OHIO CITY, Oh - With yet another successful season in the record books, the Saint Ignatius Wildcats dominated the National Scene again, winning their third consecutive State Championship and what will likely be their third straight National Championship. The team broke so many different records, made many moments to further their careers and progressed the program’s prestige even more than ever before.
This Wildcat team captured the program’s 21st District Championship, 17th Regional Championship, and an 11th State Championship, now on par with coach Chuck Kyle ’69 and the football program.
The Wildcat team broke more records with prolific goals and assist showings. The group broke the record for the most goals in a single season with 140, breaking the former program record of 129 goals in 2000 and the OHSAA record for the most goals in a regular season with 96 goals. This year marked the first time that three players scored 20+ goals in a season (Zsombor Onodi: 28, Nolan Spicer: 26, Josip Rimac: 24).
Individual records were also broken, as Josip Rimac broke the record for the most assists in a season (20) and the most assists in a single match (7).
Finally, the Cats also shattered the undefeated record, previously held from 2014-2017, with assistance from the teams from the previous two years. The Wildcats finished 23-0-0, with an +133 goal differential, scoring 140 goals and conceding only seven throughout the season, only three in open play.
It is always great to commemorate the individual excellence this team has achieved with all of these team accomplishments. Now presenting the Saint Ignatius Broadcasting Network’s End of the Year Awards.
* A few quick notes; firstly, these awards are not exactly ‘tied’ to the soccer program itself. Our broadcasters decided these awards; coaches and parents have no involvement in these awards. These are not necessarily official rewards at all but rather a fun commemoration of the season. Secondly, we are only doing one award per person.
Without further ado…
Most Improved Player → Ernie Vargo III (Jr.)
(Honorable Mention - Nathan Smith)
The most improved player award has always held a special place in my heart. It’s always been great to have guys pull off a breakout year, and Ernie Vargo certainly did that this year. I and many others had anticipated Owen Maruca to start this year at the center-back role alongside Collin Folds. With Maruca’s struggles with injury, Vargo had shoes to fill with the incoming season, and boy did he deliver. Vargo had a phenomenal year in the back, complimenting Folds very well with his enforcer/brute style along the backline. His exceptional performances, especially late in the playoffs, were crucial for the team’s success, with some critical alterings in opponents’ attacking chances. Vargo has panned out to be a true professional with his excellent leadership and brilliance off the pitch.
Offensive Player of the Year → Josip Rimac (Sr.)
(Honorable Mention - Zsombor Onodi)
Rimac and Onodi both competed for this spot throughout the year. Rimac knocked Onodi from the spotlight with his consistency, especially his top run of form through the playoffs. Rimac’s confidence and menacing skill up top strikes fear into any opponent’s backline. His unmatched passion on the pitch sets him apart from the rest and gives him this award with his balance of goals and assists, as he netted 24 goals and assisted 20. From his performances throughout the playoffs to his first-half hat trick against St. Edward, Rimac has cemented his legacy into the heart of the program.
Defensive Player of the Year → Antonio Morini (Sr.)
(Honorable Mention - Collin Folds)
On the defensive side of things, the Wildcats had many talents to offer throughout the season. With Collin Folds coming in a close second, Morini broke free with all of his contributions to the defense this season. Playing the holding midfielder role is one of the most thankless jobs on the football pitch but is arguably the most important. Morini’s touch statistics, aerial wins, interceptions, and other stats cement him as the best defensive player this year. The masterclasses we have seen from this lad have been incredible, and he has shown some of the best performances a player at his position has ever put on in this program’s history.
Game of the Year → State Championship - Saint Ignatius Wildcats 2, Centerville Elks 1
(Honorable Mentions - vs. Noblesville (9/11), vs. St. Edward (9/16)
This was an easy one. The overtime thriller and my final match on the air was quickly the cream of the crop of the year’s competition. There have been some good matches, but nothing holds a candle to this match. The sheer class of these two programs on such a large stage made this match so fun to watch, even for someone as passionate about Wildcat soccer as me. The Elks gave us what was quickly our most challenging match, exemplifying significant transitions, counter-attacks and true excellence on the defensive side without parking the bus, like most teams who have contained us to a small number of goals this season. This game had all of the perks of a great match, even competition, drama, intensity, passion, and more. Not to mention the match being played at such a great new stadium at Lower.Com Field, giving it such a wonderful atmosphere to top it all off.
Goal of the Year → Josip Rimac vs. St. Edward
(Honorable Mentions - Zsombor Onodi vs. Peoria Notre Dame, Nathan Trickett vs. University School)
This goal was a thing of pure beauty and majesty. With Rimac bagging a hat trick in this match, his second goal transcended the rest. Off of a counter-attack, courtesy of one of Collin Folds’ signature long balls, Rimac ran onto it in the area, 1v1 with a defender. Rimac took a sharp cut to his left and had a crack within the eighteen-yard box, about fifteen yards out. The finesse on the ball allowed it to gloriously travel its way into the top left corner of the net, leading to a rampant student section and a lawless broadcast call. What a tremendous goal, a finish I will always cherish seeing in real-time.
Most Valuable Player → Nolan Spicer (Jr.)
What can we say? Spicer had to be the best choice among the group in a tight race with about three or four other guys. Spicer’s incredible 26 goals and 12 assist season, along with some crucial goals (including the winner in the State Championship), has given him the MVP award. Spicer’s stoic presence in the middle and undeniable skill makes anyone who watches him envious of just how easy he makes it look. His influence in the midfield and the attack at the Mezzala role cements him as one of the Wildcats’ finest. Despite still having one more year of his high school career, Spicer has a career total of 43 goals and 22 assists and has already committed to the University of Notre Dame. Watching his varsity career thus far has been such a pleasure and it will be interesting to see how he continues to improve come next year. For the SIBN, Nolan Spicer has secured the MVP of the team in part of all of this and more.
Luciano Pechota - Named OSSCA Player of the Year
Despite battling injuries throughout the entire year, Luciano Pechota has displayed an excellent work rate and leadership qualities during this season. The thing about Pechota is, he does not necessarily fit the mold of any awards but rather transcends them. Pechota is a flashy, intelligent midfielder on the ball, but I think that his mental game, vision, and quick thinking are what brings him above the rest. Pechota finished his senior year with 14 goals and seven assists and a career total of 33 goals and 25 assists through three years on the varsity squad. The Ohio State commit truly did maximize the season, despite struggling with injuries, and for that, he fully deserves this praise.
Josip Rimac and Luciano Pechota are All-Americans
To finish the individual excellence, the two captains were named All-Americans to play in the match in the coming months. Pechota and Rimac have combined for 38 goals and 27 assists this year, both being the authentic vocal presences and leadership on the pitch. These two also made first-team All-Ohio representing the Wildcats side. With a phenomenal high school career behind them and promising college runs ahead of them, these two fully deserve these awards. Congratulations gentlemen!
All Opponent XI
Now that we have finished with our team, I would like to commemorate some of the most entertaining and talented opponents we have faced so far. Looking back at all of our matches, Anthony Tran and I had made an All-Opponent XI, along with a twelve-man bench of honorable mentions to show appreciation for our opponents.
GK Connor Mack - Twinsburg Tigers
Connor Mack starts this team in goal. What an exciting player he turned out to be. Although he may not be as technical as other keepers the Wildcats had faced off against this year, he certainly was the most fun to watch. Mack made incredible saves to keep his team in the match on that Tuesday night in Twinsburg, and he moves rather gracefully considering how built and strong he is. Mack was a valid key to the puzzle of that Tiger team and cemented the backline to give the Wildcats some friendly competition, with the final score only 3-0. Nothing short of class to kick things off.
LB Dominic Breidenbach - Archbishop Moeller Crusaders
The Crusader left-back finds himself in this team after a commendable performance against the Cats, one of the few bright spots in a rough 8-0 loss for the side. Breidenbach’s box-to-box abilities make him well-built for a modern fullback, from his well-timed tackles to his crosses and offensive aid in general. Not to mention those luscious locks!
CB Drew Cochran - Noblesville Millers (IN)
Drew Cochran was an instrumental player in the back for the Millers, as he was the proper anchor for the squad. Cochran made sure to bend but not break, with some risky but perfectly executed tackles and an unheard-of ability to cover space in the defensive third. One of the finest of one of the best teams in the nation.
CB Logan Brown - Avon Eagles
With such a defensively-oriented team as the Avon Eagles and the condensing done against the Wildcats, it is tough to stick out in a seemingly endless abyss of defensive presence. Brown did just that, though, as he was arguably the man of the match for the Eagles in the final four bouts. With a tall, muscular build and good foot skill, Brown was a class act in keeping the Eagles neck and neck throughout the match.
RB Matt Fuge - Medina Bees
Fuge made his mark against the Cats in the Elite 8, as he did an excellent job holding down the right-hand side for the defense. With class players such as Sullivan, Trickett, Spicer, and Pechota running your way, it is hard to get in as many quality tackles as Fuge did. Fuge put on a masterclass on that side of the pitch, locking down and putting to rest most attacking chances coming in his direction.
CDM Cole Turchyn - Medina Bees
Another Medina Bee joins the lineup in the middle of the park. Turchyn is without a doubt the best player Medina has to offer, which is an honorable remark considering their prestige on the state and national stages. Turchyn’s ability to create offense out of defense is unmatched among others playing out of his position, and the fact that he is only a sophomore with his level of talent is quite frankly disturbing.
CDM Caleb McComas - Centerville Elks
The first player from our State Championship opponents, McComas, makes the squad with his class and composure in the middle. His ability to get the team out of tricky situations was evident throughout the match and the season, and he did command the midfield, being the true connection between the defense and the rest of the squad. His ball control and vision for passing put him on a physical and mental advantage over his opponents.
CM Kaden Combs - Centerville Elks
Another player from the clinical Centerville side. Combs brought the midfield together and played plenty of crucial passes throughout the season. His progressive dribbles and passing were ludicrous, and his shiftiness is really what ties it all together. He had an extraordinary nature of connecting with an attack and proved crucial in the Elks’ success this season.
LW Hamza Kromah - Western Reserve Academy Pioneers
Hamza is a flashy, quick player from the Western Reserve side. He is notorious for his pace, but I reckon that Hamza can be deadly against any side if he is used more effectively. A more central role for him could surely give him more space and attacking opportunities to work with. He made the best of his position, though, exemplifying blistering pace and brilliant elusiveness with the ball at his feet, an entertaining player to watch at work.
RW Spencer Holland - Noblesville Millers (IN)
Another Noblesville player makes a list. Holland’s constant involvement in the match in September, along with his skill and ability to create chances out of seemingly impossible circumstances, guarantees his spot on the squad. Holland’s connections with the rest of the attack brought a sense of danger to Noblesville’s opposition, and he is a pivotal player to the Indiana State Champions.
ST Jack Drabenstott - Centerville Elks
Another Centerville player on this team, Drabenstott, was the primary piece for the Elks attack one week ago. His blistering pace, intelligent run-making, and true footballing principles make him one of the best the Wildcats have faced against this year. His chemistry with the rest of his teammates was brilliant and he displayed his passion and love for the game throughout. A truly exceptional player.
Bench/Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
GK Ethan Ogden - Dublin Jerome Celtics
GK Luke Shrivers - Centerville Elks
CB Landon Dawson - Avon Eagles
CB Jude Rindler - Centerville Elks
CDM Nathanial Vakos - Avon Eagles
CDM Brayden Doll - Noblesville Millers (IN)
CM Jared Pena - Western Reserve Academy Pioneers
CM Kyle Goad - Noblesville Millers (IN)
CAM Kyler Cusick - Medina Bees
LW Tommy Schrepferman - Louisville St. Xavier Tigers (KY)
RW Drew Boettcher - Centerville Elks
ST Palmer Ault - Noblesville Millers (IN)