Kokomo Municipal Baseball Field played host to a slew IHSAA semi-state soccer games Saturday. You could sense the nerves the second you set foot in the stadium as a 3A semi-state game between Penn and Noblesville was in overtime before Harrison faced Goshen. The tension continued to rise for Harrison fans as the game was slated to start at 5 but was delayed due to Penn and Noblesville going into a PK shootout, where Penn won on their final attempt.
Once the game started, the nerves were still high, but Harrison’s boys soccer team seemed unfazed.
Sophomore Jerrick Mennen eased the tension after he headed the ball past Goshen’s goalie off a set piece from Max Miller, Harrison soccer’s version of John Stockton as Miller holds the all-time assist record for the program.
While on the topic of breaking records, Jakub Hall added to his single-season goal record by scoring his 40th goal of the season with 9:12 remaining, crushing the dreams of Goshen after Hall mimicked Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous goal celebration.
Calvin Walters and the defense notched another clean sheet, although Goshen had its share of shots.
Walters continues to prove why he is the best goalie in the state by posting six saves, which has him at 91 for the season, while only allowing 13 goals in 22 games.
As for the Raiders’ next opponent, they will take on the Castle Knights from Newburgh at Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI at 6 p.m. Saturday for the state title. Castle defeated No. 4 North Central after a goal coming from a free kick near midfield with eight seconds left to punch their ticket to the state finals.
Harrison last reached the State Finals two years ago, only to lose 4-0 to Center Grove.
“In 2015, making it to state was the goal, and once we made it, it felt as if we had accomplished our goal,” said senior captain Pete Newton.
This year feels different for the Raiders.
“This year, winning state is the goal,” said Newton. “So it’s a great feeling to get to state, but we do not feel like our work is completed yet.”
Many of this year’s starters played in that 2015 State Finals game, whereas Castle has not made a trip to Indianapolis since 2000.
“We know what to expect and what’s at stake,” said Walters, another senior captain. “It’s also the last year for the majority of us, so there are no second chances.”
Although Walters played behind Kyle Bugay two years ago, he has performed exceptionally well in high pressure situations the entire season.
A week ago, Walters had an incredible showing at regionals where both games went to PKs.
Walters stopped two PKs in the first game against Warsaw and had another against Hamilton Southeastern, ultimately sending the Raiders to semi-state.
Just as they were in Kokomo, the nerves will be back Saturday, only a lot stronger.
“Nerves are a part of the game, and it kind of drives you,” said Newton. “It’s just a matter of being willing to just go out there and play and have fun.”
Harrison has one advantage on their side that not any other team has in the state has: the House of Clouse, Harrison’s soccer student section named after head coach Bryan Clouse. Most teams the Raiders have faced this season would probably say it is like they have a 12th player.
The rowdy members of “The House,” will use a roster to find the names of opposing players and start to play mind games with them.
The more hyped up the House gets, the more hyped the team gets, and the more hyped the team gets, the more hyped the House gets.
Both the team and the House will look to be in full force on Saturday.
This team of Raiders have been focused on a blue ring since the end of last season after a crushing loss in semi-state. Now, they have a chance to bring Harrison its first state title in any sport since 1995.