Wildcat Soccer claws way to perfect record, national recognition
Undefeated. Untied. Perfect. Wildcat soccer roared to life, riding a perfect 9-0 record to a first place FVA ranking, and a remarkable fifteen place in the entire nation. With 10 games under their belt as of the writing of this story, the boys have thrashed some of the most talented teams in the conference. Head coach Matthew Callahan is impressed by his players’ success.
“Right now we are [undefeated] and in first place in the FVA conference,” he said.
Junior players are especially standing out, both at games and in practice, according to Callahan. Junior Edgar Heredia, an attacking midfielder, has been a prominent team leader.
“We have been playing really well,” he said. “It stems from having so much talent on the team.”
Heredia, like many of his teammates, has another year of chasing titles to look forward to.
“Many of the players from last year are still on the team, and most of them will be on the team next year as well,” Callahan said. “That has benefited us in that we have a lot of players that have experience playing at a very competitive level.”
Senior Andy Dey, varsity goalkeeper, thinks close-knit relationships provide strength in their games.
“I think this is the strongest bond we have had as a team, which greatly contributes to a positive outlook on the game,” Dey said.
With this positive outlook, players are not afraid to confide in teammates during the game. Senior Jack LaFontaine, a defense player, believes in the importance of this bond.
“We always strive to pick each other up and work to help each other when mistakes are made during games,” he said.
Beyond personal relationships, these bonds also contribute significantly to the team’s overall success.
“This is the most successful year in the program during my four years at West, and probably the most successful season our school has ever had,” Dey said.
Family bonds forged in the fire of competitive adversity have tempered the Wildcats for post season play.
“Some seasons there are players that aren’t so close or someone dislikes another teammate for something that has happened off the field,” Heredia said. “Since we all have very good relationships, it helps us connect on the field when we are playing.”
This team spirit was especially important when the boys played Neenah, their biggest rival.
“As a program this is only the second time we have beaten Neenah in the past 10 years,” Callahan said. “The program probably hasn’t won that many more games against Neenah in its 35-plus year history.”
The Rockets game proved to be both difficult and motivating for the team.
“We finally beat Neenah this year, which was a big moment for the team because of the challenge they have always brought,” Dey said.
During this game, the fans became an essential part of the team’s win, contributing to the atmosphere and positive atmosphere.
“The fans are very encouraging, and there are a lot more people showing up than in the past,” LaFontaine said. “It contributes to the vibe of the game, making wins even more enjoyable.”
The soccer program has grown greatly throughout the years, both in size and talent, allowing for the Wildcats to have many options while playing a challenging game.
“When players get tired or injured, we can sub in players that do just as well, which has allowed us to wear teams down and score a lot of goals late in games,” Callahan said.
While some sports suffer from sporadic training and involvement from athletes, soccer differentiates itself by offering club leagues and involvement for even the youngest of players.
“I have been playing soccer since I was very little, 4 or 5 years old, and I’ve had a passion ever since,” Heredia said.
That pool of talent and expertise certainly eases the burden for the coaching staff as they develop strategy and planning for upcoming games.
“We have so many talented players and so much depth,” Callahan said.
The players share significant history, both with one another and with the sport in general. All of the team members have been long-term soccer players and are teammates outside of the West season.
“Most of us have played soccer together before, so we already know how our teammates play so there are no surprises there,” Heredia said. “We are also friends off of the field which is one of our biggest strengths.”
With just a few weeks of their season left, the boys hope to continue their success and make it far in playoffs, while keeping up the positive vibe of the team. A chain is forged of many links, a bond that holds the Wildcats together.
“It makes everything so much easier when the team all plays for the benefit of each other,” Heredia said. “not for the success of one individual.”