For two consecutive years, Concordia's boys soccer team could almost taste a state championship. The Cadets fell to Evansville Memorial in the Class 2A championship in 2017 and fell to eventual state champion Hammond Bishop Noll in semistate last season.
“The last couple years losing to a state champion has put I think a little bit of an incentive on these guys, not a deterrent,” Cadets coach Kevin Macke said. “Our goal is third time's the charm, but it's one game at a time.”
With area soccer sectionals starting Monday, the Cadets' quest to return to the state finals begins with a meeting against Rochester in Culver.
“That's our main goal every year, is state,” senior captain Luke Neuhaus said. “If a team didn't set out for state, I think I might call them crazy, but I think that's our main goal every time we go out on this field.”
No. 3 Concordia (13-1-1) has already accomplished one feat – going undefeated in the SAC.
Macke said that's a credit to the level of talent in Fort Wayne.
“This is my 19th year coaching at Concordia and only my second SAC title,” he said. “There's just a lot of people that don't realize the soccer we have here in Fort Wayne and how many guys that have played at, and been successful at, the next level.”
The Cadets pulled out two narrow wins over Bishop Dwenger and a dramatic shootout win over Bishop Luers last week. It's their first SAC title since 2010. Concordia has rarely blown teams out this season but seems to thrive in late-game situations.
“Our intensity really picks up at the end once we figure out the team's weakness,” senior captain Tumi Malatse said. “We really put our strength above their weaknesses.”
Malatse has been a large part of the Cadets' success the past few years. The forward/midfielder leads the team in goals with 14 and has racked up 31 points.
“What he has done very well this year is learn how to cut and break quickly,” Macke said. “He's so fast, but he's able to cut, keep control of the ball when he cuts and break back. That just wears some defenses down.”
Malatse said that this year, he's balanced being a distributor and a scorer while relying on his teammates more.
“This year my teammates have really stepped up,” he said. “They've been passing the ball really well, and I've also been at the right place at the right time.”
Macke credits his seniors – Neuhaus, Malatse, Ty Koenig, Mike Gill, Logan Volz, Braydon English, Elijah Zillman, Evan Minger and Noah Jeong – for leading this team back after the heartbreak endings the past two years.
“These seniors, just watching them grow is good stuff,” Macke said. “Leading the team and having some of these sophomores that are on our back line and making everybody better for all four years is just so much fun (to watch). Those guys have earned it. Nothing has been given to them.”
The Cadets know their worth, and they know there's only one box left to check.
“We've won SAC, we've won sectionals, we've won regionals and we've won semistate,” Koenig said. “There's only one goal left.”
Northridge Sectional: No. 7 Warsaw (14-2) vs. Concord (9-4-2)
DeKalb Sectional: DeKalb (3-8-2) vs. No. 2 Carroll (12-2-1); Northrop (6-7) vs. East Noble (9-3-2)
NorthWood Sectional: No. 12 NorthWood (11-2) vs. No. 15 West Noble (12-3)
Culver Academies Sectional: Rochester (5-8-1) vs. No. 3 Concordia (13-1-1); Canterbury (2-9-3, reigning Class 1A champions) vs. No. 9 Manchester (15-0)
Heritage Sectional: No. 14 Leo (11-2-1) vs. Bishop Dwenger (3-6-1)