The 2019 season will go down as one of the best in Saint Ignatius soccer history.
As Head Coach Mike McLaughlin '85 told his team after the 4-0 win over Olentangy Libery, the 2019 Wildcats are one of the greatest soccer teams in school history.
See below for a game recap of Sunday's State Championship, as well as a writeup on the Wildcats' National Championship.
The Quest for Nine Ends in Victory: Wildcats Defeat Olentangy Liberty
On Sunday, the Wildcats faced Olentangy Liberty in the Division I State Championship at Mapfre Stadium, looking for their ninth State Championship, their first since 2016.
On the other hand, Olentangy Liberty was looking for redemption, as they had made it last year but took a crushing defeat to the Medina Bees.
Both sides were packed with loyal fans, looking to see their team succeed in winning the State Championship. In the end, the Wildcats’ fans walked away happy.
Both sides had to make a good amount of adjustments to their style of play for this game, much more preparation was needed than the average fan would anticipate. With the field being much larger, and playing on Kentucky Bluegrass instead of the requisite turf, both teams had to quickly adjust their game planning.
Both teams lined up as expected. The Wildcats began with their fantastic line up with eleven seniors, while the Patriots had the same lineup as the match in the regular season.
The beginning of the game was quite fast – it still wasn’t as fast-paced as usual, but it would still be quicker when taking into consideration the side of the pitch.
Most of the play in the opening minutes revolved around possession in the midfield. Both teams had a few attacking chances, but they were quickly put down by each side’s back lines, which played a huge impact with the outcome of the game.
In particular, Everett Shorey earned a few chances on goal, all denied by Olentangy’s back line, or by their goalkeeper; this could not necessarily be said for later in the match.
Halfway into the first half, the Wildcats struck first with a very admirable goal from none other than Everett Shorey.
Shorey got a nice ground ball played through towards the edge of the 18-yard box as he began outsprinting the Patriots defender. Shorey took a beautiful strike on goal while off balance on the right side, as it would be placed in the top left corner in stunning fashion.
After this, Head Coach Mike McLaughlin ‘85 made some substitutions, which would be new territory in a way for the team. In the later parts of the season, it would be rare for the Wildcats to bring on a bench player, especially so early in the game.
Just before halftime, the Wildcats broke through on goal once again. The Cats would have good possession in the midfield as a ball with admirable curve would be played down the line to Luciano Pechota. The sophomore had a solid chance on goal, but generously played a ball across the box into the feet of Everett Shorey. Shorey kept his composure, took an extra touch for good measure, and struck the ball powerfully. The ball drilled the back of the net and the Wildcats led, 2-0, in the State Finals.
About two minutes later, the half ended, and the Wildcats headed to the locker room with plenty of support from their sizeable student section.
Early in the second half, Olentangy Liberty tried pressing up the field. But it was fruitless as it would only cost them ANOTHER GOAL.
Everett Shorey came up big once again. The senior again established himself as a goal scoring machine for the season, as he slotted in another just a few inches from the goal and made it 3-0, with a mind-blowing hat trick in the most important game of his life thus far.
After this, the Wildcats would switch to a more defensive tactical layout, as they would stop Olentangy Liberty from putting the ball into the back of the net. Notably, senior Nolan Bartolone would stop the best chance that the Patriots would get with a valiant effort to clear the ball last second in the closing moments of the second half.
Marko Rimac would then put in a goal with just a few minutes to go in the season with a deflection off of a Patriots defender as it rolled into the back of the net to put the icing on the cake. The Wildcats won the game, 4-0. The quest is over. THE WILDCATS ARE STATE CHAMPIONS ONCE AGAIN!
This was truly the end of an era for the soccer program, with 15 seniors, 3 Allstate All-Americans, and an overall beastly team would play their final game. Congratulations to the Wildcats for a tremendous season!
"This team ranks among the greatest of all-time": Wildcats named National Champions
Saint Ignatius soccer is a national powerhouse program with plenty of hardware to prove it. Superstar players and superstar young men have made their marks on Wildcats soccer in 25 seasons under Head Coach Mike McLaughlin '85.
Now, the Class of 2020 has made its own indelible mark upon the program.
The 2019 Wildcats are Co-National Champions!
Top Drawer Soccer announced the coronation of the Wildcats on Tuesday morning. The Soccer Cats will share the throne with St. Benedict's Prep (NJ) after the two teams tied, 2-2, in an epic battle in September. Like the Wildcats, the Gray Bees claimed a state title.
The Wildcats now have five national championships after securing titles in 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2016. The Cats also shared the 2005 crown with St. Benedict's Prep. Only the Gray Bees (13) have more national titles than the Wildcats.
On Sunday, the Wildcats secured the OHSAA Division I State Championship. The men of Ohio City rolled past Olentangy Liberty, 4-0, for the ninth state title in program history. No Ohio team has more state crowns than the Wildcats.
"We always want to win the state championship. Because of the success we've had the last couple of decades, we've been put on a national stage," said Coach McLaughlin. "We also want to be the best team in the country, and why not. You want to be the best. One of our goals is to be national champs. It is a poll, but we've set our schedule up to compete on this national stage. That's what sports is about. Getting out there and trying to prove yourself."
Without a doubt, the 2019 Wildcats more than proved themselves with a 21-0-2 final record.
From the start of the season, anticipation was high around the program. The Wildcats returned 15 seniors and a wealth of talent all around the field. The program sent Matthew McLaughlin, Peter Van Euwen, and Kyle Folds to the Allstate All-American Cup before the start of the season, as the trio played with other top teams from across the country.
"At the beginning of every season, you look at what you have and think, 'This is a really good team.' We've had a lot of really good teams," McLaughlin said. "But you can't make the final statement until the season is over and talk about where they rank."
But nothing was guaranteed. The Wildcats played a Who's Who of teams in the regular season, including previous No. 1 teams St. Benedict's Prep and Peoria Notre Dame.
As McLaughlin said before the season, it is one of the hardest schedules in the program's history. Looking back on it, McLaughlin is amazed at how the Wildcats overcame every challenger.
"When I put together the schedule, I thought, 'This might be too much.' Several people said to me that it was too much," McLaughlin said. "In high school football, you play once a week and have a chance to rest. In soccer, you play mid-week and then weekends, and sometimes twice on a weekend. It's hard to do."
But in true Ignatian fashion, the adversity of the schedule only fuelled the Wildcats.
The Soccer Cats only became closer as a team, molding into a family.
"The season can either make you into a team, or break you. It's a real tribute to these boys because there were 15 seniors, and only 11 can start," Coach McLaughlin said. "And beyond those 15 seniors, there were 10 very good sophomores and juniors. It could have been really difficult. These kids are all very talented soccer players and high achieving. When you're a great player, you want to be on the field and show yourself. We talked about it and kept creating situations and an environment for them to become a team. The games and the competitions we did in practice brought them together. They put their individual desires aside and realized that if they worked together as a group, something really special could happen."
As the dust settles, the Wildcats can now be called state and national champs. The pride of Cleveland rolled through the postseason, outscoring opponents by a margin of 37-2.
Beyond that, these Wildcats are among the best teams to wear the blue and gold in school history.
"This team clearly ranks among the greatest of all-time," said the Wildcats' 25-year veteran coach. "This was the most dominant playoff run we've ever had, because of how we performed and who it was against. With the number of Top 10 teams we played nationally, the way we scored goals, and how we didn't let teams score was very impressive."
Every goal the Wildcats set out to accomplish, they achieved.
"I talked yesterday at the rally about the three key points: Being a team, believing, and fighting. We embodied those three things," said Coach McLaughlin. "I'm incredibly proud and excited about what we've done. In the game of soccer, so many things can happen to derail your plans. Referees, good opponents, all kinds of things. I've been doing this for a long time – for this to come together the way it did is incredible."
Did you know you can support the soccer program by making a gift to the Fr. Sullivan Fund for Athletics? The Sullivan Fund helps to support all 16 of our varsity sports financially in addition to offsetting the annual needs of our Athletic Department. This includes coaching stipends, travel expenses, facility costs, uniform repair, etc. Your gift will ultimately ensure that Saint Ignatius student-athletes are able to grow mentally, physically and spiritually through their athletic participation. Please consider making a gift today.