The Richmond High School boys soccer team enters the 2014 season with a hunger bigger than it’s had in a while.
Connersville snapped a reign of four straight soccer sectional titles for the Red Devils, and head coach Matt Haynes, along with a big group of seniors, looks to return the Red Devils to glory.
Haynes returns for a second straight year as the Red Devils open the season Monday by hosting Mt. Vernon at Lyboult Field.
“The expectations are high,” Haynes said. “We had a heartbreaking loss at sectional, so the expectations are definitely high for sectional play.”
Richmond finished 13-7 last year and 4-2 against North Central Conference opponents.
The Red Devils have some strong personnel returning, including senior Kevin Mendoza, the team’s leading scorer who was among the state leaders last fall. Haynes calls Mendoza a Division I talent. Mendoza had 26 goals, while Jack Mehaffie and Omarr Melendez each had four.
What the Red Devils must replace is the senior leadership of Josh Anderson, Drew Barrett, Matt Holt, Jarrod Lemar, Jordan Miller, Dakota Pennington, Sam Rutledge and Matt Sheridan.
Mendoza, Melendez, Mehaffie, Chris Lahman, Pennington, Gilbert Rios, Dustin Swonder, Jake Schamel, Michael Garrett, Victor Garcia and Danilo Morales are all seniors.
Mendoza, Barrett and Sheridan were all-NCC selections, with Barrett starting at goalkeeper.
Haynes said freshman Sid Sagna is an early favorite to replace Barrett at the net, while Lahman returns as back-up and will play mainly defense.
“He is raw. He could be starting for us for four years,” Haynes said of Sagna. “He’s got some good talent. … He is really tall for his age; he’s got a shot-stopper mentality.”
Haynes expects junior Aquib Mohamed and sophomores Matt Abrams and Matt Murray to contribute on the defensive line, along with senior Evan Pennington, who Haynes said is making the switch after playing forward and midfield last year.
Junior George Chaney and Swonder are expected to contribute at midfield.
“This team has a lot of experience, has a lot of potential,” Haynes. “It’s just, the thing you can’t teach is the will to want to win, and I think we’ve got it. And I think we can do it.”
The NCC will feature a new look this year with newcomers Lafayette Jeff, Harrison and McCutcheon joining Logansport and Kokomo in the West Division and Richmond, Anderson, Marion, Muncie Central and Huntingon North playing in the East Division.
Richmond will travel to Huntington North (Aug. 30) and Marion (Sept. 13), while hosting Muncie Central (Sept. 9) and Anderson (Sept. 23).
There will be an NCC tournament on Sept. 28. Indianapolis Tech will replace Huntington North in the 2015-16 school year.
The Red Devils have just four home matches: Monday against Mt. Vernon, Aug. 28 against Franklin County and against the two NCC schools.
“It’s a new thing; it’s exciting. I think it’s more like a playoff format,” Haynes said. “That places a lot more emphasis on winning those NCC games. If we only have four that puts you square in the cross-hairs if you do not do well in those four games.”
• Aug. 18: Mt. Vernon
• Aug. 21: at Muncie Burris
• Aug. 28: Franklin County
• Aug. 30: at Huntington North *
• Sept. 2: at Rushville
• Sept. 5-6: at Hoosier Cup (Bloomington)
• Sept. 9: Muncie Central*
• Sept. 13: at Marion*
• Sept. 18: at Connersville
• Sept. 20: at Red Devil Showcase at Pike High School
• Sept. 23: Anderson*
• Sept. 25: at Pendleton Heights
• Sept. 27: NCC Championship*
• Sept. 30: at Union County
* — NCC game