After losing top 3 scorers to graduation, Indiana boys rally for section title
Having lost three players who scored approximately 75 percent of Indiana's goals last season, boys soccer coach Todd Myers didn't know what to expect heading into this year.
He wasn't sure who was going to pick up the slack offensively without Cole Rosenberger, David Zimmerman and Braden Sharbaugh on the field or where they'd be at season's end. Entering Monday's regular-season finale against Hempfield in a nonsection game, Indiana had an identical 9-3 record to Greensburg Salem atop the Section 1-AA standings and an overall record of 11-6.
“I certainly didn't see us ending up being section champs at the end of the season,” Myers said. “I thought maybe make the playoffs, but I wasn't 100 percent sure about that. Based on what we lost and where we ended up, I'm pleasantly surprised.”
To move forward, the Little Indians needed to learn to play together as a team. In the past, they just needed to get the ball to Rosenberger, Zimmerman or Sharbaugh, and they'd take care of the rest.
There was an adjustment period, Myers said, in the indoor season and spring season in which he saw his players begin to work together and rely on one another more, but it didn't translate to scoring goals right away.
In the season-opening Indiana Tournament, they scored just one goal in two games, but then Myers made some adjustments, moved a few players around and Indiana improved to 2-1 with an 8-1 win in the section opener against Valley.
Senior Kellen Short said despite the question marks heading into the season, the players began to realize in the opening weeks that if they played to their full potential they could compete with anyone. A 2-1 win over Mt. Pleasant on Sept. 22 helped reinforce that belief.
“They were the section champs last year and had a few good players coming back even though they lost some guys to graduation,” Short said. “They have a good system, and they're always a tough opponent. I think that was probably our most complete game from beginning to end. That was the game where we started to realize we could do something special this year.”
Heading into October, Indiana had lost just one section game. It defeated Burrell, 3-2, on Oct. 1, and knew winning two out of the final three games would clinch the section title.
“That was the first time we'd talked about it so it changed from, ‘Let's go play tomorrow,' to, ‘Hey guys, look what's at the end of the road here.' ” Myers said. “I think we kind of almost lost our innocence, for lack of a better word.”
Indiana dropped a nonsection game to Obama Academy, then lost to Southmoreland and Mt. Pleasant. The Little Indians talked about a return to basics and the need to not complicate things on the field, as the three-game slide ended with a 9-0 win over Derry.
Short said they learned an important lesson that they can take into the WPIAL playoffs.
“I think we can't have any letdowns,” he said. “We can't assume that we're going to be given anything. We have to earn it for ourselves.
It's going to take everyone on the team playing to the best of his ability and playing his role. It's not going to come easy, and we're going to have to work hard to overcome adversity and find success.”