MOUNT CARMEL -- Eager to debut on their home turf after five road games, the Mount Carmel Soccer Aces overcame a slightly stagnant start to easily handle Harrisburg, defeating the Bulldogs 9-nil in Mount Carmel's home opener on Thursday night.
Out of the gate the Aces didn't dominate the tempo in the fashion Mount Carmel Head Boys Soccer Coach Ed Berberich may have liked. Instead, the two teams traded throw-ins for the first couple minutes, until senior Checco Terna broke it open with a goal, putting the Aces ahead 1-nil at the three minute mark.
After the first goal the floodgates were open, with the Aces (6-0) scoring a flurry of goals in a short matter of time. Over the ensuing 19 minutes the team would tack on seven additional goals.
The first came in the 8th minute off the foot of junior Beau Stipp on a feed by junior Britton Heinrich, followed by a goal from senior Iacopo Clementi on an assist by junior Ethan Belt, then Belt would score one of his own on an assist from Heinrich. Clementi would continue the downpour with another goal, giving him two in the game on another assist by Heinrich, giving the junior his third assist of the half.
Heinrich would at last add a goal to his tally, scoring on an assist by Terna, then Belt scoring on an assist by junior Rayce Loudermilk, and lastly senior Lucas Hall capping the half with a penalty kick goal. Clementi allowed Hall's goal by being fouled inside the box, setting the Mount Carmel senior for an opportunity to put the Aces ahead 8-nil heading into the break.
With such a large lead in hand heading into the break, Berberich deployed the reserves for the remainder of the game, taking the metaphorical foot off the gas pedal.
Belt would have the lone Aces goal in the second half, when he was briefly checked in for the shortened half and completed the hat trick, giving the junior his third goal of the night.
For the game Mount Carmel took 24 shots, 15 on frame and created 11 additional scoring opportunities. They added three corners and were disruptive defensively, forcing six interceptions.
Harrisburg's attack was very limited, with the Bulldogs (2-2-1) taking just one shot, the lone shot being on frame.
Similarly to last year, Berberich's concerned with how his team has built the habit of playing down to teams, or playing at their level, rather than remaining consistent regardless of the opponent's talent level.
"We started off a little flat in our defensive pressure up high but, with the attacking ability we have, were still able to score to give us the early lead," Berberich said. "We need to come out a little stronger in that regard because we don't want to develop bad habits. The games will start getting harder at some point and we need to be ready for that. With the Big 8 breaking up we lost some solid-to-great opponents that we really wish we had on the schedule, because this team is good enough that they need to be pushed by the opposition at this point."
Despite his worries about some bad habits potentially being built, Berberich has been extremely pleased with his team's attack. They've shown the capability to spread the ball, and attack from both sides of the field offensively, with tremendously skilled strikers all over the field.
He's echoed for the past couple years his team's need to be able to move the ball across the field and build attacks rather than just kicking it up and outracing guys for a goal. They're starting to show that capability and their success in doing such.
"They're playing together excellently, moving the ball all over the field and not worrying too much about who scores but rather seeking out the best options generally," Berberich said. "We've got 11 different players who have scored for us and 7 players with 3 or more goals, so if we can continue to involve all of the talent that we have then we should be able to find success and be tough to stop."
The varsity match was also followed by a JV match, the first match for the JV team all season. The JV team won 3-nil, with a couple varsity players, juniors Tye Kanipe and Brady Decker volunteering to play down to allow the game to happen.
Kanipe, the Aces' goalie, scored the first goal of the JV game on an assist by Decker, followed by Decker scoring on an assist by freshman Drake Colbert, and freshman Eli Bertram rounding it up with the final goal of the night on a header, with the feed coming on a corner by Colbert that glanced off of Kanipe and found its way to Bertram for the goal.
"This was the first time we got to see them together and against a JV opponent, so I was interested in seeing how they would do, and they looked pretty good considering," Berberich spoke of the JV team. "They did a good job of passing the ball around, just like we we've been working on, so that was encouraging. We have 6 more JV contests scheduled for the season, so these will all be great opportunities to see the younger guys when they're expected to shoulder the load out there rather than blending in with the more experienced players."
With the victory the varsity team improves to 6-0 on the season, the JV picked up its first victory of the year to improve to 1-0.
They'll continue their undefeated campaign into their second home game of the season, a match on Saturday against Massac County (1-1). Kickoff for the game's scheduled for noon at the Wabash Valley College soccer field.
"These guys have put a lot of work into getting where they are now. . . . I'm really happy with how unselfishly we've been playing. We've been working with this group on our passing and possession game the last couple years and this season they've really taken to it."
MC -- 8 1 -- 9
H -- 0 0 -- 0
MC Goals: Terna (3'), Stipp (8'), Clementi (16', 19'), Belt (18', 20', 48'), Heinrich (21'), Hall (22').