The 2019 Cathedral High School girls soccer regular season hasn’t been close to easy.
But as Irish coach Marc Behringer sees it, the rough road of a difficult schedule could mean being able to better navigate the postseason path.
And around Irish soccer, that’s whole idea.
“We’ve played such a difficult schedule that it exposes all of the things we need to work on,” Behringer said as the Irish prepared for a 2019 postseason that will begin with the City Tournament at Bishop Chatard High School the week of September 30.
“So, by the end of the season we have a pretty good idea of what it will take to be as successful as we can be. Which is the goal of the regular season.”
The Irish, the 2018 Class 2A state champions, enter the postseason 4-6-2. Despite the record, Behringer said the annual goal of a deep postseason run remains very much intact.
“We have to make sure the girls understand the purpose of the regular season – that we’re getting ready [for the postseason],” Behringer said.
The Irish as typically is the case played one of the toughest schedules in Class 2A in the ‘19 regular season, with all but two matches scheduled against some of the state’s top Class 3A programs. The Irish despite the record were ranked second in the late September Indiana Soccer Coaches Association Girls Class 2A state poll.
The Irish have won three state titles – 2007, 2009 and 2018 – and Behringer said all followed similarly tough regular seasons.
“I think the girls were kind of in shock like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’’’ Behringer said of the regular season. “I had to tell them that last year’s over, and this year’s team hasn’t won anything yet. This year’s team is not last year’s team. Getting on the field and having to fight like heck and not always come out on the winning end all of the time is a good remedy for that [thinking].”
Behringer said like last season, the Irish have strengths that can form the foundation of a memorable postseason. Good team chemistry. Experience. Reliable, dangerous set pieces.
“We have a number of things like that going for us,” Behringer said.
Behringer said the primary difference between this season and last season is athleticism.
“This year’s team might actually be able to technically play the game better, but all in all, the other team (the Irish’s opponent) this year (usually) has been more athletic than us,” Behringer said. “You have to make up for that.”
Communication therefore will be key as the season moves forward, and Behringer said first touches and corner kicks/set pieces also will be critical.
“If those things go well for us, it will be very difficult to beat us,” Behringer said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Behringer said while the Irish lost All-State goalkeeper Sophie Saucerman to graduation from last season’s team, freshman goalkeeper Kate Phillips has been one of the team’s best players in 2019. Second-team All-State midfielder and co-captain Carson Kwiatkowski also returned from last season, and has continued to be key to the Irish offensively and defensively in the middle of the field.
“A goalkeeper and a central midfielder with that kind of ability and that kind of talent can go a long way,” Behringer said. “Our talent level is really good.”
Behringer also called an eight-player senior class that includes co-captain centerbacks Bridget Stratman and Marcelle Blanchet “really important to this team.” Senior midfielder Ellie Sheddy also has played strong all season, taking most of the team’s corner and free kicks.
“They’ve been doing a job all year keeping us focused as we’re playing, and pushing us forward in a season that has been challenging in terms of results and being able to keep confidence up,” Behringer said.
Behringer said the team improved as the regular season continued, peaking with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Guerin Catholic in the regular-season finale – the type of finish Behringer said could mean momentum entering what could be a memorable postseason.
“We try to say to the girls, ‘Look, we’re doing fine,’’’ Behringer said. “We’ve always played whoever we can. That’s kind of the deal. Iron sharpens iron. That’s the way it works.
“It would be a shame to have a team like we have right now and play a schedule where just hammered through everybody and didn’t find out that much about ourselves, and then got into a tournament where we had to play close games. I’m not sure that would turn out so well.
“If we get ourselves healthy, then you give it a go. You say, ‘We’re all in and let’s see what we can do in the tournament.’’’