This is one Marc Behringer said he long will remember.
The Cathedral High School girls soccer coach said he hopes that’s true of the seniors on the 2017 team, too – because he said it absolutely was a season worth remembering.
“The season was really one of the best ones in my 22 years,” Behringer said.
The Irish – who finished No. 2 in the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association Class 2A regular-season rankings – won the City Championship, then lost in the Class 2A, Section 26 tournament. They lost the sectional final, 2-1, to tournament host Bishop Chatard in a game decided by penalty kicks.
The sectional final came shortly after the Irish beat Chatard in the city final, 4-3. That game also was decided by penalty kicks.
“There’s no tougher way to end a season,” Behringer said of a sectional final in which the Irish rallied from a 1-0 deficit before losing on the sixth round of penalty kicks. “Obviously, it didn’t end the way we hoped it would on the field. Soccer can be a cruel sport.
“Sometimes, results go against you and it’s tough to swallow. That’s kind of how this season ended for us.”
Part of what Behringer said made the sectional loss difficult was that the Irish had a very real chance to win the state title. Playing rival Chatard twice in so short a period at the end of the season created a difficult dynamic, Behringer said.
“I really don’t think there were too many situations we wouldn’t have been able to get through at the end of the year,” he said. “We were building and building and had high expectations. That’s part of what made it difficult at the end, but the high expectations were what drove this team all year long. I have such a good memory of who this team is. It’s going to be a ream I remember really, really well.”
Behringer said the ‘17 team was defined by a group of seniors that led on and off the field. It was a group that included:
*Defensive midfielder Maggie Carter, a starter as freshman and sophomore who returned after missing her junior season with a back injury. “She was just incredible for us – a great player on the field and a great leader as well,” Behringer said.
*Audrey Kleiman, who missed the first eight matches this season with disc issues. “They were two girls who just loved playing and were so important,” Behringer said of Kleiman and Carter.
Also critical to the season: Camryn Wylam – who played through ankle issues and who Behringer said “was just amazing” – as well as right back Illiana Leppert, a four-year player who Behringer said was “sensational” as a senior.
Two players who played extensively on the junior varsity in their first three seasons – outside midfielder Sara Wajda and attack midfielder Claire DeWeese – also had standout senior seasons, with Wajdah proving valuable as a leader and Behringer saying Ruiz gave the Irish “real toughness and a real sense of playing under pressure.”
“They all fought so much it’s hard to succinctly express what they meant,” Behringer said.
Senior defensive midfielder Susanna Tsueda also provided leadership throughout the season, and Behringer said attacking midfielder Grace White – a past starter on defense – forced her way into the starting lineup again this season.
“This senior group was just mature and understood team,” Behringer said. “I don’t know that I’ve had a team that really committed to each other and were so close and tightly bound together. It was just a real testament to the leadership of the seniors.
“Teams go where the seniors take them, and in this case, the letdown of how the season ended should not overshadow the most important success they had. This group of young ladies will do very well in life if they continue to understand the dynamics of community the way they did this season.”
Behringer said the Irish again are expected to return a strong team next season, one that will include junior attacker Jennifer Utzinger and sophomore midfielder Carson Kwiatkowski and junior goalkeeper Sophia Saucerman. Behringer called Saucerman one of the best goalkeepers in the area and state.
“We’re really excited about what we bring back next year,” Behringer said. “We feel like we will be a team that’s in a handful of teams that are good enough to win the whole tournament.
“My challenge to them will be can they be as much of a team as this one was this year. That’s the most important piece.”