Tickel Your Fancy: Pats soccer comes of age

Hunter Tickel 


EVANSVILLE — On a rain-soaked turf field at Evansville Central, playing for its state finals life, Heritage Hills delivered an indelible decision on Saturday.

While the team stumbled in sudden death penalty kicks, 7-6 — the final hurdle in playoff soccer — the Patriots left their mark on the semi-state stage against Brebeuf Jesuit.

A week earlier, winning a regional championship had never been achieved in three tries from the side in Lincoln City.

The Pats reversed their 2-1 result against Pocket Athletic Conference champion Gibson Southern on Aug. 31 with a 2-0 blanking for the regional hardware.

While the offensive firepower won a lot of matches, it wasn't what spurred the most potent postseason run in program history.

It was a recommitment to shutting down the opposition. In the final six games of the year, including playoffs, the Pats didn't surrender multiple goals once.

The team used this resurgence to ride a 14-game winning streak into semi-state.

Senior Brody Ficker thwarted a lot of attacks before they could gain steam in the middle of the backline.

With a 1-1 draw against a private school from the Northwest side of Indianapolis on Saturday, the Pats conceded just one goal in 174 minutes in their two most massive games of the year.

"The better soccer you play, the less goals that are going to be scored, in my opinion," Heritage Hills coach Joe Asbury said. "Teams are better defensively as you progress."

The Titans' offensive output was 97 goals through 20 games, the Braves finished 47 times in 21 games against some of the best sides in the Hoosier state.

The Pats weathered substantial pressure in the first half against the Braves. After letting a goal in, the team defended with numbers that showed it was content to get to the break down by one.

My observation was wrong — that's why they play the game. A counterattack is always lurking quietly, concealed behind the bushes.

Junior Geo Arias collected a punt launched into the attacking third by junior keeper Aiden Harris. Arias then sprung senior winger Ethan Hill, who used skill to beat the final defender and make it a new match.

It was further credence to the clinical link between the Patriots midfielders and forwards throughout the campaign.

The statement of the year came as Heritage Hills broke through for 12 goals against Northeast Dubois on Sept. 28. It was goals galore as it bagged eight unanswered in the closing half.

In the match, senior attacking midfielder Jose Lara put away a hat trick, while Arias and seniors Austin and Ethan Hill each bagged braces. Senior forward Gabe Staggs and Austin each dished out a pair of assists.

Lara was perpetually dangerous running at defenders against the Jeeps and Braves. He finished his final year with 16 goals, while displaying prowess as a playmaker with a team-leading 15 assists.

Arias made the most of his chances on a loaded squad. He figures to be a fixture and focal point in next year's starting 11, he notched nine goals and three assists.

Austin wreaked havoc on opposing backlines with his pace on the flank. He routinely got around outside backs for service and strikes.

He finished with five goals and four assists this year.

Ethan tracked back with defensive responsibilities against the Braves in a true box-to-box effort. His pace on the outside was a handful for opponents. He finished with eight goals and three assists.

Staggs bagged a team-best 21 goals this year to go with 14 assists. His presence up top fueled this record-breaking year for the school.

A lot of contributors from Saturday are set to return to the fold.

The block of the year didn't come from Harris. Solid buildup in the box was snuffed out by junior Jesus Lara in the final minute of regulation.

Freshman Oscar Lara held down a spot at center back this season. Junior starters Israel Martinez, Lucas Frockjaer and Charlie Brentlinger will be back.

Heritage Hills went toe-to-toe at the final step of its historic season with a team that finished state runner-up in 2014.

The cap to this campaign will have a lasting legacy.

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