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'One more win' the rally cry for North Miami boys' soccer team

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

At first, it looked like North Miami was 40 minutes away from a boys’ soccer sectional title last year, only for Rochester to pull the final to extra time and defend their crown on penalties.

The Warriors, who have been to two consecutive sectional finals, are now at a point where, for the senior class that has been the focal point of the team, it’s now or never for a post-season or TRC title.

To do so, North Miami will have to find a way past two roadblocks that have been hard to overcome in Manchester and Argos this season.

Warrior head coach Olman Sanchez said the team had a great 2016 season but expected even more from the squad this year.

“Last year, we had a terrific team that had one of the best seasons we’ve had for many years,” Sanchez said. “We had a lot of juniors on the team that are now seniors and had a very good team last year.

“We made a goal at the beginning of the season to win 11 or 12 games because if we won 12, we would be sectional champions. We got 11 wins, though we didn’t get the 12th, but it was still a good season.”

“This year, we feel strongly that the team will be as good if not better,” Sanchez added. “We expect the team to have a terrific season and win at least 11 or 12 games again.”

The goal, Sanchez said, was to find a way to win one more game, whether that was in the postseason, in the conference, or both.

“We’re always trying to win one more game every season,” Sanchez noted. “We discussed this with the players, about the way the sectional ended, and the players are very fired up.

“They’ve wanted to win one more game the past two seasons. They’ve been training hard this offseason and want to make that happen.”

North Miami returns a host of seniors in goalkeeper Ethan Duff, defenders Wyatt Dyson, David Beck and Hunter Wilson, midfielders Tyler Sivits, Braxton Gunter, Caleb Gipson and Isaac Fouts and prolific forward Connor Hanaway.

Behind the strong class are juniors Trevor Blakely, Canaan Scott, Jon Stoner and Woodney Francois and sophomores Gavin Dyson, Austin Fletcher, Trey Mettler, Ethan Butcher and Carson Rexroad.

The Warriors also welcome freshmen Gabe Longawa, Cain Clingaman, Billy Dickerson, Avery Knuff and Zane Hanaway.

Sanchez said the seniors are well-known by this point to every team on the schedule but expected the juniors to step up this season and even saw the sophomores and freshmen players getting time on the pitch throughout the year.

“There are some tremendous players on the team this year,” Sanchez said. “We’ve have some great seniors and some very good juniors like Trevor, Jon and Canaan.

“Beside the upper classes, we have some sophomores and freshmen that we’ve seen play in a tournament in the summer and they scored goals for us. Some of those players are coming in very heavy and they’re going to be a good group.

“We’re looking to get some of the reserves and newer players more playing time in matches to help build them up as the season goes along,” Sanchez added. “We’re going to need them for games so we need to get them experience.”

The sectional realignments see North Miami stay as a Class A school in soccer but the new sectional alignment throws in a tremendous challenge with Argos, Culver Community, Lakeland Christian, Oregon-Davis and Winamac joining the Warriors and Caston.

Sanchez noted that the team already knew what challenge awaited them at the end of the season, pointing to the regular season meeting as a chance to learn about what the Dragons had to offer before a potential postseason meeting.

“We’re at the beginning of the season but we’ve looked at the new sectional,” Sanchez said. “We know we’re going to have a very tough contingent in the sectional with Argos and the other teams in it.

“We will play Argos during the season so we will know what to expect from one of the top teams in the state.”

For North Miami’s senior class, this will be their last chance to fulfill the promise they have shown for several years.

Sanchez said the team had been stung before but was determined to find a way to hoist a title in 2017.

“Rochester was a team that had our number and last year we were able to beat them in the TRC,” Sanchez said. “We went to the final TRC game with Manchester for the conference title but we didn’t get a win there and that’s something we want to be able to do this year, to get one more win in the season and in the sectionals.”