It was a realization that was a tough reality, but vital to success for three senior captains on the Bishop Carroll boys soccer team.
Chase Charles, Simon Nguyen, and Taylor White knew they would not control the fate of their team in their final chapter. That would belong to a talented freshman class, which would eventually produce four starters and a key reserve.
The seniors accepted their challenge early, which allowed them to handle the frustration of finishing the first 11 games with just four wins and an offense barely averaging a goal per contest. Charles, Nguyen, and White supported, nurtured, and prepared their inexperienced teammates and the payoff has been grand.
Bishop Carroll, after losing seven starters, after such a struggling start, after relying on four freshmen, will make its second straight appearance in the Class 5A semifinals Friday against St. Thomas Aquinas at 5 p.m. at the Olathe District Activity Center.
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“Honestly, we never had a problem with (depending on so many freshmen),” White said. “We had played well with them in the summer time and we knew they were talented. It was just a matter of getting them to where they needed to be. It took us a little bit to figure it out, but now I’m really glad they are with us ending this season on a good note.”
One month ago, this didn’t seem possible. The team had experimented with, and failed, at adding a fourth defender to its formation, and the younger players in the offensive positions were struggling to adjust to a faster pace at the high school level.
Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, Carroll was 4-3-4 and had scored one goal or less in nine of those 11 games.
“We knew (the freshmen) were good, but during games, you could definitely tell they were green,” Charles said. “Me and Simon would tell them every game to play bigger than you are. We knew before this season what we had in our seniors and juniors, but we didn’t know about the freshmen. We knew we were only going to go as far as they take us.”
Suddenly it all came together, all in one game, a 5-0 thrashing of a competitive Emporia team. It was a transformation, essentially overnight. The culmination was a 3-0 defeat of Rose Hill, which stands as the Rockets’ lone loss this season.
“This is a different team that’s playing right now,” Skaggs said. “We’re peaking at the right time. They’re confident in each other and they trust each other more than back then when we were still figuring things out. These guys believe. They’re not scared of the moment. There’s definitely not an intimidation factor.”
Even though Carroll is set to play Aquinas, which has won nine of the last 11 Class 5A championships. Even though Carroll is set to play a freshman, Alec Bevis, as its central defender. Even though the Saints (17-2) are on the polar opposite side when it comes to roster composition, with 13 seniors on the roster.
But Carroll (12-3-4) is a team that believes because of its 8-game winning streak, complete with five shutouts. It believes because it has gone on the road and beaten the two best teams in the region, Liberal and Salina South, to make it here. It believes because its members were the only ones who believed when times became rocky.
“This season has brought all of us closer together because we overcame so much,” White said. “It was rough there for a while and it was really frustrating when we weren’t winning games. But now we’re playing like what we’re supposed to and we figure we can do something with this.
“We know what needs to be done now.”
Other area qualifiers — East had accomplished just about everything but make it to the final four. That will change Friday, as the Blue Aces (15-3-1) will play Olathe East (18-1) at 5 p.m. at the Hummer Sports Complex in Topeka.
Andover will join Carroll in Olathe on Friday, as the Trojans (16-2-1) make their first state semifinal in over a decade when they play Kansas City Harmon (17-2) at 7 p.m.
Rose Hill, which has lost in the Class 4-1A championship game four times since 2005, is back in the semifinals for the sixth time in the last seven times. The Rockets (18-1) will play De Soto (13-4-2) on Friday in Bonner Springs at 5 p.m.