Anyone with several minutes of time on his or her hands can sit down and find some reasons that explain how the Brebeuf Jesuit girls soccer team has once again stormed back into the Class 2A state finals.
Only twice in 24 games have the Braves failed to net at least two goals, exceeding that total in more than 50 percent of their games this season. They have also outscored opponents 25-1 in six postseason games.
Consider how many of these players have been here before: The Braves graduated only two players from last year’s state-winning squad, leaving behind 12 tournament-seasoned seniors who knew exactly how much work it would take to get back to the finals.
Without a doubt, glory belongs to the Braves players, who face undefeated Penn (21-0-1) on Saturday at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium in a rematch of last year’s state final.
But those same players also recognize they had help.
“In Indiana in general, there are so many talented soccer teams that I think it takes a little something extra to really differentiate between the best team and the second-best team,” said senior defenseman and captain Natalie Kelley. “And I think (coach) Angela (Berry White) is that difference because she just has this way of bringing us all together and uniting us.”
Before she became that difference, Berry White would watch games from the Brebeuf home stands with friends who had kids on the team, appreciating how much girls soccer had changed since her playing days.
The IHSAA didn’t offer both boys and girls state tournaments when she was a star for North Central in the mid-1980s, adding it in the late ’90s only a few years before her son, E.J., was born. But things were different in 2013 and she could see that watching the Braves, which is partly what persuaded her to take the job as their coach one season later.
“They had a good foundation,” Berry White said, “but what I wanted to do was just build a culture of winning and not just winning games, but winning at everything.”
And for the Braves to win at everything, Berry White knew she needed to teach them how to win together.
She could have taught them the old-fashioned way and used her aggressive coaching style to design drills that highlight the importance of teamwork on and off the field. In fact, ask any of her players and you’ll likely hear some war story about a particularly challenging training session she put them through.
But Berry White also recognized that sometimes fostering a sisterhood meant taking time away from soccer practice for movie nights, water balloon fights, meditation, yoga and even a no-parents-allowed preseason retreat.
Or, in more dire situations, giving players time to step back and support one another through a difficult time — like during last season’s tournament run when now-senior Lauren Turner found out her mom had only weeks to live.
“Angela really stepped in as a personal presence with Lauren and really showed up, and told us how to cultivate an attitude of a family that our team loves, that it’s more than just the soccer; that it’s how we are to each other on and off the field,” said senior midfielder and captain Alia Martin.
Berry White’s insistence on building personal relationships with her players has commanded more respect than any of her playing credentials — a former member of the U.S. Women’s National Team and inductee in the Indiana Soccer Hall of Fame — ever could have.
Need some more proof?
When the Braves once again put it all on the line for a state title Saturday night, don’t pay attention to how many goals are scored or even what the final score is.
Instead, watch the players. Watch how they look at her. Watch how she looks at them. Pay attention to the way she leads them, in victory or in defeat, as people leave the field that night. Do that, and you might just catch a glimpse of what really brought them all this far.
“She really kind of brought the team together,” Turner said. “You can have a whole bunch of individually talented players, but if they don’t come together as a team, you’re not going to accomplish something.”
Follow IndyStar reporter Jordan J. Wilson on Twitter: @Wilsonable07. Email him at email@example.com .
IHSAA SOCCER STATE FINALS
All games at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium
Admission: $10 per person.
Class A boys: Providence (18-2-1) vs. Mishawaka Marian (17-5), 10:30 a.m.
Class A girls: Lawrenceburg (13-5-3) vs. Andrean (16-3-1), follows A boys
Class 2A boys: Evansville Memorial (18-4-1) vs. Chesterton (16-3-2), 3:30 p.m.
Class 2A girls: Brebeuf Jesuit (22-1-1) vs. Penn (21-0-1), follows 2A boys