The challenges facing Cathedral High School boys soccer this season are real.
That’s expected when a long-time, successful program changes head coaches – and Irish first-year boys soccer coach Whitey Kapsalis said the 2017 team indeed has faced challenges.
But Kapsalis said while that’s true, other things are, too:
The Irish tradition is strong. The program is well-established.
And coaching at a school such as Cathedral – and most importantly, working with the players on the ‘17 Irish soccer team – is better in reality than it is in expectations.
“It’s great,” Kapsalis said. “It’s better than I thought. I had real high hopes going in. Being at a place like Cathedral is awesome, and the opportunity to work with these kids has been more rewarding than I could have imagined.”
Kapsalis, a former captain for the Indiana University soccer team, coached at the club level for 15 years before replaced Paul Schroeder as the Irish’s head coach before the 2017 season. Schroeder coached the Irish for 27 seasons, with the Irish finishing 8-5-5 as sectional and city runners-up in the 2016 season.
“It’s the tradition, the culture,” Kapsalis said. “It’s the place and the kids, and that’s one of the reasons I accepted the position. I just felt like this was a special place. It was the right place and the right time of my life, for sure.”
The Irish, who opened 2017 with an early 5-5-2 record, entered 2017 with a strong core. That group featured four seniors with extensive varsity experience, with all having played at the varsity level as sophomores and juniors:
*Clay Troyer, defender/midfielder.
*Jared Kaiser, forward/midfielder.
*Matt Schepers, midfielder.
*Trey Kapsalis, forward/midfielder.
Troyer, Kaiser and Kapsalis are serving as team captains, and Whitey Kapsalis said the group along with six other seniors has served early as a team’s leadership core of a team that is strong defensively.
“It’s a blend of experience and newcomers,” Kapsalis said. “It gives us a good mix of personnel and this camaraderie piece that I’ve been trying to build on as much as anything.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised with what has been developed to the varsity level. I think that’s fair and it comes from a number of general different players.”
Kaiser led the Irish with six goals through 11 games, with Kapsalis adding five goals and four assists in that span and junior midfielder Sean Callaghan adding three goals.
Junior keeper Nik Kolosso also has been outstanding early in the season, Kapsalis said.
“Offense wins games, and defense wins championships,” he said. “We’ve solidified our back line and our goalkeeping has been exceptional. We’re pleased with the blend of experience and we’ve got two sophomores [Matt Welch and Nick Victor] concentrating on the back end.”
Kapsalis said while defense remains likely to be a team strength, offense will be a focus moving into the remainder of the season.
“Defensively, we’re pretty solid and goals are hard to come by,” Kapsalis said. “I’ve been around the sport long enough to know that’s not unique to Cathedral soccer. That’s why Ronaldo gets paid what he gets paid, because when you find someone with that moxie and savvy it’s a rare gift.
“We have a lot of talent and we have flair in the final third. I think we’re very, very dangerous, but in this sport, goals are hard to come by. Shoring up the defense and making sure you’re not giving up goals is one way to go about it, but we’re emphasizing our finish and our play in the final third to try to create not only great chances, but an exciting style of play.
“We’ve got some skillful players at that position that we think we can run through and create problems for other teams.”
And Kapsalis said while the challenges of a new coach – and the challenges of establishing a new program – are real, they’re challenges the team is meeting successfully.
“From the coaches’ standpoint, you have your vision and you direction,” Kapsalis said. “The uncertainty lies with the players. Think about these kids who are juniors and seniors: they’re going into the last year or the last two years of their journey and … man, there’s a new coach. It’s unsettling for them. That was tough for them. I know what I’m bringing to the table, but they have no idea.
“I’m trying to be transparent. I’m trying to be communicative. I’m trying to be open with them about expectations and challenging them, but trying to get a comfort level and a relationship they can feel good about, and trying to minimize the uncertainly about what’s in store for them specifically and how it fits into program goals.”
The Irish will open the postseason in the Class 3A, Section 11 tournament at Arsenal Technical October 2-7.