Saint Xavier High School did not take home the soccer state championship last season after capturing back-to-back titles the previous two seasons.
However, that may not necessarily be a bad thing. This year’s group of Tigers are hungrier than ever to reclaim their spot atop the mountain.
St. X loses 12 seniors from last season’s team, including prolific strikers Joe Workman and Jack Somervell along with a premier goalkeeper in Wes Luvisi. Although the Tigers lose a lot of talent from graduation, they still have a lot of skill and ability to work with.
“We still have a lot to work on, but we have the potential to make a run in the (state) tournament this year,” says senior striker Klayton Grimes. “We don’t have any star players. We are just a solid team.”
It will be up to Grimes and fellow senior striker Dean Mock to replace the production of Workman and Somervell. Workman led the team in goals during both his junior and senior seasons, and it will be very interesting to see if Mock and Grimes can fill the large shoes of the departed seniors.
The state of affairs in the midfield is perhaps the most exciting part of this year’s Tigers. Wizard midfielders Bobby Buse and Matt “Kid” Effinger are no longer a part of the squad, but there are plenty of promising Tigers to make up for the losses. Seniors Zach Vititoe, Clay Brown, Andrew Schaefer, and Austin Goodman will be great, and they will also be aided by juniors Trent Stigler and Colin Kremer. Stigler and Kremer logged very important minutes on the varsity stage last season as sophomores, and they could be in store for huge third seasons.
The back end of Tiger Soccer should be as impressive as ever. Luvisi graduates, but the Tigers return another stellar stopper in senior Alex Popovich. Much like it was last season with Luvisi, it will be extremely tough for opponents to get anything past him, as his quick insticts and agility allow him to react to any shot in an instant.
Grimes says that St. X’s depth will help the Tigers a lot, but one thing the team needs to work on is making all the players work in synchronized organization.
“One of our strengths this year will be our numbers. We have a lot of players who can come off the bench and play,” Grimes explains. “We still need to work on our communication, though. The key to making the run (to state) will be leadership.”
Regardless of how much talent a team has at its disposal, it really helps when a strong head coach can anchor the unit. Luckily for St. X, it has one of the best in Andy Schulten. He has proven through the years that he is one of the best coaches in America, even winning the National Coach of the Year one season. The players recognize how important he and top assistant Nathan Durbin are to team success.
“They are vital to the team,” says Grimes. “They push us everyday in practice and make us better players everyday.”
The Tigers began their season on Tuesday with a 4-1 victory over Christian Academy in a scrimmage. Brown and Schaefer each put two shots pass the Centurion goalie to fuel St. X. It wasn’t hard at all to notice Schaefer’s impact on the game; he was a blur, flying everywhere and constantly disrupting CAL’s rhythm.
Brown was happy to be on the field with his teammates for the first time in while. Like many players and fans, he’s excited for what this season could hold.
“It felt good to be back out there with the team,” Brown says. “We still have a couple of holes we need to fill to be where we want, but I think we have the right people out there to fill them.”