WARSAW – Whether many have realized it or not, the Warsaw boys soccer team has built quite a dynasty on the pitch.
Having reached the state Final Four in each of the past three seasons, including a state finals appearance last October that ended in a 1-0 heartbreak to Columbus North, the Tigers have asserted itself as the team to beat in northern Indiana. But with any program that has built a pattern of success, can it reload with several key components gone from the 2012 state run?
“We have developed the expectation that we belong in the top tier in Indiana,” stated Warsaw head coach Scott Bauer. “We don’t verbally state our goals, although we do set out to win the NLC and go deep in the postseason.”
The team speed, precision and organization of Warsaw gave fits to nearly all of its opponents a year ago, and nothing should change this fall. Despite losing the enormously talented duo of Nate Kolbe and Diego Lopez as forwards to graduation, Bauer plans to just reassemble his returning parts to revamp the attack.
Kolbe and Lopez combined for much of the firepower, scoring 36 of the team’s 63 goals and assisting on 15 others. Combine that with the six goals and three assists of departed midfielder Grant Allbritten, and Bauer will have some work to do in assembly. Early plans are to shift seniors Zack Tucker and Matt Williams and junior Tito Cuellar into the attack as wings and shift senior Stephen Kolbe from defender to center forward.
The speed and persistence of Tucker and Williams, who could also help defensively along with the attack, and the tactical prowess of Cuellar should bode well. Tucker potted eight goals and helped on six others to lead the team in returning static numbers. Toss in the 6’3″ frame of Kolbe flying in during corners and crosses and Warsaw may not have a drop off in offensive production.
“I really think we can be good again and play at the level we have the past few years,” Bauer stated. “We just have to gel and get that chemistry on the field, and as long as we don’t have any injuries, we will be OK. We’re just not as deep in certain spots as we have been in the past.”
Sam Allbritten (four goals, three assists) should be the lead distributor in midfield, but could change looks depending on Warsaw’s formations against different teams. Bauer likes what he has seen defensively from seniors Miguel Rivera, Alex Climaco and junior Caleb Klusman.
And a staple in Warsaw for years has been the goalkeeping, and Bauer feels another graduation loss shouldn’t affect his roster. After having David Johnson and Michael Yantz in net the past five years, providing ownership of some of the top goaltending in the state, Bauer points to junior Peyton Long to be the next in line. Long played in just three matches last season, serving as backup to Yantz who gave up just 10 goals the entire season in 24 matches. Long allowed just one goal in his limited time on the varsity pitch.
The Tigers will begin its march back to state Tuesday when it travels to Fort Wayne Concordia for a 5 p.m. game at Kreager Park in Fort Wayne.