Marquette sophomore Chris Hartrich works against a Waterloo defender on Oct. 20 at the Class 2A Columbia Regional semifinals. The Explorers posted a 12-7-2 record in ‘16 and have a lot of younger players, so the future looks bright.
A rough regional bracket led to an early exit for the Marquette Catholic Explorer boys’ soccer team in the 2016 playoffs.
Marquette was cast in the Class 2A Columbia Regional as the No. 6 team. After besting Mascoutah 2-0 in the opening round, the Explorers lost 2-0 to defending 2A state champion Waterloo in the regional semifinals. They finished the season at 12-7-2.
It was a stacked regional, with the final four teams — Marquette, Waterloo, Columbia and Triad — combining for 54 wins entering the semifinals. Columbia won the 2014 1A state championship, while the Explorers won the 1A title in ‘12.
Last season Marquette exited the playoffs after being thumped 7-0 by the Bulldogs on the way to state finals, but that was in the sectional championship match.
“The worst part of it all is this bracket has four really good teams and three teams are going home that shouldn’t be going home in the regionals; it should be the sectionals, if they’re going to go home,” Marquette head coach Jeremy Sanfilippo said. “If you look at the whole bracketing system there was no No. 6 seed that had to play in; they were in the semis already. We go out and beat Chatham last year and Jacksonville last year and we get bumped over here and Waterloo gets bumped over here, so I don’t know.”
Sanfilippo thought dwindling the deficit from 7-0 to 2-0 showed the growth of his team, most notably sophomore defender Kwame Ngwa, who anchors the Explorer defense.
“Last year I had Kwame as a freshman and they went right at him and this year he had a year of experience, so he knew what to expect,” Sanfilippo said. “I talked to him before the game about that and he grew. They’ve got the guys to do that, but also I’ve got it (in my mind) that it doesn’t happen again. I used a freshman this year (on defense), Trent Dietiker, and I thought he played excellent.”
Dietiker was one of two freshmen who started for Marquette, joining forward Aaron Boulch. That, combined with some of the physical maturity of underclassmen like sophomore forward/midfielder Chris Hartrich and junior midfielder Noah Fahnestock, really helped the squad’s development.
“Going into the season I thought we were young and we were going to be tested,” Sanfilippo said. “I lost a lot of seniors last year. For our record this year, I’m extremely excited about next year. The future looks good.
“Hartrich has grown, Noah Fahnestock has grown and I started two freshmen (Boulch and Dietiker) who will be back next year as sophomores and will take what they learned playing all year this year. They will be better.”
It was a solid season. The Explorers were only held scoreless twice on the season, their biggest loss coming 4-0 to Ladue on Sept. 21 during the Bob Guelker/CYC Tournament.
They started strong and finished well after scuffling through an 0-4-2 streak in the middle of the season. Signature moments included a 3-0 victory over Columbia and going 4-0-1 vs. Southwestern Conference soccer teams.
“We started out with a tournament win (St. Anthony Tournament) and started 4-0 and here we just ran into a Waterloo team which was really good,” Sanfilippo said. “We weren’t blown out by anybody this year. All of our games were close games.”
Statistically, senior Zach Weinman, who was AdVantage News Co-Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year as a junior, led the offense with 21 goals and 16 assists for 58 points. Hartrich chipped in with 17 goals and 11 assists for 45 points. Boulch (9 goals, 8 assists, 26 points) and Fahnestock (3 goals, 17 assists, 23 points) were also key cogs in the offense.
Sophomore goalie Nick Hemann did a nice job, too. He made 150 saves on the season and posted a 1.56 goals against average and .833 save percentage during his first year as a starter.
Sanfilippo said he’ll miss his seniors. Marquette loses just six seniors from this season. Weinman leads a group that also includes Jon Stewart, Ryan Ely, Brendan Nickloy, Patrick Keenan and Brayden Kallmbah.
“Zach Weinman has been a good player for us for four years. He’s been on varsity all four years and done a great job,” Sanfilippo said. “Brendan Nickloy was a small guy when he was a freshman, but he’s grown into a real solid midfielder this year. Last year he did a good job, but he grew this year. Jon Stewart up top has done a great job. When I first got him he was really rough around the edges and took a lot of fouls. This year he was creating opportunities. I taught him how to pass, how to work to the ball.
“You develop players over the four years that you have them and I think I’ve done that with a lot of players I’ve received during my time here at Marquette.”