The pain was real. The success and progress were, too.
Cathedral High School boys soccer took yet another strong step forward in 2023. The result was a wildly successful postseason run that ended in disappointment but with perspective, too.
“It’s disappointing on one hand, but overall you want to focus on how far we got this year and all the positives and successes,” Irish boys soccer coach Joel Russell said.
The positives and successes were many.
The Irish not only finished the 2023 season 17-5-2, they advanced to the Class 3A state championship game – their first state-title game appearance since 2010. They lost there, 2-0, to two-time defending state champion Noblesville.
“We set out at the start of the year and in one of our very first sessions, we walk through objectives and key results,” Russell said. ”Our objective is to be the premier high school boys soccer program in the state of Indiana. One of our measurables was to get to the state final and win, to be the first team at Cathedral to win.
“We had about 27 minutes during the game where we gave up two – I'll say, soft – goals and we never came back from that.”
The Irish after winning a sectional title in Russell’s second season in 2021 won a regional title in 2022. They advanced through those rounds again in 2023, beating Southport 2-0 in Section 11 tournament final at Warren Central, then beating East Central 2-1 in a regional semifinal.
They beat Carmel 2-1, in the regional final. Carmel entered that game No. 2 in the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association Class 3A rankings. The Irish beat Columbus North in the semistate round to advance to the title game.
“[Irish Athletics Director Rick] Streiff mentioned after the postseason, ‘Hey, you know, your teams have gone one step further every year,’ ” Russell said. “I think that's a good sign.”
The Irish, after starting the season 8-4-2, won nine consecutive games to reach the state final with a balanced team. They also gained cohesion and chemistry as the season continued, with senior midfielder Ian Jackson and senior forward Fynn Lahrsen joining the team for their final season.
“They were both significant players on our team,” Russell said.
Lahrsen scored 24 goals with 10 assists and Jackson scored 14 goals with 13 assists, with junior forward Calvin Kurzawa leading the Irish with 27 goals and 20 assists.
“That’s just an unbelievable year,” Russell said of Kurzawa.
Freshman midfielder Michael Bonaccorsi also started in the postseason, marking three key newcomers in the starting lineup.
“There was some integration and moving of parts and figuring out where all the pieces fit best together collectively,” Russell said. “I think we were able to do that throughout the course of the year. We were able to kind of put those pieces together.”
Kurzawa, Larson and junior goaltender Jett Wallmeier were named ISCA All-District 3 first team, with Jackson earning second-team honors. Also key for the Irish in 2023: Senior defenseman and four-year player Liam Fahey, senior defender Kenyon Neal, senior defenseman Adrian Reveles, senior captain Emmett Hearn, senior Landon Korous and senior Benedict Holmes.
“When we started the season and I loaded the schedule, I had us playing in the state final,” Russell said. “I had us practicing up to the Friday before, so none of this was new. Hopefully with a little perspective, they look at that and they realize that while we were 27 minutes short, we were also a really good team and accomplished a lot this year.
“We’re making the right steps. I really like our coaching staff on our JV Blue and our JV gold teams. I think we're attracting the right type of player into the program. I think our standard has been set of this is how we want to operate as a program, as a player.”
Sophomore midfielder Jordan Wedges also will return next season, as will sophomore midfielder Quinn Bateman.
“There are exciting times ahead for us,” Russell said. “We like what we have coming back. We’re going to miss the seniors we lost. These guys have been with me all four years. Now you start to talk about the transition of the program.
“The question is can we continue to be at the standard or raise the standard that we want to set as a program? We’re taking those strides to be that top boys high school program in the state of Indiana.”