New season, usual approach.
And while COVID-19 means playing the 2020 season in unusual circumstances, Cathedral High School girls soccer coach Marc Behringer is confident the program’s approach can continue to work.
The ’20 Irish are capable of a postseason push – and of accomplishing their season goal of “Taking Back the ‘Ship.” Behringer said they’ll just need to continue developing and working.
“That’s what we do,” Behringer said in early September.
What the Irish also do is annually play one of the state’s most competitive regular-season schedules, preparing them for the postseason. The Irish, 2-5-3 to start the season, in 2020 sustained early losses to four Class 3A powers – including top-ranked Noblesville and second-ranked Carmel.
Ranked fifth in the Class 2A Indiana Soccer Coaches Association rankings in early September, they also lost a tight 2-1 match to Class 2A third-ranked Fort Wayne Dwenger early in the season.
“It’s a building process,” Behringer said. “This group has done a really good job of creating an identity. We’re seeing a level of intensity and a work rate that would allow this team by the end of the season to be quite formidable.”
The Irish, a perennial state power, lost in a 2019 Class 2A sectional semifinal last season to Batesville on penalty kicks. This came a season after winning the Class 2A state title.
“The girls have chosen “Taking Back the ‘Ship” as their motto,” Behringer said. “We’re really focused on winning that sectional championship this year and trying to get that set right and seeing how far we can go. This group is shaping up to be one that’s as competitive at the highest level as any 2A team in the state.”
Behringer said the Irish were impressive in how they prepared for the season amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. He said the team had just one positive case early, a situation he said in a sense could benefit the team.
“It’s tough for the player who had to deal with the quarantine, but from the team perspective it was a reality check right at the beginning,” Behringer said. “It was like, ‘This is real. This is what’s happening.’ So far, we’ve been able to stay away from it.”
The ’20 Irish are an unusually large team, keeping 22 players – partly because of a recent rise in concussions in the sport and partly because of COVID-19. Eleven seniors are on the roster, with five freshmen – a dynamic that Behringer said has worked for this season’s Irish.
“They’ve all got individual skill sets and leadership sets that fit together to be a really strong team,” Behringer said. “The upperclassmen have done a fantastic job of continuing our tradition in our program of being welcoming, being a family, and really wrapping their arms around the younger players – because some of our younger players are key components to our success. We also have a group of seniors doing a fantastic job off the field putting together a chemistry that feel like no matter their age they can comfortably contribute everything they’ve got.
“Eleven seniors is a huge group. Most of the time when you have that many seniors, you’re not going to have the playing time for all of those seniors. That’s a challenging situation but one the coaching staff feels like this group is handling pretty well.
“Going forward, when they are called upon, they’ll be ready to contribute in whatever way necessary to help this team be successful.”
The Irish this season are led by senior captains and forwards Caroline Cline and Bella Dausman, who each have played an extensive role since they were freshmen.
“We’re leaning on them a lot,” Behringer said.
Also key are a pair of sophomores: goaltender Kate Phillips, who Behringer called as “as good or better than any goalkeeper in the state of Indiana right now,” and midfielder Anna Spellacy.
“Both of them are contributing in a huge way,” Behringer said.
Two freshman – Libby Lewis and Catherine Cline – along with senior centerback Ellen Schur have made up the group’s defensive trio with junior center midfielder Lauren Caldwell playing as consistently early in the season as any player on the team.
“There are a lot of people playing their way in, and some young and older players making a good go of it,” Behringer said. “It’s good competition to figure out how we’re going to mobilize this team. The roster shrinks at the end of the season to 14 or 15 out of 22. It’s a battle for those spots, but the key is everybody knows they’re key to contributing to the success of the team whether they’re in the 15 or not.”
And Behringer said this year’s Irish has the same traits as many recent teams, including the traits that allow for a deep postseason run.
“From year to year, the talent level may waver,” he said. “We are rarely the most talented team in the area, but if we put all the other things together properly – get the roles right, the leadership right, the playing for each other, the sacrificing for each other – on a regular basis we’ve got a shot. I don’t think this team’s any different.”