Even without one of its top players Tuesday, the Catholic High School boys’ soccer team looked ready to defend its Class 1 state championship.
The Irish (24-4) moved on to the state quarterfinals with a 6-0 win against host Monett, controlling possession throughout and showing why they are favored to repeat as state champions with three more victories.
The top-ranked Irish scored twice in the first half and then added four after halftime to move on to Saturday’s quarterfinal. The Irish will host Sedalia Sacred Heart (17-9) in an afternoon game, likely at Cooper Soccer Complex.
“We’re getting our flow back again and finding our rhythm,” said senior Mitch Moncada, who scored two goals. “We’re starting to get on top of teams early again, and we’re definitely possessing the ball a lot better.”
Catholic was without senior Evan Craig, who was out with a leg injury. Coach Tom Guinn said Craig could be back Saturday, and if not, should be available for state if Catholic advances to the Nov. 16-17 finals in Blue Springs.
Meanwhile, Catholic moved junior Reilly Harbach up top in Craig’s spot alongside Moncada, one of the state’s most skilled players.
Moncada opened the scoring by putting away a ball that Monett could not clear off a corner kick. After Harbach scored a goal set up by some nifty footwork by Ryan Randell, Moncada opened the second-half scoring with a spin in the box, followed by a rocket into the net.
“It’s a privilege to play up top with him,” said Harbach, who had a goal and two assists. “Just trying to set him up and continue his great senior year.”
Moncada has 60 goals this season, a school record, and 119 in his career.
“I was very pleased,” Catholic coach Tom Guinn said. “In the first half, we lacked creativity in the attacking third, but in the second half, they made that adjustment and four more goals came.”
Randell, Joe Tonjuk and Dan Richardson added goals for Catholic, and goalkeeper James Straus made two saves for the shutout.
David Garcia made nine saves for Monett (13-13).
“I’m very much impressed by the speed and ball control,” Monett coach Dan Janssen said. “They are very adaptable. We threw some different looks at them, and they adapted to each look.”
For Monett, it was the first district title since 2001, the school’s only other district crown. Eight seniors will have to be replaced, most notably Luis Gonzalez and Jorge Aceves, Janssen said.
“In the end, they really bonded together,” Janssen said. “We played some rough ball in the middle of the year, and the seniors sat down and kind of refocused the team.”
The Irish, though, are three wins away from winning the second boys’ soccer title in the school’s — and region’s — history.
“We’ve got to keep our composure and keep our heads,” Harbach said. “We can’t overlook our next match and say that we’re already going to state. We need to get the next ‘W’ and just go from there.”