After winning Saturday’s Evansville Harrison Semistate to earn a return trip to the Class 2A state finals, Columbus North boys soccer coach Andy Glover was going to give his team Monday off.
The Bull Dog players were having none of it.
Having lost to Crown Point on penalty kicks last season, the North contingent is doing whatever it can to avoid a repeat in Saturday’s state finals. Sixth-ranked North (16-1-4) will meet No. 2 Warsaw (13-8-2) around 3:30 p.m. at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium.
“The intent was to take the day off, but the boys wanted to train, and that tells us a lot about the pulse of the team,” Glover said. “Two appearances in the state final back-to-back is really great because it exposes the younger kids to the environment that we like to compete and train in, but it also gives the boys a bit of experience, and I think that experience really gets the mind-set of going in and producing results as opposed to being happy to be there.”
The Bull Dogs practiced at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex on Monday then on North’s turf football field Tuesday and Wednesday nights. They plan to practice on Carroll Stadium’s turf field today.
Senior midfielder/forward Brad Shaw leads the Bull Dogs with 16 goals and eight assists. Junior midfielder/forward Keaton Voegerl has eight goals and five assists.
Warsaw is led by senior forwards Nathan Kolbe (20 goals, 11 assists) and Diego Lopez (16 goals, four assists). Seven of the Tigers’ eight losses came by forfeit for using an ineligible player.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a very competitive game,” Glover said. “Rather than worry too much about Warsaw, we’re going to focus on what we do in training. Certainly an awareness of what their team brings to the table is important. We’ve had an eye on them and done some research, but more importantly is to concern ourselves with playing the game the way we play.”
Sollman unsung hero
Rachael Sollman ran a few of the fastest girls cross-country times in North history and is one of the top runners in the state.
But she hasn’t garnered the attention as some of the state’s other top runners largely because she’s been overshadowed by two of her own teammates.
Her freshman and sophomore years, Sollman was chasing Jessica Richardson, who set the 5K school-record. The past two years, it’s been new school-record holder Mackenzie Caldwell.
“Really I look at it as, one, a challenge definitely because they are so much better than me, and it gives something to always reach for, and it keeps me kind of in perspective of ‘There’s always someone out there that’s better than you, whether they’re on your team or not,’” Sollman said.
“Also, it’s almost a compliment to me,” she said. “Running with Mackenzie, who has done so well and is ranked so high in the state, and me being on the same team and being able to train with her every day, it’s kind of a little blessing. I don’t think without having those people in front of me, I’d be able to do what I’ve done.”
Sollman has been as fast as 18 minutes, 9 seconds this year and went 18:15 to finish second behind Caldwell in Saturday’s Brown County Semistate. She’ll try for a second consecutive All-State honor Saturday when the Bull Dogs compete in the state finals at Terre Haute’s Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
“I’m really confident with where not only I’m at but the rest of the team is at, both boys and girls,” Sollman said. “We’ve done a lot of training throughout the whole season and just a lot of training for what we’re about to do on Saturday.”
The North girls are ranked No. 4 in the state. Top-ranked and two-time defending champion Carmel is the heavy favorite, but the Bull Dogs could challenge No. 2 West Lafayette and No. 3 Fort Wayne Carroll for second.
“Our front-runners are still running great, and our pack has made a big step forward,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “Absolutely, I think that could carry us a lot farther up.”
North boys haven’t faded
When the cross-country season began, not many people around the state gave the North boys a shot at winning a fourth consecutive state title.
But now, two days away from the state finals, the Bull Dogs are being mentioned among a handful of teams that have a shot. They were ranked No. 9 for much of the season but climbed to No. 7 before the tournament and are now No. 5 following Saturday’s semistate championship.
“We’ve run so many of these teams during the course of the season, so nobody’s new, and we’ve held our own, kind of in the top-10 range” Weinheimer said. “But we’ve run really well over the last month when we haven’t seen a lot of these teams. It feels to me like we’re really on a momentum roll, so I certainly think we have a great chance to be one of the top-five teams.”
North lost its top four runners to graduation and for the first half of the season, had only one runner — senior Karson Tays — with much varsity experience. But while Tays has been the Bull Dogs’ front-runner all season, junior Kaden Eaton‘s return from an injury and the emergence of junior Andy Carr and sophomores Seth Williams and Chase Ballard have been key.
“Certainly everybody, from the top through 8, 9 and 10, it’s been huge how they’ve developed,” Weinheimer said. “I tell them — and I do that with pride — that 12 months ago, I would have not predicted us to be in this position. We’ve come much farther than I expected because most of them have been working at it for 365 days.”
Is East the favorite?
When the postseason volleyball tournament began, it looked like Class 4A No. 3 Columbus East would have to get past top-ranked New Castle to get to the state finals.
But with the Trojans getting upset by No. 10 Cathedral in Tuesday’s regional, the Olympians will be the highest-ranked team in Saturday’s Seymour Semi-State. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the favorite.
“By the time four teams make it to the semi-state, I don’t think rankings matter,” East coach Faith Wilder-Newland said. “Anybody can beat anybody. Whether we’re ranked third or sixth or 10th, it doesn’t really matter anymore. I think there are four good teams there with excellent athletes.”
No. 9 Seymour (30-5) and Cathedral (22-9) will meet in the first semifinal at 11 a.m., with East (31-4) and No. 4 Avon (32-5) to follow. The championship match will be at 7 p.m.
Jets, Lancers make all-MHC
Three players each from Mid-Hoosier Conference volleyball champions Hauser and Edinburgh have been named to this year’s All-MHC squad and Edinburgh coach Tina Bottorff is the MHC Coach of the Year.
Hauser seniors Lauren Gross and Mikala Greenlee and junior Haley Webster and Edinburgh seniors Abbi Bryant, Jennifer Stinson and Maile Cox are on the team. The Jets and Lancers finished in a tie with Eastern Hancock for the conference title.
“It’s quite an honor,” Hauser coach Jeff Case said. “Lauren is our team captain, so she keeps everybody focused and in the right direction. Mikala is our setter, so her ability to read the other teams and her ability to run down passes that aren’t as good as we’d like and make a play out of those is crucial. Haley is just an all-around good player.”
The Class A No. 8 Jets (27-8) and No. 4 Trinity Lutheran (32-4) will meet in the semifinals of the Loogootee Semi-State at 11 a.m. Saturday. No. 3 Loogootee (32-4) and Indiana Deaf (29-10) will play in the second semifinal, and the championship match will be at 7 p.m.
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