Tippecanoe boys soccer ready for state semifinals

TIPP CITY — Tippecanoe boys soccer coach Scott Downing understands what an amazing two years it has been for the Red Devils program.

After winning the state title a year ago, Tippecanoe is just two matches away from going back-to-back — and doing it with a second straight undefeated season.

“When you think about that, it (winning back-to-back state titles) is almost unheard of,” Downing said. “Unless you are St. Ignatius, who seems to win almost every year in Division I.”

And Downing knows it will not come easy.

The first road block is the state semifinals Wednesday.

Tippecanoe, 22-0, travels to Westerville North to take on 19-1-1 Albany Alexander.

“We saw video of their last match,” Downing said. “It doesn’t really give you a feel for the atmosphere, but you can see things you have to be ready for and work on and pick out some weaknesses.”

Like Tippecanoe’s Owen Hadden, Alexander has a dangerous throw-in person.

“Westerville North’s field isn’t huge,” Downing said. “It is about the same as ours. So, you can throw it deep into the box — probably about six feet.”

Alexander has one player they like to feature.

“He is a pretty tall guy,” Downing said. “They like to go to him. Speed wise, they are not dangerous like the two guys Summit Country Day had (in the regional final). But, the tall guy is dangerous around the box.”

Tipp features a time that is well balanced at both ends of the field.

Much of the defense returns intact and senior goalie Clay Vaughn has recorded 18 shutouts in goal.

“We had most of our defense back,” Downing said. “They have only allowed five goals all year.”

And he was disappointed with the one Summit Country Day scored Saturday. Vaughn deflected a PK, but Summit followed it for the goal.

“Clay (Vaughn) did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Downing said. “He stopped the shot. But, our guys didn’t react. They didn’t follow it and allowed them to score.”

The offense has improved throughout the season.

“I think our schedule (only playing MVL schools) probably hurt us a little,” Downing said. “We had a lot of games that weren’t close and played a lot of guys. It probably hurt us as far as being in game shape against Oakwood. That is probably the first game we had to do a lot of chasing of the ball. But, we are in game shape now.”

And the young players on offense have gained a lot of experience.

“The forwards and midfielders is where we lost a lot of talented guys,” Downing said. “The young guys have progresses as the season has gone on.”

And the Red Devils are very balanced.

Junior Evan Stonerock has 23 goals and eight assists, while sophomore Jackson Kleather has 20 goals and 15 assists.

Hadden, a senior, has scored nine goals, while his long throw-ins have led to 27 assists.

Senior Jake Smith has 16 assists and seven goals, senior Jonny Baileys has 18 goals and nine assists and senior Blake Heeley has 16 goals and seven assists.

“We have four guys with 20 goals or near it,” Downing said. “That is pretty good.”

And after last season, Tipp has a lot of experience in big matches.

“They know at this level, you can’t make any mistakes,” he said. “You don’t want to be the one that makes one mistake and that is the difference. You have to make sure you always have your guy marked. That you make the slide if that is what you need to do.”

And Downing doesn’t really like to compare the two teams.

“They (the 2019 and 2020 Tippecanoe boys soccer teams) are two different teams,” he said. “Last year was last year and this year is this year. This seems like it has been a really long year with everything that has gone on.”

But, that hasn’t stopped the Red Devils from being in position to achieve something that is almost unheard of — and the final two steps start Wednesday night.