Boys Soccer wrap up


Clarion photo Henry Light

Zi Indarta (7) and Moso Gosnell (16) battle for loose ball in warm ups.

Cleveland’s boys soccer team came back from a difficult first half to go undefeated in PIL play.

The Warriors lost 21 seniors from the 2021 team that went to the state quarterfinals. That roster turnover led to a 2-4-1 non-league record, as Cleveland showed their talent, but struggled to reach their potential as a team.

That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots. Freshman goalkeeper Derek Puppo adjusted to the varsity level quickly, their defense showed signs of the elite back line that has become a staple of the program, and the offense was already great in possession but struggled to finish their chances. Overall they showed clear talent but were held back by disorganization and momentary lapses in otherwise well-played games.

“Going into the season, I saw a lot of potential with our team,” said senior forward Zi Indarta. “With the big roster change from the previous year it was about us all getting used to playing with each other. We knew we had the talent to compete, but it was just about working out how to play together.”

Since the disparity between potential and results was most shown in their offense, junior forward Solomon Barnett had a similar outlook.

“I think it kind of got calmed down. At the beginning of the season when we were trying to figure out those roles it was a little chaotic and everyone was trying to do everything by themself because there was no organization and no one knew where people were gonna be because we didn’t have enough time under our belts,” said Barnett on the team’s offense.

The timing of Cleveland’s eventual breakthroughs as a team were key, as they finally found their winning formula at the start of PIL play. After opening with a 5-0 win over Benson, the at the time 38th ranked Warriors delivered a huge result with a 1-1 tie against No. 1 Lincoln. That win gave the Warriors momentum for an important stretch of the schedule, with their three biggest rivalry games in a row. They went on to beat Grant 1-0 and Franklin 3-1, moving their rank well into the playoffs and putting them in contention for a PIL title.

“Getting big results against Lincoln and Grant to start PIL gave us a big momentum push, as we knew we could compete with the top teams in the state, and to follow those two games up with a win against Franklin really motivated the whole team and kickstarted our PIL campaign,” said Indarta.

Although Cleveland maintained their unbeaten record through the end of the PIL season, ties against Ida B. Wells and Roosevelt down the stretch gave them a 4-0-3 league record, placing them third in the league and 20th in the state.

On the difference between their performance in the non-league and PIL games, Barnett said, “It was all mental to me that whole preseason section. It was a lot of working together to find our chemistry and find what worked for us, find where the ball needed to go and who needed to be where, who would fill what role on the field; and so it took us a little while to figure it out, but I think once we did we were a strong team and no one in the PIL could beat us.”

Cleveland would be the lower seed for their playoff opener, which had them traveling to Sherwood to play the No. 14 Bowmen. Sherwood put up a 7-3-4 record, and would be a challenge for Cleveland’s strong defense, with all of their wins coming by two goals or more.

In the end Cleveland struggled to stop that offense but found a solution by matching their pace in an uncharacteristically high scoring game for the Warriors. They would eventually fall 4-3, matching Sherwood’s strengths well but falling just short.

The Warriors aren’t looking at quite the same roster turnover, with 10 seniors graduating this year. In what once looked like a rebuilding year, their underclassmen were able to gain experience with the intensity of league and playoff games.

“Going into this season as one of the few senior returners, I knew I had to step up and help the transition for a lot of the guys on our team to the varsity level. Us returning players knew we had to bring the intensity and physicality to training to help the new guys get acclimated to the pace and physicality of varsity soccer compared to the level below,” said Indarta of how the seniors helped with that experience.

Barnett and six other returning starters will look to carry that into next year. “We only have to replace five starters and ten seniors all together, so I think winning PIL is a reasonable goal; and taking it even further two years ago we went to the state quarterfinals and I think we could take it even further than that next year because we have a lot of talent,” said Barnett.

Cleveland has proved themselves as a program that can contend in the PIL no matter their circumstances early in the season, and with higher hopes for next year they will look to strengthen their reputation.