VALPARAISO | Andrew Fletcher waited three years for his chance to shine for the Times No. 2 Valparaiso boys soccer team.
When his time finally arrived this season, Fletcher’s teammates let him know that they were ready for him.
Fletcher barely got off the bench in the first three years of his career, instead sitting behind star goalkeeper Ethan Lehnen. Now as a senior, and with just one year left at Valparaiso, his peers voted him as a team captain.
“I couldn’t believe that my teammates would show that kind of confidence in me,” Fletcher said. “Them doing that gave me all the confidence that I’ve needed to go out there and play for them.”
Longtime coach Danny Jeftich was touched by the gesture from Fletcher’s teammates, but he also knew that the honor was well-earned. Fletcher spent the last several years playing club soccer for Millennium Vardar and was prepared when practice started in the fall.
“He waited for his opportunity and when it finally came, he looked at me and said ‘Coach, I’m ready,’” Jeftich said. “Andrew is a player that wants to keep improving and he takes a ton of pride in his performance.”
That pride came through on Monday night when the Vikings improved to 4-0-1 on the season with an 8-2 win over Highland. While many of the players were celebrating impressive goals and slick assists, Fletcher was beating himself up over the two goals that slipped past him.
“I’m thinking about what I could’ve done to prevent those goals,” Fletcher said. “I’ll process what happened and then I’ll put them in the past. This is my one year to shine and I’m going to learn from every situation I’m in.”
It’s that kind of attitude that gave the Vikings all the faith they needed in their keeper. Two-year captain Luke Kovar knew Valparaiso wouldn’t miss a beat by having Fletcher between the pipes. Until Tuesday’s match, Fletcher had surrendered just one goal through the first four matches.
“We have a lot of respect for Andrew for what he’s gone through to get to this point,” Kovar said. “Everyone knew before the season started what to expect from him. We had the confidence and he deserves the honor of being a captain.”
Fletcher wants to play soccer in college, but those plans will wait until after the season ends. He is aiming for another Duneland Athletic Conference title and a shot to eclipse last season’s run to semistate.
“We’re very confident in Andrew’s abilities,” Jeftich said. “If he stays healthy, we can go a long way.”