MOUNT CARMEL -- It almost seems as the Mount Carmel Soccer Aces' strikers take turns receiving the accolades on a nightly basis, with a new face seemingly hat tricking every night. In the Aces' game on Saturday, it was junior Britton Heinrich's turn.
Heinrich looked strong, striking for three goals and recording two assists in Mount Carmel's 8-nil victory over Massac County on Saturday at the Wabash Valley College soccer field.
As has been the case in many of their games thus far, the Aces (7-0) struck early and often. Heinrich and senior Checco Terna struck for a pair of goals in the early going, setting the tempo for what was to come.
The first half flurry continued with junior Beau Stipp striking for a goal, inflating the lead to 3-nil. The next goal came in unorthodox fashion.
The Aces were given a free kick after a Patriots (0-3-1) penalty gifted the ball to the Aces on the far side of the field, well outside of the box. Senior Iacopo Clementi set up for the kick in, which he intended to assist a teammate on, but instead the ball somehow maneuvered its way past all the bodies and by Massac County's goalie for the accidental goal. The Patriots goalie was focused on the Aces strikers, who he thought would strike the goal to the left, which instead made it past everyone to the right side of the goal.
Heinrich would score two additional goals in the ensuing minutes, first scoring on a nice feed by Clementi, followed by a goal on a free kick feed by junior Rayce Loudermilk, putting the Aces lead at 6-nil less than 20 minutes into the game.
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Mount Carmel subbed in some of their reserves, allowing senior Clayton Halbig to score a goal on a nice header, just Halbig's second goal of the season.
Aces sophomore Ivan Holt followed Halbig's header with a strike of his own, finding the back of the net to extend the lead to 8-nil shortly prior to halftime.
Berberich called off the dogs in the shortened second half and Mount Carmel cruised to the shutout victory.
In the game the Aces attack was relentless, totaling 26 shots, 17 on frame and created 10 additional chances. They added three corners and created seven interceptions.
Massac County was limited to just four shots, three on frame, with junior goalie Tye Kanipe handily saving the three strikes.
A JV game followed, with Mount Carmel winning the JV game as well, this time 2-1. Freshmen Landon Lagow and Gavin Smith each scored in the JV match, with freshman Eli Bertram picking up an assist for the Aces.
Berberich said the Aces' attack has been so relentless due to their luxurious amount of strikers. With as many capable attackers as Mount Carmel has, it's difficult to keep them all under wraps. Remarkably 11 different Aces have scored on the season.
"Guys are moving without the ball pretty well, giving us options, we're looking for the best shot opportunity that we have rather than trying to force things," Berberich said. "We have so much attacking talent that if we keep doing that it's going to be tough. You can't stop all five, six, seven of those guys that are up there trying to score goals if we're using them."
"When Beau's in the center up there he's just so fast, that's just one way we can attack. We can also move the ball around, play around guys as well and combine and attack that way. Rayce, his speed up there, Britton's footwork on the left. They're all good with the ball, but Britton's really exceptional with it. It's good to have that many ways to take it to the other team and it's hard to shut all of that down."
Though Berberich's been pleased with his team's ability to handle opponents, he's ready to face a team that can present some challenges to his group, to see how they handle the pressure and adversity, not to mention playing their starters the full 80 minutes, something they haven't really faced or had to have done this season.
"That's the biggest thing with us, we got a good team, that's apparent," Berberich said. "But making sure -- we got easy games here, no offense to the other teams -- but we've been able to put them away, the biggest thing is going to be self motivating, to come out and bring that intensity we're going to need when the games start to get harder."
He'll get his wish coming up, as the Aces will have a slew of Indiana foes on the horizon, starting with a date with Mount Vernon, Ind. this Monday at 5:30 p.m. The Wildcats (1-5) defeated Mount Carmel 3-2 last season on the Aces' home field -- though the two teams are vastly different.
"Mount Vernon I think will come out with a lot more intensity than the last couple games so we're going to have to match that. ..." Berberich said. "I want us to take it to them and want them to go back to the Big Eight teams that we lost [on our schedule] and tell them how good Mount Carmel is this year. It should be a good game, I've been looking forward to it. Them and a couple other opponents, we want to start playing some teams that will push us a little bit more. Looking forward to that."
Though he'll have a better feel after games against Indiana foes such as Mount Vernon, Vincennes Rivet, Vincennes Lincoln, Princeton and others, Berberich said his expectations for this team is ever-increasing, with their performance on the field even exceeding his own expectations for them.
Entering the year he thought this team would be capable of eclipsing the elusive Regional Championship the team's been chasing, but now he's left speculating if they're capable of aspiring even further. They currently rank 212th in the nation according to Maxpreps.com, as well as ranking fourth in the IHSA 1A Boys Soccer Rankings.
"I'll tell you I keep adjusting that," Berberich spoke of his expectations. "My goal entering the season, we've been in the Regional Final like four years in a row, my goal with this team was to get through that. To be honest with you at this point, I still want to see how we respond to teams who push us a bit more, but I feel good that we can get into sectionals and actually do some stuff in sectionals now. I just wanted us to take that next step into it and build on that going forward. This year I wouldn't really put a ceiling on them right now, they just keep surprising me. I tried to put a ceiling on them to start the season in my own mind I guess and they keep pushing through it with how they're playing."
The Aces will continue action on Thursday when they travel to face Mount Vernon (Ill.), looking to extend their undefeated and sensational campaign. Kickoff for Thursday's game is scheduled for 5 p.m.