By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Bedford North Lawrence soccer boldly went where it had not gone before, competing for its first IHSAA sectional title (since the sport because officially sanctioned in 1994) during a magical tournament run last season.
Can the Stars trek that far again?
Inspired by that success, transported to the next level by a beam of confidence, BNL will explore its potential in 2019. The Stars must replace some key components from last year’s 7-7-1 squad, but those two electric sectional wins have sparked their competitive fires.
“Our run really gave a lot of our guys a boost in their faith with the team,” BNL senior Seth Sherfick said. “It really brought us together as one unit and gave everybody a boost of confidence that we needed.”
BNL won a thrilling 4-3 sudden-death shootout with Terre Haute South in the first round, then stunned Bloomington North 2-1 (the program’s first win over a Bloomington nemesis) in the semifinal. Bloomington South ended the dream 7-0 in the final.
The Stars lost some of those heroes, but Sherfick and senior Jacob Kolk return to form the leadership and experience foundation.
“We want to build on that, have that confidence and string it all together,” BNL fifth-year coach Logan Jackson said. “I think confidence had a big role in that. It was the first time all year everyone was confident.”
BNL must fill some gaps, most notable among those the graduation of goalie Evan Payne (three stops on penalty kicks in the shootout win over the Braves), leading scorer Hunter Cline (the winning goal against the Cougars) and some back-line defenders.
While the Stars had only 25 athletes report this season, the competition for playing time is still intense. Jackson expects offense from striker Lakota Terrell, defense from sophomore goalie Tanner Robbins, and ball control from Martel Flores.
“There are some positions we don’t know for sure,” Jackson said. “There are some battles.
“We’ve had a couple of good years, and we’re beginning to build on that. Everyone knows the expectations now, so it’s heading in a good direction. The kids know they have to put in the hard work to get there.”
“This year we need to plug some new guys into new spots,” Sherfick said. “It’s testing the waters and seeing where everyone likes to play.”
While there is still a gap to close if BNL wants to end South’s 7-year run as sectional champion, the Stars will not lack confidence.
“It shows we can beat Bloomington schools if we try hard enough,” Kolk said. “And that will encourage us.”
BNL’s main issue will be generating scoring chances.
“It’s always our struggle, to find goals,” Jackson said. “Just in our conference, it’s so tough to score. We have to have some younger guys step up. They’re going to be on them pretty tough.”
BNL will open the season on Aug. 20 at Scottsburg.