By Pete Hayes
ALTON — Joe Burchett knew his Marquette Catholic High boys soccer team had a great season. After all, the Explorers captured the IHSA Class 1A boys state championship, the second in school history.
On Monday, the first-year Marquette coach received another accolade – a big one.
Burchett received word that he has been named the United Soccer Coaches 2017 Central Region Private/Parochial High School Boys Coach of the Year.
“I’m shocked, to tell you the truth,” Burchett said. “I got word earlier that I had been nominated, but I never dreamed that I would actually win it.”
Awards will be given out at the annual High School Coaches Breakfast Jan. 20 in Philadelphia as part of the 71st annual United Soccer Coaches Convention at the Marriott Grand Ballroom.
The United Soccer Coaches was previously known as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America before changing its name earlier this this year.
“I’ve been a member of the (NSCAA/USC) for a number of years,” Burchett said. “I never, ever thought about seeing my name on that list of award winners.”
United Soccer Coaches is the go-to group for all things soccer from club, high school, junior colleges, four-year colleges and professional coaches. It conducts national team polls, selects All-America teams, coaches and players of the year and conducts coaching clinics and other coaching education classes.
“After I found out I had been nominated, I said, ‘That’s nice someone nominated me,’ then never have it a second thought,” Burchett said. “But when my wife opened the mail (Monday), it was really a surprise – a really nice surprise.”
Burchett took over this past season at Marquette after former coach Jeremy Sanfilippo stepped down. Burchett, a former head coach at Belleville Althoff, was Sanfilippo’s assistant coach in 2016. Sanfilippo coached the Explorers to their other boys state title in 2012.
The Explorers, who finished 17-6-3, defeated Monmouth-Roseville 4-3 in overtime to win the Class 1A state championship Oct. 28 at EastSide Centre in East Peoria. Along the way, Marquette defeated Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 4-1 in the Raymond Lincolnwood Super-Sectional, won the Freeburg Sectional with wins over Athoff and Breese Central and won its own regional tourney with wins over Metro-East Lutheran and Father McGivney High.
“We had a solid group of players this season,” Burchett said. “We had a good core group, but there was no big drop-off in talent when we subbed in or out.
“But I think the biggest thing that helped us, in addition to the soccer talent, was the fact that there really wasn’t any infighting. That was huge.
“There was never any ‘me, me, me’ with this team. It seems in my years of coaching that any team I have seen that was successful was similar. It was key to our success.
“I was flexible with the team when they asked,” he said. “There were times you have to be flexible. If they saw something on the field, they could talk to me about it.”
Burchett said he would like to attend the USC Convention to receive the award.
“It would be nice,” he said with a chuckle. “Now, I have to ask my wife for the money to go to Philly.”