Burris boys soccer coach Jack Klett expected to open this season with practically the same lineup as last year when his team posted a 13-3-4 record and won the first sectional title in program history.
The Owls returned a core group of players who all flourished in their positions a year ago, so the idea of shuffling the lineup never really crossed his mind until a rash of injuries forced the issue.
Three of his top players in his son, midfielder Kevin Klett, goalkeeper Drew Odle and defender Isaiah Anderson all went down in the preseason, and that left Jack Klett sticking fingers in the dam to stop the water from rushing through and drowning his Owls.
The Burris coach first tried to insert new players into the vacated spots and leave the rest of the lineup intact. That failed miserably as the Owls lost their opening two games to Pendleton Heights (2-0) and Yorktown (5-2).
At that point with the season just two games in, the coach decided to overhaul his lineup, and that move has paid off immensely for Burris, which ended the regular season on a 13-game win streak.
“We basically had last year’s team back, but it wasn’t working this year, so you have to make adjustments,” Jack Klett says.
When Burris (13-2) takes the field Wednesday for its Class A Hamilton Heights boys soccer sectional opener, only one of the 11 starters will be in the same position as when the Owls kicked off the season on Aug. 20 at Pendleton Heights. Ironically, that one player is Adam Burns, a player penciled in as a backup goalkeeper until Odle injured his shoulder before the season and then re-injured the shoulder roughly two weeks ago.
Junior forward Julius Hain, an Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities student, sparked the household changes to the lineup.
The IHSAA mandates an athlete participate in 10 practices before game eligibility. Some course scheduling conflicts and an illness prevented Hain from completing the 10 practice mandate until five games into the season, yet he still leads the Owls in goals scored with 12.
Jack Klett found a perfect complement for the small, but lightning-quick Hain at forward in 6-foot, 170-pound bruiser Jack McGee. The Burris senior anchored the center of the defense last year and opened the season there this season before Klett switched him from the back to the top.
“I’ve been begging to play forward for a while actually,” McGee says. “I thought it would be so much fun, and he finally tried me up there, and I put a few in. Originally, he moved me to right mid and then two games later he moved me to forward. He was just trying new stuff, and it worked.”
Anderson returned from injury and took over for McGee at center back, Isaac Shroll moved from forward to midfield, and Jack Alexander switched from holding center midfielder to attacking center mid in some of the other notable changes to the Burris lineup.
“Once we got settled where we were, it worked a lot better this year,” Alexander says. “Just with our chemistry and with guys skill set this year, it just made a lot more sense to have guys where they are now.”
The Owls managed to win 13 of their 15 regular-season games with arguably their best player sidelined by a back injury. Senior midfielder Kevin Klett logged five minutes against Delta in his only regular-season action.
Jack Klett says there is a possibility his son will return for the state tournament, starting Wednesday against Hamilton Heights. Kevin Klett wore a back brace, but he managed to practice some last week.
With or without Kevin Klett, Alexander is confident he and the rest of the new-look Owls will be a formidable out in the state tournament.
“We’re peaking right now,” Alexander says. “I think our last couple games we’ve been a lot better, so right about the time in the season that we should be settling in and having everything come together for us, it has.”