A year ago, Faith Christian’s boys soccer team used the regular season-ending Covington Invitational as its own little state tournament.
The Eagles were still probationary members of the IHSAA, and as such were not eligible for the state tournament. Faith Christian’s seniors won that title and ended their careers with a championship.
The Eagles defended that title this weekend, but are hoping for more hardware. Faith Christian takes a 10-4-2 record and a seven-game winning streak into this week’s Benton Central Sectional.
“I’ve waited three years to be in this,” said senior Sam Merkle, who leads the Eagles with 24 goals and 12 assists.
Faith Christian has lost just once since Aug. 28 — a 1-0 setback against sectional foe Carroll. The Eagles returned the bulk of last year’s varsity squad, including senior goalkeepers John Spykman and Connor Sandry, who split time.
Sam Merkle, already the program leader in career goals, broke his own single-season record by scoring twice against Benton Central on Saturday.
“If we didn’t have him, who knows where we’d be,” senior defender Cody Imel said. “He’s a great soccer player and I love to play with him. All of his heart is in it all the time.”
Faith Christian opened the season 3-4-2, including a 4-1 loss to Argos, a defending regional champion. Eagles coach Kevin Johns said the impending state tournament helped his team persevere through that rough patch.
“We had that really tough schedule in the middle of September, but it is nice to have some wins under our belt coming in right now, and for the guys to feel some success coming into the tournament,” Johns said.