Soccer powerhouse St Xavier won its 11th Kentucky state title last week, and helping them achieve the record feat was a trio of southern Indiana natives.
The Tigers (27-1-1) won the championship 3-0 against Ryle at Paul Dunbar High School in Lexington, chalking up their 26th consecutive victory.
Among the squad were Henryville’s Gabe Stewart, along with Floyds Knobs’ pair Mitch Brinkworth and Logan Riely – all seniors.
Stewart, also a team captain this year, was on the St Xavier team that won state in 2009, but was stopped in its tracks last fall by Louisville Collegiate. He said winning this year was very important to him.
“It’s very satisfying after all the hard work we’ve put in,” he said. “We deserved to be champions because we were a true team. Everyone contributed along the way, and everyone played their best when it counted.”
Stewart attended St. Paul Catholic School in Sellersburg before going to Sacred Heart Model School in Louisville, and onto St Xavier.
He will play the upcoming club season with Indiana United Fire Development Academy in Carmel, and is committed to playing at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee when he graduates next year.
Brinkworth and Riely have been best friends since attending Holy Family School in New Albany together (see accompanying story), and have played on school teams ever since.
The Kentucky State Soccer Championship game was Brinkworth’s last organized game, and he hopes to help coach youth soccer at Holy Family this spring before starting college at Purdue University.
“It was surreal,” said Brinkworth of the experience. “Winning state is what we seniors have been working toward all year. It’s a great ending to my high school soccer career. I’ll never forget it.”
Brinkworth started playing soccer when he was four and was a member of Floyd County YMCA teams before moving on to Southern Indiana United when he was 10. He has played every eligible season since that time through last spring.
The achievement was a personal triumph over adversity for Logan Riely. He had been out of the game since last November, when he had an avulsion fracture in his hip.
After four months of rehab, he returned to practice with his United 1996 travel team in March, only to dislocate his left kneecap in practice a week later. That particular injury required surgery and three more months of rehab.
Riely finally returned to action in early September and got to play in 19 games for St. Xavier this fall, scoring 12 goals.
“I’m still trying to comprehend it all,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better to end the season on.”
Riely said the best thing about winning the championship was the fact that they achieved their goal from the beginning of the year as a team.
“It was also all the fan support from family and friends that we got not only at the game but from people watching on the internet across the country,” he said. “I had family and friends watching in Florida, Illinois, Colorado, Oregon and California. It really made you feel how big winning this title really was.”