By GREG MENGELT
Jeffersonville’s boys’ soccer program has become a juggernaut in Southern Indiana.
The Red Devils have sectional championships in three of the past four years and six in nine years.
Of course, Jeff has had to replace seniors in the past, but this year may be an even tougher task for head coach Carson Webb. He’ll have to find replacements for half of his starting lineup, which includes three first-team All-Area players and News and Tribune Player of the Year Jordan Vejar.
“We lost a huge, successful senior class,” Webb said.
Still, Webb believes that he has built a program capable of dealing with even the toughest losses.
“We replace half of our starting lineup every year,” he said. “The development of talent we’ve established over the last four years has significantly gone up. We’ve moved guys around and we’ll find out what works. Our success has been proven over the past few years. This is not going to be any different.”
Despite the loss of Vejar, Brian Fischer and Skyler Davis, Webb believes winning a sectional title and competing for the program’s first regional crown since 2010 are accomplishable goals.
“I think we are establishing ourselves as one of the premier programs in the region,” he said. “I think that we’re ringing some bells around the state that we’re a program to be reckoned with. I think we’re going to be just as successful as we always are.”
Leading the way for the rebuilt Red Devils will be senior midfielder Leonard Kwitonda and senior defender Damon Rhodes.
“These guys have started for three years and are ready for their senior seasons,” Webb said. “They are excited and very motivated.”
Jeff also will have one of the area’s top goalkeepers in Luis Arredondo.
“He is a stud,” Webb said of his senior keeper. “Dondo will be one of the main reasons we keep the ball out of our own net.”
Charlestown has been in rebuilding mode the past couple of seasons, but the Pirates should improve from last year’s five-win total.
Senior Rodrigo Martinez and sophomore Jose Arrendondo give Charlestown two playmakers and Michael Navetta and Esdras Hernandez are strong in the midfield for a Charlestown team looking to build on its momentum.
“This season we expect to show our experience and skill at every position and reinforce that maturity with improved strength and athleticism,” Charlestown coach Andrew Smith said. “Anything less than 10 wins this season should be a big disappointment to everyone in our program.”
Even with the loss of Cesar Hernandez, Smith expects the Pirates to compete for a Mid-Southern Conference title.
“We have been looking forward to this year being one in which we think we have an outside chance of making that happen,” Smith said of winning the MSC, noting that Corydon Central is still the favorite.
The Pirates have moved up into a Class 2A sectional this season that includes state runner-up Columbus North along with Columbus East.
A year ago, the Warriors came up one goal shy of potentially winning their second consecutive sectional title then watched Providence advance all the way to the semistate.
Eight starters return for a CAI team that expects to push the Pioneers for the sectional crown again in 2013.
“We have a lot of varsity experience returning this year with some great new additions,” CAI coach Will Lorigan said. “Our goal is always to win a sectional and then see how far we can go from there. We have a lot of talent spread around the field. It is just a matter of figuring out where all the parts fit best.”
Forwards Minho Lee and Cole Ragland are back along with midfielders Garrett Couch, Sean Kim and Nic Reed, defenders Zabdiel Ramirez and Trent Kastensmidt and keeper Lucas Young.
“Our team is very young, but very talented,” Lorigan said. “More importantly, they have great character and look to be a witness for Christ on the field and in the community.”
Floyd Central’s 2012 season ended with a disappointing 3-0 loss to eventual sectional champion Jeffersonville in the sectional semifinals.
The Highlanders’ sectional championship drought has reached six years and new coach Tim Rice has been brought in to try to turn around the fortunes.
Seniors Varun Alse, Chase Gossman, Zach Lewis, goalkeeper Travis Foster and junior All-Area forward Henok Jones provide a solid foundation.
“We aren’t sure what this season will hold,” Rice said. “We anticipate it will take awhile for the team to feel comfortable in our system and style. With that said, we do expect our guys will work hard and give great effort, which will hopefully bridge the gap in the first half of the season until they feel more comfortable in our system.”
Rice said he wants to build on the tradition set at Floyd by the coaches who came before him.
“Floyd Central already had a great tradition before we got here,” he said. “We come in wanting to add some culture, pieces that we think will challenge guys to drive themselves and their teammates to reach greater heights. It will help us build an even bigger foundation for the future.”
There is a buzz around the Providence program.
The Pioneers are coming off their deepest tournament run in school history a year ago, making it to the semistate final, and coach Brandon Rogers has an influx of freshman talent.
Still, the loss of Pierce Crawley, Andrew Wimp and Cody Schrank is a big blow for the program.
“We have some major holes to fill from last year’s graduating class specifically on the offensive end, so I’ll be looking for some of the underclassmen to step up and fill some key roles,” Rogers said.
The Pioneers should be strong defensively and in the midfield and Evan Hollkamp returns as the team’s top striker, so Providence enters the season looking to match or surpass last season’s success.
“Given the new class system, our goal every year should be to make it to the state finals,” Rogers said. “We came very close last year, and I think we can do the same again this year if my seniors step up and take on leadership roles within the team.”
Rock Creek Academy is looking at potentially its best team in school history. The Lions went 8-9 a year ago with 11 underclassmen in the starting lineup.
Tanner Gerth is out 6-8 weeks with an injury. Everyone else returns, including 18-goal scorer Gedeon Nzombi and Will Brown, who had 14 goals and three hat tricks in 2012.
“Our main goals are to improve on last year’s season and to win the school’s first-ever soccer sectional title,” Rock Creek coach Chris Brown said.
The Lions also have the goal of winning 14 games to break the school record.
“We look to improve on last year’s 8-9 season,” Brown said, “and we have [14 wins] in sight, as well.”
Senior forward Noah Spencer, senior midfielder Caleb Scarbrough and senior goalkeeper John Osterhoudt return for a Silver Creek team with some lofty goals.
The main goal is to win the types of games they let get away a year ago.
“We are looking to build on the foundation we laid the previous two seasons,” Creek coach Colin Bell said. “Some of the games we let slip away last year and the year before, we look to close out and win this year. The program is ‘senior strong,’ so I am very optimistic about the upcoming season.”
The Dragons will participate in tournaments at Trinity Lutheran and Scottsburg and have their eyes on winning those titles. They’d also like to finish in the top-2 in the MSC.
“The team has set some high aspirations for themselves, but they are capable of reaching every single one,” Bell said.
NOTE: Attempts were made to reach coaches at Henryville and New Albany were unsuccessful.