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Soccer Cats Thrive to Embrace Pressure

By Joe Mertens '15, 08/12/21, 2:45PM EDT


Wildcats have added pressure heading into the 2021 season ranked #1 in the country.

CLEVELAND, Oh - The Saint Ignatius Soccer program will begin the 2021 regular season ranked number one in the country. The Soccer Cats have won back-to-back OHSAA State Championships, along with back-to-back NSCAA National Championships. In the 2020 season, it was business as usual for the Wildcats as they finished with a record of 21-0. There is an added pressure heading into the 2021 regular season, but the Cats are embracing the challenge ahead of them.

Head Soccer Coach Mike McLaughlin ’85 comes into this season with an overall record at Saint Ignatius of 449-52-53 and understands what it takes for his team to repeat as champions. “Going back-to-back is all new to these student-athletes; every time you get a new group of kids, it’s a new mix and mentality,” explains McLaughlin. “I’m excited to see how they handle it. There is a pressure to play at Saint Ignatius High School, putting on this jersey and this crest means so much to these guys, but experiencing pressure is great; that’s life. To deal with pressure all season helps during the playoffs because these kids learn how to manage.”

Senior midfielder Luciano Pechota, who recently committed to The Ohio State University, looks to build off an incredible junior season. Pechota was a member of the 2019 and 2020 State Championship teams and knew the added pressure of repeating. “There is a lot of pressure,” says Pechota. “Last season, there wasn’t much because we were low ranked coming into the season because of the seniors graduating after my sophomore year. This year everyone expects you to win; I think it’ll be a challenge mentally meeting expectations.”

Senior Right Wing, Josip Rimac, the younger brother of Marko Rimac ’21, will play right wing for the Wildcats this season. “Handling pressure was my main focus heading into senior year,” says Rimac. “There are so many obstacles, but playing through them is the most difficult thing.”

2020 presented various challenges for the Soccer Cats with different restrictions and not having the ability to have as many team bonding opportunities. Before their scrimmage against Olentangy Liberty on August 11, the Cats took a trip to West Virginia. “We can do more together and more team bonding this year,” explains senior Antonio Morini. “We were able to take a team trip to West Virginia, definitely more exciting to be able to do more with the team.”

As the regular season approaches, the dreams begin to take the place of what this year holds in store for the Cats. “This is the best; the fall season is the most exciting time of the year,” explains McLaughlin. “We have a new group of kids trying to prove themselves and do something special for the program. We return a bunch of juniors and seniors this year, so the sky’s the limit; our focus is to bring our best every day.”

2021 Soccer Season Preview

Meet the Captains

Luciano Pechota - Midfielder 

Antonio Morini - Defensive Center Mid

Josip Rimac - Right Wing

Collin Folds - Center Back

“I’m excited to fulfill that role,” Pechota says. “I want to try and help us get to that goal of winning another State and National Championship, that is always the goal, but it’s great being a captain and being a person that’ll help lead the team,”

“Being here for four years, grinding and working means a lot to me to be recognized as a captain,” explains Rimac. “Playing with each other helps us see our strengths and weaknesses on the field, which prepares us for the season.”

“Being named a captain meant so much for me,” says senior Collin Folds. “I have always looked up to Ignatius and being a captain to lead everyone is special.”

“I always look up to the captains,” Morini says. “It’s a nice acknowledgment for me, and I appreciate it. I want to lead as a role model for the younger players.”

August is a busy month for the Soccer Cats as in the last couple of weeks; they have had tryouts and two scrimmages. Tryouts wrapped up on August 5 and the first scrimmage was against the Alumni on August 7, which saw a 2-2 tie after full time. The Wildcats defeated Olentangy Liberty 5-0 on August 11 and will have two more scrimmages before the kick-off to the 2021 regular season. The opener will take place on the road at Avon Lake on August 21. “We open up the season against Avon Lake and every year, it’s an amazing game,” notes McLaughlin. “We’ve talked about this season now for eight months, the season is here and it’s as good as it gets.”

“Avon Lake is always a challenge, my sophomore year, we won 2-1, and last season we won 3-2; they always put up a fight,” explains Pechota. “The first game is always a tough one and it’s a hump we have to get over, I think we are excited to go out and go for it, but it should be a tough one.”

Pressure is the central theme for the Wildcats this fall. Still, they are chomping at the bit at the opportunity to win the program’s eleventh State Championship and seventh National Championship. “I want to focus on winning again,” Folds says. “Being the best at everything and winning another State championship and National championship.”

The Wildcats have two scrimmages remaining before the season begins; they will take on New Albany at 3 p.m. on August 14 and North Olmsted at 7 p.m. on August 17. Both matches will take place at Wasmer Field and live coverage will be on the SIBN.