Postseason has arrived in the Indiana high school soccer world and it’s a hectic week, with 20 boys’ and girls’ games up for decision in the area’s five sectionals.
As we all know by now, the 18th annual IHSAA Soccer State Tournaments will be contested for the first time in two classes based on enrollment size, with the cutoff point at 755. A record high field of 292 boys’ teams and 253 girls’ teams participate this year.
Gale, my trusty crystal ball, simply couldn’t handle every game thrown her way, so this year we’ll just peruse the most notable, or potential, matchups.
Boys’ Class 2A Sectional 30 at Floyd Central (Corydon, Floyd Central, Jasper, Jeffersonville, New Albany)
This is the widest open of all area sectionals, with any of the four remaining teams ( Jeffersonville beat Corydon last night) in with a shout of taking the championship.
As sure as death, taxes and chestnuts falling from trees in the autumn, New Albany and Floyd Central boys will play postseason, no matter the change in class or realignment, and tomorrow they clash in the first semifinal at the home of the Highlanders (6 p.m.).
To digress for a moment — just in case you’re wondering if someone has a fiendish desire to see these two rivals clash on an annual basis — the IHSAA uses ping-pong balls to determine the pairings, although all we usually see when it broadcasts the pairings is the announcement itself.
Each ball represents a school and they are placed into a lottery-style air mix machine. A motorized fan in the bottom of the machine blows the balls around the inside of the transparent container and air then forces each ball up through a tube in random order.
For example, the first ball retrieved from the machine will be the visiting team in game one with the second ball representing the home team, and so on. The method is followed through all sectionals, regionals and semi-states to determine every team’s placement in the bracket.
So there you have it. Anyway, New Alabany and Floyd Central have crossed swords the past six sectionals, with the Bulldogs winning the last three head to heads (2008-2010), and the Highlanders running out victors the three preceding years (2005-2007).
The last two went to thrilling penalty kick shootouts, both after regular season victories went the way of Floyd Central. Again, the pair meet following a Highlanders’ win.
The second semifinal sees Jasper take on reigning regional champion, and newly crowned Hoosier Hills Conference champion, Jeffersonville (8 p.m). The pair tied 1-1 when meeting in regular season, and since then the Wildcats have strung together a reasonable run of results, including victory over Washington (conquerors of Jeffersonville at semistate last year).
Coincidentally, that was the first game Rwandan Leonard Kwitonda played for the Red Devils (said also to be his first ever organized game of soccer), and the sophomore has been finding the net on a regular basis ever since, averaging almost a goal a game (11 goals in 12 starts).
Significant also to whether they progress or not will be the performances of midfielders Jordan Vejar and Vincent Straight, not to mention goalkeeper Cauldon Feldhaus, who put in a fine display between the posts against Louisville Collegiate last Thursday in a 1-1 draw. A few of their players are carrying injuries, and it remains to be seen what impact that will have this week.
The championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. What’s that? You want a prediction? Oops, Gale’s gone all blurry!
Boys’ Class A Sectional 60 at Providence (Christian Academy of Indiana, North Harrison, Providence, Rock Creek Academy, Silver Creek).
Saturday’s championship game (2 p.m.) looks set to be a faceoff between Providence and Christian Academy of Indiana.
Last year, the Warriors gave the Pioneers an almightly fright in the sectional semifinals when taking them all the way to penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie. That came after a 6-0 regular season defeat.
On September 17, CAI lost 4-1 but will still expect to give Providence a tough test, and will look to goalkeeper Tyler Stumler, brothers Caleb and Josh Moore in defense, and midfielder Chris Smith to put it up to the Pioneers.
For the Pioneers, Pierce Crawley and Daniel Wilburn, top scorers with 15 and 13 goals resepctively, will provide an offensive threat, while Brett Bass and Andrew Wimp will also be important to the cause.
For the record, CAI plays North Harrison tomorrow (5 p.m.) in the first of the semifinals, followed by Providence and Silver Creek, who beat Rock Creek last night.
Boys’ Class A Sectional 59 at Charlestown (Austin, Charlestown, Henryville, Salem)
Salem and Austin last night had 5-0 wins over Charlestown and Henryville respectively, and just like that the second of the Class A sectionals featuring local teams no longer features local teams.
Salem, who beat Austin in regular season, prevail in the first of the championship games up for decision tomorrow night (5.30 p.m.)
Girls’ Class 2A Sectional 30 at Jeffersonville (Corydon, Floyd Central, Jasper, Jeffersonville, New Albany)
Tonight’s opening game between Floyd Central and New Albany (6 p.m.) seems on paper like the de facto championship matchup.
The teams’ regular season encounter saw Loryn Queen bag a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory for the Highlanders, but the Bulldogs will be encouraged by a good showing against Providence last week, when it lost a competitive encounter 1-0. Kamaren Cole has become the program’s top career scorer this week, with 80 goals (and 40 for the season), and a lot will depend on how she performs.
The winner should have no trouble negotiating Corydon in Thursday’s second semifinal (7.30 p.m.), while Jasper (who lost 7-0 to Floyd Central in regular season but have had more encouraging results since) should overcome host Jeffersonville in the night’s first semifinal (5.30 p.m.).
Saturday’s championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. kickoff.
Girls’ Class A Sectional 45 at Rising Sun (Charlestown, Providence, Rising Sun, Silver Creek, Southwestern-Hanover, Switzerland County)
This has to be a candidate for one of the most one sided sectionals in the state. The Class A No. 1 Providence should have little trouble against Switzerland County this evening (7.30 p.m.), nor should Thursday’s semifinal opponents — Southwestern (Hanover) or Charlestown — pose too much of a problem (5.30 p.m.).
Sautrday’s 7 p.m. championship decider should see them up against host Rising Sun, who you would expect to account for Silver Creek in Thursday’s other semifinal (7.30 p.m.)
Thanks to the vagaries of the new sectional carve ups, the Pioneers’ biggest challenge will most likely be negotiating the near four hour round trip three times in the space of five days and ensuring the avoidance of a collective bout of complacency.