beating Washington Catholic 1-0 and White River Valley 4-1, the Eagles faced Edgewood in the final game.
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This was a team the Eagles could beat, head coach Erich Nolan told the boys. And in that final game, they proved him right, 2-1.
The Eagles still have only a 16-man roster, but Nolan is working with what he has.
He starts two freshmen every game. Some varsity players, because of lack of experience, would be playing junior varsity on a larger team, Nolan said. Some are still learning all the rules of the game.
“I definitely have got a lot of guys I’d say aren’t the finished article,” Nolan said. “I’m hoping by the end of the season, they’re getting closer to it.”
Yet, the coach is pleased. “This team communicates better than any other team I’ve coached before,” he said. “This team plays smarter.”
The boys realize they can’t be easily replaced if they are having a bad night or don’t show, he said. They know that if a teammate is less than proficient in his skills, the only fix is to help him.
“It’s my third season here, and I’ve never had a team that’s played for each other like these guys play for each other,” Nolan said. “I don’t think any of them are individually concerned any more. Every goal is a team goal.
“Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.”
The boys are aware of how important every single player is to the success of the team, said junior Logan Fittz. That makes them work more as a team.
Senior Noah Seidle helps guide them both as a captain and as one of only two seniors. He has played soccer since he was a toddler. He expected he could be a team captain his senior year.
As one of 10 freshmen four years ago, he did not expect to be on a team with so little combined experience his senior year.
Outside of games and regular practice, the players try to get as much time with a soccer ball as they can, he said. On the field, they look for the best way to help each other; the kind of encouragement that works for one might backfire for another.
“It’s just what we’ve got to do,” he said.
Playing on a limited roster even changes how junior Landon Cambridge approaches workouts, he said.
“You just need to make sure that you work yourself harder, to make sure that you’re in physical condition to play a whole 80-minute game,” he said.
Nolan has placed extra emphasis on not just building strength and endurance, but staying healthy and well-rested, too.
A lack of ego has been crucial to making everything come together this year, Nolan said.
He gave junior Will Ryan — another team captain — as an example. Even with a roster of 30, Nolan would want Ryan as a captain, he said. With his experience and a patient, team-oriented outlook, he has been a big asset this year.
“He’s not ego-driven, he’s team-driven,” Nolan said. “He wants to improve his game, and he wants to see the team improve, so he loves what he’s doing out here.
“It’s kind of awesome watching him grow into that leader role.”
Freshmen: Logan Imming, Will Normile, Caleb Yager, Collin Scales
Sophomores: Aidan Johnson, Noah Angebrandt, Whitten Keith
Juniors: Logan Frittz, Ben Rygiel, Landon Cambridge, Matt Chaiyasit, Will Ryan, Kyle Spires
Seniors: Noah Seidle, Jalan Armstrong