When Brad Barber talks about his Columbus East boys soccer team being a family, he isn’t kidding. This year’s Olympians program features six sets of brothers. Ten of those individuals are players, while one is a manager and another is an assistant coach, and most have contributed to the team’s strong start this season.
“Most of the seniors have played on the same club team and known each other for five years or so,” senior Levi Copas said. “You have your actual brother, and then you have your friends, your extended family that are so close they become brothers.”
Copas, younger brother, Justin, is one of three sophomores who have senior brothers on the team.
“I’m only a sophomore, but this is the last season we get the chance to play with our brothers,” Justin Copas said.
Sophomore Eli Newell admitted that he is a little more competitive when he faces his brother, senior Sam Newell, in practice.
“I feel like I know my brother more than anybody else,” Eli Newell said. “When we’re going at it, we usually go harder against each other than a regular teammate.”
In some cases, having two players trying to get ready for morning practices in the summer can be challenging. So can doing laundry.
“Sometimes, it’s a little hard,” said senior Ian Pittman, whose brother Kyle is a freshman. “You have to figure out who owns what pair of cleats or what pair of shinguards, shorts, jerseys. You have to get that all sorted out.”
Ironically, none of the sets of brothers play the same position on the field.
“It’s a unique dynamic,” Barber said. “Some of them play very similar to one another, and some of them are totally different players from one another. But regardless, they all have a unique way to read the game, and we’re better because of it.”
This year’s East squad is 6-4-1, including a Hoosier Hills Conference-leading 4-0 going into tonight’s HHC battle with Madison at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex.
“This is the best season we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said sophomore Alex Hammond, whose brother Scott is a senior.
Senior Ramiro Nieto has an eighth-grade brother, Jorge, who is the high school team’s manager. Freshman Rick Sanchez’ brother, Luis, a former Olympians player, is an assistant coach with the squad.
Two things missing from this group’s resume are a win against Columbus North and a sectional title. When asked about their goals for this year, several chimed “Beat North.”
“Get past sectional,” Ramiro Nieto said. “That’s our goal — to beat North and get to regional.”
Barber is happy with the leadership that has been provided by Levi Copas, Scott Hammond, Sam Newell, Ian Pittman and Ramiro Nieto, along with his other seniors.
“If you look at our senior class, it’s been a great class of young men for us,” Barber said. “I think they set an example for the rest of the players, and they lead very well. They set a high standard for the other young men, and it just happens that a number of those young men are their brothers.”
A look at the six sets of brothers involved with the Columbus East boys soccer program:
Senior attacking midfielder Levi Copas and sophomore outside midfielder Justin Copas
Senior center back Scott Hammond and sophomore center midfielder Alex Hammond
Senior midfielder Sam Newell and sophomore center midfielder Eli Newell
Senior center back Ian Pittman and freshman defensive midfielder Kyle Pittman
Senior outside midfielder Ramiro Nieto and eighth-grade manager Jorge Nieto
Freshman outside back Rick Sanchez and assistant coach Luis Sanchez