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BOYS' PREP SOCCER PREVIEW: Expectations soaring for Bruins (8/17)

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By RYAN O’GARA

The Central Hardin Bruins’ 2013 campaign featured a storybook regular season with a not-so fairytale ending.

After starting 18-0-2 but losing in the 17th District championship to John Hardin and then in the first round of the state tournament to North Oldham, the Bruins left a little unsatisfied.

With how well they did in the regular season — which included a tie with perennial power Louisville St. Xavier to end the Tigers’ 11-game winning streak against Kentucky opponents — Coach Mike Wiersema said anything in the postseason was just “icing on the cake.”

Still, though, the Bruins hope to be peaking a little later this season as another loaded squad will look to overcome the graduation of the state’s Mr. Soccer, Jordan Mabe.

“When you talk about expectations, you have to define what you’re talking about,” Wiersema said. “It’d be hard for us to have the regular season we did last year. We wrapped up our schedule and are playing a much tougher one, but I would hope we would be building toward the postseason and maybe do better than we did last year.”

That’s not to say finishing 21-2-2 wasn’t a roaring success. Wiersema just sees the potential for another strong season with a strong group returning, headed by senior Zach Fonda.

Fonda led the area in points as he tallied 31 goals and 25 assists. Along with seniors Cullen Duncan and Jordan Smith, that’s three years of starting experience. Junior Ben Heideman will also play midfield and is a two-year starter.

“Those three have played together for so many years, and not just for me, but have also played in tournaments and clubs in offseason since they were knee high,” Wiersema said. “They understand each other and have that chemistry. When we’re on our game, we move the ball really well. They’re a big key to that.”

They’ll be trying to facilitate the ball up top to senior Isaac Pipta and junior Joseph Jopes. Pipta was set to start last year until Mabe transferred back from Bardstown Bethlehem, and now he’s ready to assume a more leading role. He has big-game experience, too, as he started the game against St. Xavier after Mabe was sidelined by a concussion. Jopes scored over 20 goals for the junior varsity last season, and Wiersema said he’s excited to see both take the next step.

On the backline, seniors Alec Burgess and Clayton Ryan return. Senior Will Perish and Jackie Clark, freshman Cody Hall and junior Austin Stevens are vying for the other two spots.

“We need work right now. We need to have them become the unit that can be our backbone,” Wiersema said of his backs. “They’re not there yet, but it’s a work in progress.”

Central Hardin will be in the same situation in net that it was last year, with whom Wiersema calls “the best two keepers around.” Junior Garrett Kasey, who also kicks for the football team, broke his hand Oct. 3 and missed the final nine games of the season. That allowed senior Andrew Schmidt to emerge, and the Bruins didn’t miss a beat.

They started last season with each playing halves until Kasey separated himself. This season, Wiersema has been working both in, but admitted it’s “probably Garrett’s spot to lose.”

“I think the boys have been great about it,” Wiersema said. “They train hard and I don’t think there’s any animosity between them. They’ve been very mature about the whole situation. Both of them know that they’ll each have plenty of chances.”

After spending much of the season ranked in the top 20 of the state poll, the Bruins will have the chance to duplicate that. Kasey’s injury and the graduated Anthony Hall’s broken ankle derailed them a bit, but the pieces are in place for another deep run in the postseason.

“The strength of this year’s team is we move the ball and create chances,” Wiersema said. “Hopefully we can circulate the ball and create chances while keeping possession. We’re trying to play together on both sides of the ball. We’re working hard on it.”

Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or rogara@thenewsenterprise.com.