It’s scary to consider how loaded the Goshen Sectional boys soccer field could look this season.
Almost as scary as how dead-on balanced this powerful collection of five programs has performed over the five years they’ve already been assigned within this same grouping.
In those five seasons, Concord, Elkhart Central, Northridge, Goshen and Elkhart Memorial, in that order, have each won one title. In those five seasons, each school has hosted once — without the host ever winning.
When the first state coaches’ poll of this season comes out this week, Concord and Goshen are each likely to be ranked high. Central and Memorial might receive consideration. Northridge might not, but don’t dismiss the Raiders.
Goshen’s coming off a 15-1-1 season and has most of its to players back. Concord’s coming off a 15-3-1 mark and likewise looks familiar.
Memorial’s coming off 15-5 with its first sectional title in 18 years and has a new coach in Todd Sheely, one who made sectional hardware a virtual automatic at Center Grove, nabbing 11 such crowns over 12 combined boys and girls seasons.
Central’s coming off 11-6 and still has some veterans — including reigning Northern Indiana Conference MVP Javier Vera.
Northridge, 7-10-1 in its first season under Lawrence Baltazer last fall, has graduated merely four players and has regained the services of senior Zach Yoder, who had moved out of state before last fall.
“Lawrence had a ton of young kids last year,” Concord coach Shawn McCuen said. “They’re going to be better. Goshen, of course, is going to be stacked and (coach Viratham Mounsithiraj is) going to have them rip-roaring ready. Central’s always in there, and I think Todd’s going to have a great rapport with his kids, like (Dan) Sullivan did.”
The Minuteman boss scoffs at the notion that his team is a possible sectional favorite.
“We lost twice to Memorial and couldn’t beat Goshen (going 0-1-1) last year,” McCuen said, “so those two teams should have the targets on their backs and we should have clean, white jerseys. I’m excited about the workouts we’ve put in, but we haven’t proven anything.”
“I can say our kids have worked tremendously hard,” Sheely said of transitioning to Memorial, “but we’re also going through a feeling-out process. They’re trying to learn what the coach wants. I’m trying to learn if we’re going in the right direction or will have to make tweaks. We’ll find out quickly enough with our schedule.”
Mounsithiraj — who guided a senior-led Goshen club to the Class 2A state title in 2014, and then a younger group to an unbeaten regular season and No. 1 state ranking in 2015 — acknowledges that his team may look even better on paper than last fall, but says that means nothing.
“I was surprised, as young as we were, how well we played last year, but we also didn’t understand the urgency (of postseason),” Mounsithiraj said. “Memorial was very hot, very good and very hungry in the sectional, and our kids were (like), ‘Oh, we beat them (in the regular season), we’ll beat them again.’ Each guy has to understand the urgency.”
The RedHawks have four of their six All-Northern Lakes Conference selections back from a year ago, including each of their top three scorers in Marcos Hernandez (31 points), Juan Castaneda (27) and Lucas Bontreger (27).
Concord has retained similar production with four of its top five back in 2015 pacesetter Christian Saleh (31), Ben Rich (27), Juan Aguilar (22) and Matthew Granitz (18).
At Memorial, Jaime Mayorga returns after tallying 32 points, second for the Chargers.
For Central, Vera led the sectional field a year ago at 39 points (18 goals, three assists), but similar to Memorial, some other key components have graduated.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how we’ve looked, given some of the pieces we lost,” Blazer coach Sherwin Simon said. “Some of young guys have been impressive so far. I think we’ll surprise some people.”
“We are quite a bit deeper this year,” Baltazar said of of his Raiders, “and with 11 seniors, I would like to think we will get things turned around. (Yoder) would have been a major contributor last year had he been here. His addition gives us more attacking options.”
Northirdge returnees include Micah Cross, the team’s top scorer a year ago as just a freshman at 24 points.
Coach: Mark Yoder (41-32-3 in 4 seasons at Bethany).
2015 record: 5-11-1 (3-2 in NISC).
Roster: Seniors - Derik Mastau, Natan Nafziger, Jeremiah Overman, Joel Plank, Zane Zmudzinski. Juniors - Tim Cartmel, Simon Graber Miller, Kory Kern, Braden Miller, Jacob Saylor, Conrad Yoder. Sophomores - Biz Bomberger, Cedric Brenneman, Mason Richer, Keshawn Smith. Freshman - Omar Gonzalez.
Opener: Tuesday vs. Marian.
Coach: Shawn McCuen (195-95-35 in 18 seasons at Concord).
2015 record: 15-3-1 (5-1-1 in NLC).
Roster: Seniors - Carlos Aguilar, Jorge Aguilar, Juan Aguilar, Elias Ayala, Nate Conder, Brandon Contreras, Richard Luna, Eli Maidagan, Quinn Miller, Trevor Pollock, Ben Rich, Logan Wise. Juniors - Nick Binkley, Alan Galindo, Josh Gorball, Matthew Granitz, Carlos Pedroza, Christian Saleh. Sophomores - Landon Fisher, Billy Makin, Mario Mejia, Fernando Pedroza, CJ Pollock, Hernan Rodriguez. Freshman - Brandon Amaya.
Opener: Tuesday at SB Adams.
Coach: Sherwin Simon (56-15-2 in 4 seasons at Central).
2015 record: 11-6 (9-1 in NIC, co-champion with Marian).
Roster: Seniors - Kevin Castillo, Antonio Esquivel, Jorge Guzman, Nico Hernandez, Mikey Holtz, Jorge Miranda, Trevor Piazza, Carmelo Tirado, Javier Vera, Jacob Woodruff. Juniors - Roberto Cruz, Jose Martinez Reyes, Kelbie Moyer, Mason Perry, Miguel Ramirez, Patricio Rico, Emery Simon. Sophomores - Luis Botello, Saul Garay, Oliver Hasler, Jared Miller, Gerardo Reyes. Freshmen - Fred Aguilera Cruz, Angel Guerra, William Nolan, Bryan Ramirez.
Opener: Thursday at Northridge.
Coach: Ben Brown (26-64-4 in 6 seasons at ECA).
2015 record: 4-10 (1-4 in NISC).
Roster: Seniors - Evan Hartman, Nathan Karlik, Ben Kintner, Caleb Walters. Juniors - Bryce Campbell, Tariku Freeland, Denis Huang, Evan Jachimiak, Tyler Lollis, Joshua Meek, TJ Tice. Sophomores - Riley Brown, Fletcher Garton. Freshmen - Jackson Klahr, Taten Shrock, Michael Warren.
Opener: Tuesday at Lakeland Christian.
Coach: Todd Sheely (1st season at Memorial; 36-6-1 in 2 seasons at Center Grove).
2015 record: 15-5 (6-1 in NLC; Elkhart Sectional champion).
Roster: Seniors - Javier Ambriz, Wisdom Chigwada, Diego Gonzalez, Zachary Groulx, Gerardo Guzman, Jaime Mayorga, Oscar Ocampo, Diego Reynoso, Brandon Santos, Juan Vaca-Ramirez. Juniors - Preston Elonich, Elmar Martinez, Roberto Mota, Fabian Rodriguez-Lopez, Jon Sesmas. Sophomores - Caleb Ashworth, Tristan Bennett, Brandon Vargas.
Opener: Tuesday at SB St. Joseph.
Coach: Viratham Mounsithiraj (142-57-25 in 12 seasons at Goshen).
2015 record: 15-1-1 (6-0-1 in NLC, champion).
Roster: Seniors - Juan Castaneda, Carlos Hernandez, Danny Isaula, Alejandro Rosales, Mason Short. Juniors - Junior Argueta, Lucas Bontreger, Manuel Castillo, Flavio Cruz, Chris Garcia, Marcos Hernandez, Diego Loera, Alex Martinez, Sebastian Palacios, Adolfo Villegas. Sophomores - Ciro Aguilar, Efren Ortega, Ricardo Vargas Ortiz.
Opener: Tuesday at FW Blackhawk (addition to original schedule).
Coach: Lawrence Baltazar (7-10-1 in 1 season at Northridge).
2015 record: 7-10-1 (2-4-1 in NLC).
Roster: Seniors - Nathan Blyly, Mason Cross, Lucas Ganyard, Tre Marvel, Carson Neer, Kyler Pippenger, Max Teunissen, Wade Wilson, Justin Wine, John Michael Yaney, Zach Yoder. Juniors - Erik Briones, Anthony Jimenez, Adam Maas, Brian Soriano, Noah Stacker, Braden Tadeo, Kieth Wertman. Sophomores - Evan Beasley, Micah Cross, Carlos Escanlante, Lucas Marvel, Jonathan Mora, Stone Thompson. Freshman - Brody Gust.
Opener: Tuesday at Penn.
Coach: Brad Duerksen (144-158-41 in 19 seasons at NorthWood).
2015 record: 9-5-3 (3-3-1 in NLC).
Roster: Seniors - Eli Aukerman, Cody Cripe, Brock Lechlitner, Jason McPherson, Jaron Mullet, Dylan Weldy, Josh Weldy. Juniors - Mason Mast, Juan Pantoja, Micah Pippenger, Jadon Steinmetz, Corbin Taylor, Matthew Thornton. Sophomores - Lukas Aukerman, Kyle Luster, Landon Parker. Freshmen - Skyler Duerksen, Trent Edwards, Jerson Sanchez Baires.
Opener: Thursday vs. Tippecanoe Valley.
Coach: Josh Nakayama (26-14 in 2 seasons at Penn).
2015 record: 16-5 (8-2 in NIC; SB Riley Sectional, SB Riley Regional champion).
Roster: Seniors - Edgar Botello, Alex Dobbins, Andrew Fair, Andrew Fulmer, Luis Ivan Gomez Pazos, John Graham, Jackson Hopkins, Zackary Lopez, Luyando Makala, Riley Smith. Juniors - Samuel Atkins, Micah Craig, Jack Demske, Daniel Greis, Hayden Hurn, Aron Janko, Dhruv Khanna, Evan Mercurio, Spencer Neal, Brandon Stahl. Sophomore - Ryan Hague.
Opener: Tuesday vs. Northridge.