MORRIS – In the last four or five years, the Morris boys soccer program has quietly become one of the most consistently successful programs at the school.
However, even with its success, there are a few goals its hasn’t been able to achieve.
Although it won four straight regional championships before not winning one last season, for example, the Redskins still have yet to win a conference championship or win a sectional game.
This season, coach David Valdivia hopes his group can be the one that achieves those goals.
“The first goal for this season is to win the conference championship,” Valdivia said. “We’ve never done that. We know it’s going to be hard, because the Northern Illinois Big 12 is a very good conference when it comes to soccer.
“We had a very young, very small team last year. This year, it looks like some guys have hit a growth spurt and gotten faster and stronger as well as smarter on the field. We think we have a pretty good chance at competing for a conference title. Then we want to get another regional title to start that streak again and win a game at the sectional. That’s another thing we have never done is win a game once we have gotten to the sectional.”
The Redskins will count on a strong defense to start out with, as those positions are already pretty well known. The defense will consist of Noah Poston, Kaleb Hefford, Kaylar Wills, Colin Webber and Alex Randall, all of whom are juniors, as well as junior Mac Van Oudt in goal.
“Our defense is pretty solid,” Valdivia said. “And our goalie, Mac Van Oudt, won the Golden Glove trophy at a summer tournament at Eastern Illinois earlier this summer. He only gave up two goals in the 10 games we played there.”
Co-captain Connor Shaw, who will be one of the offensive anchors of the team, was named MVP at the EIU tournament, where Morris finished second to Mattoon out of eight teams.
“We did a good job at that tournament,” Valdivia said. “Our captains – Shaw and [senior] Matt Samolis – have really taken their job to heart and know what it takes to get to that next level. They aren’t afraid to get on the players if they aren’t working as hard as we would like, and the other guys on the team really listen and respond to them.
“This is a very good group. They are hungry to have success and they have really bought into working hard to do it. They remember being kind of pushed around a little bit last year because they were young and small, and they didn’t like it and they don’t want it to happen again this year.”
Early last week, the Redskins took on Coal City in a practice game and defeated the Coalers by a 6-0 score.
Then they had a 5-0 lead on the Morris alumni at halftime before Valdivia decided to switch things up and have the offensive players play defense and the defensive players switch to offense.
“It was nice in the alumni game to remind the guys to just go out and have fun,” Valdivia said. “It’s great as a coach to know that they take things as seriously as they do, but sometimes I have to remind them that it’s a game and it’s supposed to be fun.
“But I will take a group like this where I have to tell them to not be so serious rather than have one that doesn’t take things seriously. These guys really want to compete when they get on the field, and they want to go out and prove they can achieve the goals we have set.”