From the unknown to the undefeated — Heritage Christian Academy soccer made it happen.
HCA coach Clint Willis didn’t know what to expect coming into his first season at the helm of the Warriors’ soccer program. But once the final whistle blew in Elizabethtown on Friday night he did know one thing.
HCA were KCAA state champions.
The Warriors completed their undefeated season Friday night as they defeated Assumption 1-0 to claim the state title — capping off a year that went without a blemish on the HCA record.
“We still played good soccer — honestly I think we played better soccer than we did on (Thursday) because the offense and defense played more like a cohesive unit,” Willis said. “We had opportunities and they just weren’t finding the back of the net. … They knew who our major scorers were and they double-teamed them all night long.
“I think Assumption came in pretty confident but we were the dominant team. I’m really proud of my team.”
Those two players, Trenton Hayes and Vova West fought through double teams and players guarding them harder than anyone else all night.
But when it mattered most, it was the two of them that connected to put the Warriors over the top.
West played a cross right to Hayes with 15 minutes left to play and as he had all year, the senior put the ball away for all the marbles.
“They’re phenomenal soccer players,” Willis said. “Even with Vova being marked up with two people on him, he was frustrated. But he played through that frustration and played a beautiful ball to Trenton and it was amazing. They didn’t let the frustration get to them.”
The championship is the first soccer title for the players on the team, as well as for Willis, who coming into the state tournament this year had never coached in a game as big as he was about to step into.
Willis, now 2-0 in state tournament games, said he’ll never forget this run for his team.
“This is one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Willis said. “I’ve coached in district championships and regional tournaments but I’ve never coached in anything like this. I’ve never coached with a group of kids like this. We were out there playing three girls and a couple of eighth-graders. … We really didn’t have the numbers until we picked up the eighth-graders.
“This was a dream season. When I took over I had no expectations — I didn’t know what to expect. … The kids were so coachable all year long.”
Along with the state title, more hardware was coming home with the Warriors.
Hays and West were named to the All-State team and Hayes earned MVP of the championship game.
Carlos Robles and Trenton Fowler were named to the All-Tournament team and Kris Ruth was named KCAA’s Mr. Soccer.
The Warriors will have a championship parade today at 4 p.m.