If you wanna irk a member of the Springfield Catholic boys’ soccer team, mention a word that starts with “re” and ends with “building.”
The Irish aren’t ready to step aside in Class 1 any time soon, and they have a reason to be motivated as they seek a third straight Class 1 title, and sixth consecutive Final Four appearance.
When the first state soccer coaches’ poll of the season was released on Sept. 12, Catholic was in an unfamiliar spot. The Irish came in at No. 2 in Class 1, behind 2012 state runner-up Southern Boone.
It caught coach Tom Guinn and the team by surprise.
“The first state poll, we had been ranked No. 1 over 100 weeks in a row,” Guinn said. “Now, we’re ranked No. 2 for the first time in a while. It kind of lit a fire under the guys and got them going.”
The poll is a bit misleading. Catholic actually got more first-place votes (6) than Southern Boone (2). SOBOCO edged out Catholic for the top spot by a single point. John Burroughs is a single point behind Catholic at No. 3, and got two first-place votes itself.
But, as pro wrestler Ric Flair famously said, “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man.” Right?
Well, maybe not for preseason or early season rankings. They’re a different story. What you have on paper and what you don’t have is the only way to gauge a team’s potential and how they stack up amongst others.
It’s easy to see Catholic on paper and think they’d take a step back. The Irish graduated the most successful class in program history. Naturally, there might be some regressions in 2013.
Perhaps so, but that thinking is exactly what’s fueling the current Irish team.
Said Ryan Randell, a second team all-state pick as a junior last season: ““We’ve heard a lot of rumors that this is a rebuilding year for us, but we don’t believe that.”
Through the first three weeks of September, Catholic doesn’t seem to have taken much of a step back. The Irish are 8-1 overall and have outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 43-3. The lone blemish was a 2-0 loss to state-ranked Class 2 Carthage, whom the Irish beat in double OT in their season opener.
Extensive Googling and MSHSAA website research tells me that Southern Boone is 9-0 and has a scoring margin of 50-6. Not too shabby.
I’d argue that Catholic plays a much tougher schedule that’ll pay off in the long run.
On the docket are tournaments like the Kickapoo Invitational, Gateway (Illinois) City Classic, as well as non-conference games against Rock Bridge, Waynesville, Nixa and Helias Catholic. The Irish don’t shy away from competition and bigger schools.
It’s the first time since the start of the 2011 season that Catholic does not have the top spot in Class 1. At this point, it’s like splitting hairs. A single vote could’ve flipped Catholic and Southern Boone.
The rankings will work themselves out in the long run, and it’s tough to see any local Class 1 team challenging Catholic before the state quarterfinals.
The Irish have established and – now expect –a winning tradition. While some current starters were backups last year, that just means they haven’t had their chance at playing time. It’s not like they’re bad players.
Barring a major upset, we’ll probably see Catholic again at state in a few months.
Unofficial first O-Zone soccer power poll
With that said about Catholic, let’s check in and rank the top teams in the area.
Disclaimer: Like the O-Zone football power rankings, this is determined by dominance by class.
Do I think Catholic could beat Kickapoo? Probably not, but the Irish are a juggernaut in Class 1 while the Chiefs have to compete with the St. Louis schools in Class 3.
1. Catholic (C1: 8-1) – Easy enough.
2. Carthage (C2: 10-1) – Nothing bad about losing to Catholic. Carthage’s Class 2 resume is pretty impressive: victories over Class 3 teams Glendale, Nixa and Ozark. The COC-Large competition will prep the Tigers well for the Class 2 postseason.
3. Rolla (C2: 9-1): They dominated two tournaments, and beat state-ranked (Class 3) Rock Bridge 4-3 in overtime. Their lone loss came 2-1 at Jefferson City. Rolla plays a broad non-conference schedule and could meet Carthage again in the state quarterfinals. The Bulldogs join another Ozark Conference team in the power rankings…
4. Kickapoo (C3: 7-1) – I really wanted to put the Chiefs at No. 3. I guess I’m holding their Class 3 status against them. There’s just a lot of really Class 3 teams in the St. Louis area. Kickapoo will have to get by at least one St. Louis school, and probably Rock Bridge, to make state. But what the Chiefs have done is pretty amazing. They have 10 new starters and don’t seem to have missed a beat.
5. Joplin (C3: 7-0) - The schedule thus far hasn’t been that challenging for the Eagles, but they grabbed my attention with a 2-1 home win over Glendale on Tuesday. Their next major challenge will come in a Saturday morning (9 a.m.) game against Helias Catholic on Sept. 28 in the Capital City Classic. Kickapoo and Joplin are also in the same district.
Honorable mention: Branson (C3: 10-1) Great start by the Pirates, but they had their first major test of the season against Kickapoo on Monday, and lost 5-1. They'll probably contend with Nixa, and maybe Willard, for second place in the COC-Large.