The outlook for the Toledo Christian boys soccer team entering this season was a gloomy one.
Joe Moore, the team s do-everything leading scorer last year, had graduated and taken his game to Oral Roberts University. As a result, the preseason prediction was that the Eagles would struggle.
When we lost him, it seemed every other team thought we had lost Toledo Christian soccer, senior midfielder Ryan Mathewson said.
Actually, [losing him] was the thing that made me want to step up with this group of guys.
We knew it was Toledo Christian soccer; it wasn t Joe Moore soccer.
And this season the Eagles have gone about making a name for themselves, posting a 10-3-3 overall record and winning the Toledo Area Athletic Conference crown with a 7-0-1 mark.
Eagles coach Steve Pereus said this year s team made the proper adjustments to deal with Moore s loss.
We really thought we did [have a chance to play well], although other people thought we didn t because we lost a really key player in Joe Moore, Pereus said. But our expectation was that because we didn t have a superstar goal-scorer, we needed to play as a team. If we could focus on fundamentals and playing as a team, we could excel.
One adjustment was to get a boost from the team s underclassmen.
There s no question Joe Moore was a big part of this team, senior Robby Jackson said. Of course we were going to miss him he was an all-state player. But we looked for our juniors and sophomores to step up, and they did.
Among the underclassmen who stepped forward were juniors Andrew Bosserman, who has scored a team-best 20 goals and was named All-TAAC first team; Ben Pereus, a first-team all-league performer in the midfield; and sweeper Jerry Skiver, who earned All-TAAC second team .
They and the other underclassmen provided support for the seniors led by Mathewson, who has 11 goals and 17 assists and was named TAAC player of the year.
Two other seniors were on the All-TAAC team Jackson, (first team) and forward Ben Tipping, who(second team).
Last year [Joe] scored basically all of our goals, Bosserman said. This year we re a lot more balanced. We ve shown we can get goals from a lot of different people and a lot of different places on the field.
Tipping said a game last season showed the team that this year it also would have to adjust its style of play, too.
We had a game where we won at Pettisville even though we didn t have any of our seniors, Tipping said. We had a good idea what we were going to get into. It wasn t a high-scoring game, but it proved we could play without Joe.
It wasn t hard to get the entire team to accept the concept of team play beating individual effort.
Really, we had no choice, Mathewson said. If we weren t going to be a team, we weren t going to get very far this season.
Coach Pereus said his team had early success, which helped the team embrace the changes.
As we got into scrimmages, and as we got into the season and started to win, I think we began to believe, he said. And that was extremely important; if they believed, they could do it.
We won our first three games, including a win over a Division I school [Whitmer]. We won big against Whitmer [7-0], and there s nothing like success to build confidence.
Toledo Christian s three losses were to larger schools: Central Catholic, Norwalk and Clay. But the coach said the losses and ties events that might have set the team back instead have helped the Eagles refocus on their goals.
It was kind of like a slingshot-effect: if they would lose, that would seem to propel them forward to the next game, he said. That s a great way for a team to respond. I think it was the tie games, where maybe we were overconfident or didn t put together the things we needed to win the game, where we slipped a little bit.
Even though I don t like ties, they seemed to do something positive for the team.
Winning the school s fourth TAAC soccer title since 1999 also empowered players to make sacrifices for the good of the team.
We lost Kyle Whitlow, our starting keeper, in the Pettisville game when he broke his arm, coach Pereus said. At the following practice we decided we wanted to look at all of the kids who could possibly play keeper.
One of the forwards, Jon Moore, said he would give it a try. After about 45 minutes it became clear to us that this guy was really very good at it, even though it wasn t a typical position for him. He stepped in and sacrificed having an incredible season [goal-scoring] to be our goalkeeper.
The success of this year s team, as it looks to earn the school s first sectional and district titles since 1998, also taught Toledo Christian s boys soccer team one other lesson: even though he is gone, Joe Moore still is having an impact on this team.
Joe Moore and I are best buds, Mathewson said. In practice [last year] he and I worked together to improve ourselves, and also we worked together to help other players improve their abilities and skills.
Skiver agreed, adding, Yeah, losing Joe was losing a key player. But we did better this year than we did last year.
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.