Whether he's making a play on the pitch or barking out instructions, Boone Grove senior Chris Vasquez has his teammates' attention.
The co-captain and sweeper has played a major role in the Wolves' second regional appearance in program history. Boone Grove (8-8-1) meets Class A No. 3 Bethany Christian (15-3-1) at 7 p.m. today in the semifinals of the LaVille Regional.
"It's priceless having someone back there with his talents," Boone Grove coach Brian Sherwin said of Vasquez, who started to play the game when he was 4 years old. "He's very calm, and he never panics when the ball comes back to him. He also seems to be one step ahead of the offense he faces."
Vasquez has embraced a new role this season as vocal leader.
"As a freshman and sophomore, it was kind of hard to speak up and talk to (the upperclassmen)," said Vasquez, a four-year varsity player. "Being a senior, it's a lot easier to take command. I think I can communicate with this team."
Primarily a defender for most of his career, Vasquez's experience is a key factor with a back wall mainly composed of underclassmen -- including freshman goalie Nathan Miller.
"Since I've been playing so long, it's become second nature to me," said Vasquez, the Porter County Conference MVP last season. "I can read the body language of players and know when to drop back or play the ball over. It gives me some accountability."
"Chris has been a great learning tool for Nathan," Sherwin said. "Chris is directing players now, and that allows Nathan to focus on just stopping shots."
Vasquez is also a skilled offensive player. In limited time up front, he has three goals and three assists.
"Chris could play anywhere," said Sherwin, who brings Vasquez forward for free kicks. "He's got a great shot and great footwork."
Sherwin thinks Vasquez's place is strengthening the line of defense.
"Everyone in front of him feels more confident knowing he's back there," Sherwin said, "and that allows them to take more chances."
The Wolves will be counting on Vasquez's presence against the Bruins, who are led by Indiana recruit and forward Femi Hollinger-Janzen.
"If Chris feels any pressure, he doesn't show it," Sherwin said. "He makes great passes and does the job of a field general. He's a take-charge guy."