Valparaiso senior sweeper Chase Holford doles out constructive criticism to his teammates, but he's not above taking blame for his own mistakes on the soccer pitch.
"I find that it helps them understand if I take responsibility for doing something wrong," said Holford, one of the team's captains. "I'm not an untouchable figure."
Thanks to Holford's play on the back wall, the defense has been almost untouchable. The state No. 7-ranked Vikings (16-2) have 11 shutouts this season and they've allowed only eight goals.
"He's the main reason we only have allowed just eight goals," Valparaiso coach said of Holford, a three-year varsity player for the Vikings. "He's been rock solid for us."
Holford showed inner strength in one of the team's losses, a 2-0 defeat to Crown Point. After the Bulldogs scored a goal, Holford spoke up.
"We talked about it, and he said, 'That one's on me, I should have done a better job of marking,'" Jeftich said. "He didn't dwell on it either."
Holford also has physical skills which make him a devastating defensive force. His quickness allows him to make up ground if he's left wrong-footed on a play. Jeftich also said his air skills allow for coverage on crosses in the box.
"He's very fearless," Jeftich said of Holford. "He just has a competitiveness and urge to win."
That urge includes making crucial plays on offense. Holford scored twice this year, both on penalty kicks. One of those goals was the difference in a regular-season 1-0 win over Chesterton.
"I just have the confidence in him to make plays under pressure," Jeftich said. "He processes information and keeps things in perspective."
Holford has a wealth of perspective about defensive play, mainly because he's also played at stopper and both back positions.
"It really helps me when it comes to helping my teammates improve," Holford said. "When I see them make a mistake, I know how to fix it."
Holford also varies is approach when it comes to dealing with his starting defensive teammates.
"I kind of have to be softer with (freshman) Nate Dawson; I have to lead him through things," Holford said. "(Senior) Luke (Kovar) is such a strong player, so I'm a little harsher with him. (Junior) Dan (Roth) is kind of a mix of the other two (approaches)."
Holford hopes to celebrate a regional title tonight with his teammates, but he's not allowing himself to look past today's semifinal opponent Munster, who the Vikings beat 2-9 in the regular season.
"We're not overlooking them," he said. "They could have easily beaten us 2-0. We have to be ready to play."