The quest for the ninth state championship in Saint Ignatius soccer history is well underway.
The Saint Ignatius varsity soccer team began training long ago, in dark and snowy February. As August approaches, the conditioning continues as the Wildcats pursue glory again.
The gauntlet lays ahead of the Wildcats, the beginning just 60 days away. The senior-heavy team will have plenty of challengers along the way.
A total of 16 games occupy the schedule – eight at home and eight on the road. The Wildcats will face many of the best teams in Ohio and several nationally renowned programs. The schedule will not be an easy one for the men of Head Coach Mike McLaughlin '85.
"We'll play many of the best teams in Ohio and a few of the best teams in the country," said McLaughlin. "I'm excited to have a large group of seniors who have something to prove. We're excited to play this schedule."
The season begins on August 16. The Wildcats will start the season on the road with a quick trip west to Avon Lake. The Shoremen met the Wildcats on Wasmer Field to kick off the 2018 campaign, giving the hosts quite the fight in a 3-0 Saint Ignatius win. A tripleheader with Twinsburg follows on August 20, starting with JV B and JV A and concluded with varsity at 7 pm.
The Jesuit Cup will return to Saint Ignatius this season. The Soccer Cats will be the hosts of the four-team tournament, welcoming Toledo St. John's Jesuit, Walsh Jesuit, and St. Xavier to campus. The tournament opens on Saturday, August 24 with the Wildcats vs. the Titans at 1 pm, followed by the Bombers vs. the Warriors at 3 pm. The teams will gather for Mass in St. Mary's Chapel at the conclusion of play, as is tradition. The tourney will continue on Sunday with games at 11 am and 1 pm. The JV teams of all four programs will play a mirror of the varsity schedule, competing on McLaughlin Field.
"We're very excited about hosting the Jesuit Cup," McLaughlin said. "It's an amazing start to the season. Most teams don't want to play competitive games like these early on, but it sets the tone for the season. It gets us in the mindset, 'You need to be ready by the end of August' for the Jesuit Cup. That weekend means a lot to us. We want to be the best Jesuit team in Ohio."
On August 29, the Wildcats and Comets will meet again, this year at Solon. Last season, the Cats etched out a 4-1 victory at Cleveland State. Another series that continues in 2019 is the contest vs. Louisville St. Xavier. The reigning Kentucky state champs will meet the Wildcats in Columbus after tying the Cats in Cincinnati on a rainy night last season. The venue, a neutral site, has yet to be selected.
The annual rivalry contest with St. Edward is slated for Wednesday, September 11 this year. The Wildcats provided plenty of great highlights, including a Kyle Folds masterpiece that landed on SportsCenter, en route to a 7-0 conquest. The Eagles have a new coach this year, as Tony Dore returns after leading St. Edward's program in the 2000's and early 2010's.
The Wildcats will host Copley a few days later on September 14. Saint Ignatius bested Copley, 9-2, on camper appreciation day last season.
The most anticipated game of the year will be on Friday, September 20. The defending national champions, St. Benedict's Prep from New Jersey, come to town for a rematch from last season. The Wildcats traveled to New Jersey last season for the premier match, losing 3-1 in a hard-fought contest. The Soccer Cats look to pack Cleveland State's Krenzler Field with a raucous crowd for the matchup of perennial contenders for the national title.
Another important game will take place a day later on Saturday, September 21. St. Charles comes to Cleveland this year after forcing a 1-1 tie in Columbus last season. The Wildcats and Cardinals are closely matched teams that will battle heartily.
The following week brings two road games against University School and Toledo St. Francis. The Wildcats and Preppers showdown on Tuesday, September 24. Last year, the Cats emerged on top with a 4-1 conquest. The Wildcats travel to Toledo to face St. Francis this season following a 6-2 win last season. This year's contest will be played at the University of Toledo.
The big trip for the Wildcats this season will be in the first week of October. The Soccer Cats will be heading to Chicago for matchups against two top teams. First, the men of Ohio City will do battle with Peoria Notre Dame, a prominent Illinois school that lies about 7.5 hours west and about 2.5 hours southwest of Chicago. Saint Ignatius will go against Peoria ND, one of the top teams in the country, at 7 pm on October 4.
Then on October 5, two namesakes of St. Ignatius Loyola will face off – Saint Ignatius Prep of Chicago and Saint Ignatius High School of Cleveland. The Wildcats and Wolfpack will do battle in Chicago.
The season concludes with two home games. Normandy will invade Wasmer Field on Wednesday, October 9 and Olentangy Liberty will storm Ohio City on Saturday, October 12. The two contests will conclude an action-packed regular season for the Wildcats.
A season preview will be posted as the season approaches. Expectations will be high for the Wildcats this season, as a talented crop of seniors will lead the season. It will certainly be a fun season.