Photo by Bill Roseberry
The Marquette boys’ soccer team huddles together prior to the Class 2A Columbia Sectional finals against Waterloo on Oct. 30. The Explorers saw their stellar season conclude in a loss to the Bulldogs after picking up three postseason victories, including a regional title.
The Marquette Catholic Explorers look like they’ve made the adjustment from Class 1A to Class 2A soccer.
After winning the 2012 Class 1A state championship, the IHSA moved the Explorers to the 2A division in 2014. They reached the regional title in 1A in 2013, but lost to Althoff and in their first year in 2A in 2014, the Explorers dropped a grueling regional semifinal match to Jersey in PKs.
This season Marquette rebounded, winning the 2A Jacksonville Regional and topping defending 1A state champion Columbia — which got bumped up this year — in the Columbia Sectional semifinals. Unfortunately they ran into a gritty Waterloo squad, losing 7-0 in the sectional title tilt, but they proved their abilities advancing that deep in the postseason.
“I thought we had a decent season and then finished it up strong like this,” said Marquette head coach Jeremy Sanfilippo of his squad that finished 14-7-3 on the season. “I can say we had a great season. All of us would have loved to win the (Waterloo) game, but looking forward every team is solid. It’s different from 1A to 2A. In 1A there might be a team you feel pretty good going against, but every team (in 2A) I looked at going forward it looked like a buzz saw.”
Entering the Jacksonville Regional as the No. 6 seed and clawing their way to the sectional finals, the Explorers’ postseason run is one that won’t soon be forgotten, especially by their coach.
“I felt like I won a state title, to be honest,” Sanfilippo said, smiling. “Beating Jacksonville in Jacksonville and then Chatham in the regional finals and then coming here and getting our payback against Columbia, I can’t be upset with that. I told the boys I’m proud of them, no matter what happened in the Waterloo game. I don’t want to lose 7-0, but I don’t think it was a true 7-0 game; it was more we were frustrated.”
If there’s anything that can be taken from the recent playoff push, it’s that Marquette isn’t going to be a whipping boy in the 2A ranks. The Explorers dipped their toes in the water and lost in PKs to Jersey in 2014. They dove in the deep end this year.
“We were the new kids on the block last year, but we got fortunate enough that we got put with Jersey and Triad, two teams I’d seen play,” Sanfilippo said. “I felt comfortable going into that regional. (This year) I was really nervous about the Jacksonville and Chatham regional games. I felt that was tough going into Jacksonville, knowing nothing about them, or Chatham, who I knew nothing about. To come out with victories I was really happy because everybody told me those were good schools we beat.”
Sanfilippo added about his underclassmen from the postseason run, “They can take that we can play at the 2A level. If they work hard they can do it, but they need to take away that the games aren’t going to be easy. You’re going to have to come mentally ready and you’re going to have to come out and play hard.”
Marquette says its goodbyes to eight seniors from the ‘15 squad. Senior defensemen Collin Dunn and Jacob File were playoff heroes in their last hurrah as Explorers. File scored the game winner vs. Chatham and Dunn logged the winner against Columbia.
Senior goalie Brandon Sanfilippo definitely will be missed, too. He logged shutouts in the pair of regional victories. For the season he finished with 12 shutouts and an .855 save percentage.
Other seniors to graduate are: solid defensemen Alex Davis and Adam Johnes and forwards Adam Hammond, Tommy Morrissey and Tony Vitale. Hammond scored in the Columbia game.
There will be core group returning, though, including leading scorer Zach Weinman (23 goals, 8 assists, 54 points). Weinman had the game-winner vs. Jacksonville.
“Our seniors have been leaders this year,” Sanfilippo said. “Our captains have been leaders and fortunately we have Zach Weinman coming back. He’s a good leader and he’s as tough as they come. He took that foul and wanted to go right back in (sectional finals). That’s what I pointed out to the boys, ‘One of your captains is ready to go right back in even though he got a card. He knows he has to go play cautious.’”
Freshman Chris Hartrich (12 goals, 15 assists, 39 points), Hammond (10 goals, 4 assists, 24 points) and File (9 goals, 4 assists, 22 points) helped pace the offense in ‘15.
Sanfilippo knows with Weinman, Hartrich and a slew of others returning, the future looks bright.
“I’ve got some good young guys that didn’t play a lot, but they’re going to get their opportunity next year,” Sanfilippo said. “I played them a lot in regular season games this year, which is what develops them. They know their time is coming.
“(Hartrich and Kwame Ngwa) are two key players coming back next year and take it a step further, sophomore Noah Fahnestock has been a solid player for us. We’ve got some good kids coming back for us. We’ve got Nick (Hemann), a freshman goalie. We’re going to miss the leadership of Brandon (Sanfilippo), but I think Nick will be able to come in and do well in goal.”
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