While the likes of Lakeland Christian Academy could make a claim that they have a tougher road to hoe this fall, jumping into its first year of IHSAA sanctioned sports, LCA’s boys team is its primary boys fall sport. Whitko, which is in just its second year of official soccer existence, could even feel the shadow of the Lady Wildcats, which won a sectional title last fall in its first year as an IHSAA program.
What’s the little engine to do?
“At one point, it was like, ‘Who needs a letter?’ trying to get kids to come out,” said Whitko boys head coach Jason Ehrman. “I was asking kids who had buddies that wanted to play. Sales tactics, just trying to get kids interested in soccer here.”
Ehrman’s efforts have translated into interest from the Wildcat masses, fielding a full squad last fall and, while losing three key players to graduation, will bring in what he believes will be a competitive team this fall. Whitko isn’t shying away from competition despite winning just one game last year. The Wildcats will open at NorthWood on Tuesday and then host Columbia City and Plymouth, which have had very successful teams in recent years.
Ehrman cites returners Brady Herendeen, Tyler Sherwin and Luckson Steigiltz will pilot the offense while Cole Findley will organize the defense. Jacob Helton returns to net for his second season, and at times in 2011, showed real signs of promise including a shutout of North Miami. Scoring will be at a premium, however, as Whitko is absorbing the losses of leading scorer Jordan Sims (10 goals) and assist man Scott Paulus (6 helpers).
“My biggest concerns are improving our overall team defense and where our goals will come from after losing 90 percent of our scoring with our graduating seniors,” Ehrman said.
“I am stressing to the kids that are here that we want to have fun, that is the point of being out here,” continued the head coach. “Yes, we are trying to win, but that isn’t always going to happen. We have to keep getting better and grow as a team. I think we have some great kids on our team, but we have to continue to build what we have.”
Who Will Step Up For The Tigers?
It’s never easy for a program that has made huge strides to lose the core that got them there. Warsaw, which has been to the Final Four twice and the Elite Eight twice in the past four years, will have to cope with losing elite goal scorers Corey Lopez (29 goals) and Jose Rodriguez (12 assists), as well as David Johnson in goal, but bring back a host of talent which could keep Warsaw at a state level.
“I don’t feel we are as deep this year,” began Tiger manager Scott Bauer. “We can absorb most of our losses but could be in trouble if we get hit with injuries. Right now we have three starters out so we will be a little shaky perhaps coming out of the gate.”
Seniors Diego Lopez and Nate Kolbe will lead Warsaw on the offensive end, with Zach Tucker being asked to contribute to the attack. Lopez is widely considered one of the most creative and potent scoring threats in the state, when he is on the pitch.
Plugging the gaping void in goal is senior Michael Yantz, who found his role unfortunate being behind Johnson on the depth chart. Johnson had a whopping 13 shutouts last season for Warsaw, and in the final nine games of the season, allowed just one goal in regulation. Yantz could provide the same coverage, already getting attention from Division 1 schools from summer program work.
Warriors Seeking Scoring Punch
While mathematically possible, it is very difficult to advance in the state tournament without scoring. Wawasee had all sorts of trouble putting the ball in the net last fall, scoring just five goals all season and having to endure a lot of graduation plugs this summer, losing seven to diplomas.
“Last year, the coaching staff didn’t really know where to put some of our guys, and that really hurt us at times,” Wawasee head coach Tom Taylor said, entering his second year at the helm. “We had kids on offense just because they were quick. This season we are coming in with a different mindset. We have a better idea of what we want on offense, what we need out of our defense.”
Taylor is excited to see how the combination of several on the offensive side will pan out, including senior Jordan Acton, juniors Jordan Brown, Fernando Camargo and sophomores Luis Camargo and Derek Stutzman. All five possess tremendous speed according to Taylor, and Brown gives Wawasee a big target with his height.
The Warriors will also have to reassemble a defense that lost three major contributors as well as three-year starting keeper Andre Champoux, but feels the addition of senior Josh Secor in net and senior Aaron Becker leading the defense should help the cohesion.
Welcome To The Show
Lakeland Christian Academy will enter into the IHSAA jurisdiction this fall, included is its boys soccer program.
The Cougars feature a roster of 16 players, nine of which are seniors. LCA officially opens its season by hosting Elkhart Christian Academy on Tuesday, but isn’t shying away from some of the area big boys. NorthWood will visit the LCA campus on Aug. 21 and the Cougars will find out what it really has when Warsaw comes calling on Sept. 15.
The seniors listed on the roster are Brad Bibler, Noah Cole, Stephen Danielian, Cameron Hathaway, Kenneth Koontz, Billy Pitts, Logan Pitts, Collin Price and Ross Wallen.
LCA will join the Culver Community Sectional (1A No. 41), to which the Cougars have common opponents Bremen, Argos and Culver Community on the regular season schedule. Winamac is also listed in the sectional but LCA will not face them before the tournament.