MOUNT CARMEL -- Mount Carmel said farewell to a cast of highly accomplished seniors on Tuesday night, as the program hosted Senior Night at halftime of Tuesday's home match against Newton.
The team honored seniors Clayton Halbig, Adam Stoneberger, Lucas Hall and Checco Terna at halftime of the contest in what was an emotional scene for the seniors, their parents and the program as a whole.
They've each played vital roles in helping the Aces achieve such historic success to date and after Tuesday's match, they sit just one win away from guiding the team to its first undefeated regular season in school history.
Despite a slow start, the Aces found their rhythm as the game went on, and were led by junior Rayce Loudermilk, who netted a hat trick in the 5-2 victory over the visiting Eagles.
To honor their contributions to the program, Mount Carmel Head Boys Soccer Coach Ed Berberich elected to start each of the seniors, slotting them in striker-midfield positions to give them an opportunity to score early on.
Newton came out ready to play though. The Eagles (14-4-1) were amped up and were the aggressor in the early going of Tuesday's match. That aggressiveness culminated to the point where the Eagles forced the Aces (14-0-1) into a hole they've rarely endured this season -- a deficit.
They struck for a goal in the 11th minute, scoring on a header from a corner kick, giving them an early 1-nil advantage. To Mount Carmel's credit though, they responded.
Knowing they needed to up the intensity to match Newton's, Mount Carmel slowly started to show signs of their usual dominance by controlling possession.
Loudermilk would score his first goal of the night in the 20th minute on an assist by Terna, knotting the two teams even at 1-1.
The Aces' intensity began to pay dividends, they were getting some tremendous shot opportunities throughout the remainder of the half and flipped the pressure on the Eagles.
Loudermilk gave the Aces the lead in the 33rd minute when the junior struck for his second goal of the night on a nice cross feed by junior Britton Heinrich.
Heinrich fell victim of a couple shots off the crossbar late in the first half, sailing just inches high of the goal.
Mount Carmel entered the break now ahead 2-1, a lead that Berberich had to have been pleased with against their highly touted foes.
Halbig was one of four newcomer upperclassmen ushered into the mix and said the team welcomed him with open arms from day one.
"They're all old friends," Halbig spoke of getting back into the mix. "I used to play in middle school, but getting to mix back up with them was pretty fun."
Golf and fishing were Halbig's primary passions in high school, though the senior didn't enter this season without soccer experience. He played at the middle school level prior to giving it up for much of his high school career. Berberich and Halbig joked postgame that Halbig should have played soccer all four years of high school.
He plans on continuing his education at Wabash Valley College, then Halbig's eyeing the University of Southern Indiana to continue his bass fishing career. Halbig's an exceptional fisher, having qualified for the Mossy Oak Bass Nation National Championship this year as part of the Lawrenceville Lunkers.
Terna was another one who was brought into the mix late, joining the group as a foreign exchange student from Italy.
The senior said his perception of American soccer was teams weren't very good, but that changed when he came to the U.S. and was able to be a part of the group.
"When I arrived here I didn't know this team was very good," Terna said. "In Italy we think that American teams are bad, but this team is very good, I like that I came here. We've created a big family, we're all together, we're always together, we pass the ball. We're a good family and team."
As a center mid Terna's played exceptionally, helping facilitate the Aces' attack and scoring himself whenever provided the opportunity.
Terna plans to return to Italy upon the conclusion of the fall semester, eyeing a return date of Dec. 30 to finish out his high school career back for his hometown team. He'll be extremely missed in Mount Carmel and threw around the possibility of a return to the United States to play soccer collegiately.
When Berberich was seeking for someone to step up and play the cornerback role, there weren't many takers. Being a defender, you don't get the same acclaim that many of your teammates get when they score goals.
Unselfishly, Stoneberger volunteered to play in the role, citing his prior experience in the role as a reason for stepping into the familiar position. Berberich has repeatedly lauded the two-time captain for his leadership and for volunteering for that spot.
"Last year as a junior I was the first junior to be captain also, so I've been captain the last couple years," Stoneberger said. "Kind of just going into it with, these guys are good, they don't need that much coaching but just pointers here and there whenever they needed it. . . . I've done it before so I was comfortable doing it again. I know most people haven't done it before, it was an area of weakness so I thought it'd be good if I took charge there."
Stoneberger's enjoyed the undefeated season to this point and plans to attend Wabash Valley College next fall. He mentioned USI as an option he'll likely consider following Wabash Valley, and business as a degree option.
Lastly, Hall is one who started last year for the Aces, but had to sacrifice some playing time with so many new faces entering the mix. It's worked exceptionally, as the Aces now have a tremendous repertoire of competitive depth to give them an edge.
Hall said his favorite memory was him netting his first career goal against Harrisburg back on Sept. 5. All of his teammates mobbed him following the goal, celebrating the senior's first score. He said he's thoroughly enjoyed being a part of such a stellar campaign thus far.
"It's been a fun year," Hall said. "I like watching these young kids go out here, play and compete. At the end of the day it's more than soccer for me, this is fun for me, something I enjoy. I think it's always fun watching the younger guys carry us this far into the season, get us these wins."
The senior surprised his mom with extra roses on top of the lone flower they present to their parents during the Senior Night ceremony in a really cool gesture. He laughed that he was surprised she didn't cry as much as he expected during the ceremony.
Hall's future plans including attending Wabash Valley next fall, and then moving on to a four-year school and seeking a Bachelor's in social work.
The Aces were fired up out of the break, coming out with far more energy than they had exhibited in the first 15 minutes. That energy paid off when Loudermilk netted his third goal of the night in the 42nd minute, giving the junior a hat trick and his 13th goal of the season for the Aces.
Loudermilk's had a rough stretch of late, so to see him kind of break out of his slump in such a fashion was really exciting for Berberich.
"He can finish, he's been finishing all year, had a little bit of a rough stretch there but it happens to the best of them," Berberich said. "Glad to see him work through it, all of his shots were nice, controlled shots. Happy for him to be back on track with that. He was playing through it really, really well, he helps us in so many ways, he doesn't have to be scoring goals to help us. We definitely want him scoring goals though, it just adds to our attack when he's up there scoring. I was really happy to see that."
Aces junior Beau Stipp followed that with a goal of his own just two minutes later on an absolute circus shot, assisted by Heinrich. Stipp's shot miraculously got past Newton's goalie, who had stepped up to try to prevent Stipp's shot, giving Stipp a sliver window to lob a shot up with his back turned to the goal.
For the ensuing 16 minutes Mount Carmel dominated possession, but failed to convert on some opportunities.
Newton began to show signs of desperation and scored a goal as a result in the 63rd minute. Just a couple minutes later the Eagles had yet another goal opportunity after they were given a penalty kick after a Mount Carmel player was called for a handball inside the box.
Remarkably Mount Carmel junior goalie Tye Kanipe sniffed it out and correctly predicted where the strike would occur, making a nice diving stop to prevent the goal and come up with a tremendous save in the 67th minute.
Heinrich would close the door on any comeback aspirations by scoring the final goal in the 75th minute on an assist by Terna, putting the Aces ahead 5-2 and closing out the Eagles.
All in all It was a solid performance in the Aces' home finale against a quality opponent. They were some lessons to be learned, but plenty of good to take away from such a performance as well.
"I was pretty proud of them," Beberich said. "We were a little out of sorts to start the game, a little bit out of sync but they were playing hard. Once we kind of settled down and started to play our game we started to take control of it. They do have some dangerous players so they were able to put some pressure on use here and there, but it was hit and miss, intermittent, a quick play, they didn't get a chance to push it up the field. For the most part we controlled the ball pretty well and got off a lot of shots."
For the game the Aces fired away 28 shots, 17 of which were on frame and created 17 additional scoring chances. They were disruptive defensively for much of the game and intercepted five passes.
Tonight's pressure was the most action Mount Carmel junior goalie Tye Kanipe has seen this season, with Newton hoisting eight shots on Kanipe. The Eagles scored two goals, the most the Aces have allowed all season, but Kanipe prevented even further damage with some nice saves, including the incredible penalty kick save. Newton officially hoisted eight shots at Kanipe.
"Yeah, he guessed right on that PK, kind of moved before the player shot it and got a hold of it," Berberich spoke of Kanipe. "Guessing's only part of it, it's still easy to guess it and miss it. He guessed it, stopped it and had the really nice finish on the indirect free kick down there. Actually two of them, they gave them two kicks there for whatever reason. He did good, there were times where I want to see him be a little more aggressive on the balls they were sending up, but outside of a couple lapses he did really well tonight."
With the victory Mount Carmel (14-0-1) remains unbeaten, and sits just one win away from the first undefeated regular season in school history. It'd be a remarkable accomplishment and one that would assuredly give the Aces plenty of confidence entering the postseason.
Although it'll be the last time Aces fans will be able to see the four seniors on the friendly confines of the Wabash Valley College soccer field, Berbeirch's hopeful they can keep it going and give them one last hoorah to conclude their careers as Aces.
"We're going to miss them, sad it's the last home game with these guys," Berberich spoke of the seniors. "They've been an important part of the team all year, no matter how much they're playing they've been leaders for the team. We're going to miss them, but hopefully we have several more games with these guys."
Mount Carmel will conclude its season on Thursday (Oct. 10) at Harrisburg, a team the Aces defeated 9-nil back on Sept. 5. Thursday's match is set to begin at around 5 p.m.
N -- 1 1 -- 2
MC -- 2 3 -- 5
Goals: Loudermilk (3), Stipp (1), Heinrich (1).
Assists: Terna (2), Heinrich (2).
Next game: Thursday, Oct. 10 at Harrisburg, 5 p.m.