Nothing came easy this season. Not from the start.
But if the 2016 Cathedral High School girls soccer season was about adversity and challenges, Irish coach Marc Behringer said it also was about overcoming both of those things.
The Irish did that as often as not.
“We just had a lot of obstacles, but we continued to improved and show a lot of grit,” Behringer said. “That ended up being the theme for the year – the perseverance this team showed.”
The Irish finished the 2016 season with a 9-7-2 record and were ranked No. 14 in the final Indiana Soccer Coaches Association poll. They won the City Championship and finished as the sectional runner-up to North Central.
The Irish’s obstacles began early, with junior defender Maggie Carter lost for the season with a stress fracture in her back before the season began. Behringer said that began season-long juggling with various lineups.
“We had to come up with a Plan B,” Behringer said.
The team eventually moved senior defensive midfielder Rachel Meta to center back, a position she played well. But Meta sustained a concussion late in the season and didn’t return until the sectional tournament.
“She was very, very good in both sectional tournament games,” Behringer said of Meta. “We didn’t have much time to play the way we wanted to, then when a player like that goes down you take a player from somewhere else and the dominoes start to fall. You get a lot of players in spots that aren’t the best places for them to be and you get a very challenging dynamic for the girls.”
The Irish started the season against then-No. 2 Avon, rallying from a 2-0 deficit for a 2-2 tie. Behringer said that set the tone for a season in which the Irish spent figuring out how best to play through their injuries – and how to navigate a schedule that included 14 state-ranked opponents.
The Irish played three ranked teams in the City Tournament, with Behringer calling the city final the high point of the season.
With seven minutes remaining in the final, the Irish trailed Class 1A No. 2 Bishop Chatard 1-0. Senior Nicolette Kapsalis’ free kick from 35 yards tied it. With three minutes remaining in overtime, Kapsalis served a perfect corner in front of goal and the Irish girls crashed the net hard enough that the ball caromed off a Chatard player into the net for the game-winning goal.
Kapsalis, who will play for Indiana University, had worked her way into the playmaking center-midfielder role. After the early-season injuries, she moved to outside back.
“She very unselfishly went and played that,” Behringer said. “She didn’t say a word.”
The Irish also were led by junior Audrey Kleiman, who finished with seven goals. That tied sophomore Jennifer Utzinger for most on the team. Ashley Levingston had her best year for the Irish as a senior, Behringer said.
Also key was junior Camyrn Wylam, who moved to a backfield role after playing attacker her first two seasons. Behringer called her “as good a defender as an outside back as I’ve had in 21 years.”
“She just took to it,” Behringer said. “It was a very natural thing. It was incredible. She was just fabulous.”
Goaltender Sophia Saucerman, who started this season as a sophomore, replaced departed Sophia Lipka – now starting for IUPUI – and “did a fantastic job” according to Behringer.
The group helped the Irish to a successful season in a year in which nothing came easy, a trend Behringer said began when rain canceled an early-season game and forced another to be rescheduled.
“At one point we had played four games where they normally we would have played seven,” Behringer said. “It really threw off the rhythm – and there were so many interesting challenges for this group. For them to come out of and defend the city championship and to play a very strong match in the semi … in the final we just couldn’t find a way to get the tying goal.”
The Irish beat Lawrence North, 4-0, in the sectional semifinal before losing to North Central, 1-0.
“We played a really strong match and created a lot of good opportunities, but in soccer sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t,” Behringer said of the sectional final. “For whatever reason this year in the sectional final we just weren’t quite sharp enough and the ball didn’t bounce our way enough to get the equalizer. Still, the coaches were very proud of this team.”
And Behringer said with just six seniors graduating from a 17-player roster, the Irish without question will be back strong next season.
“We’re looking forward to next year,” Behringer said. “It takes a while to get rid of the taste in our mouth, but we’re excited about the players coming back.”