LAKEVILLE — Last year Argos’ overwhelmingly young squad got a little starstruck in the Dragons’ first foray at semistate in a decade. Two early goals led to a snowball effect as the team was eliminated in an eventual 8-0 loss at the hands of Bethany Christian.
But with eight starters back with the squad from that campaign, another year and a repeat regional championship under its belt, Argos’ boys soccer team is finally feeling like it belongs as the Dragons (19-1-1) open the LaVille Semistate against Guerin Catholic (18-0-1) Saturday at noon.
“I think we have as decent a shot as the rest of the teams there,” said Dragons head coach Todd Van Der Weele. “Last year I think it boiled down to Bethany having a lot of experience and us not having a lot of experience in that big-game situation. I think the fact that Oh my gosh, it’s semistate, I think we kind of froze, and I think we were emotionally exhausted. I think this year the boys having more of an experienced group, hopefully we’re past that. I think we’re here and whoever we play we’re going to play a good game against them.”
After a stellar 2011 season, Argos opened this year with a tough 5-2 loss to Goshen back on Aug. 18.
While Van Der Weele admits that the Redskins were a quality side, the defeat stung his players. Since then the Dragons have gone unbeaten in 20 games with a tie to John Glenn in late September, ticking off seven straight wins since that draw en route to the program’s first Northern Indiana Soccer Conference championship since 1998 as well as repeat sectional and regional championships.
“We didn’t go into the beginning of the season thinking we were going to be 19-1-1,” Van Der Weele said. “It’s an old adage, and I think it sounds cheesy but I think it’s true. We just tried to get better each time out. Having that experience it’s easier to draw on situations.
“Coming into this year knowing that they had won (regional) last year, they could have been pretty ‘Oh, we’re there, we can go through the motions.’ I tried not to let them get into that, and they haven’t done that. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do plus more. When you have a team that has experience and they’re working hard, for us it’s a good combination. It seems to work.”
The Dragons will certainly have their work cut out for them Saturday.
The Indiana Soccer Coaches Association No. 17-ranked Dragons face perhaps the toughest draw at the four-team tournament as they open with top-rated Guerin. But even should they advance, the winner of a match-up between seventh-ranked Bethany Christian (17-5) — whom the Dragons upset 2-1 for the NISC championship back on Sept. 29 — and No. 2-rated Fort Wayne Canterbury (13-6-1) looms in the championship at 7 p.m.
Argos is less concerned about what its opponents do than cleaning up its side and continuing to do the things that have made the Dragons so successful this year. It’s a recipe that’s yielded undeniable dividends so far, and the team is subscribing to the philosophy that if it isn’t broke, there’s no need to fix it.
“Guerin Catholic, I don’t know a lot about them, but they’re obviously No. 1 in the coaches polls and I’m sure they’re number one for a good reason,” said Van Der Weele. “I don’t know much about their style or anything. We’re going to have to do the things we do well, and hopefully we can pull some things off and get something out of it.”