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Motivation is a powerful tool to have at your disposal, especially in sports.

The image of a physically and emotionally spent Alex Romo having to be walked off the field after last year’s 1-0 Class 2A Kokomo Semistate loss to Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran will be incentive enough for Bishop Noll to get back to that level, and possibly further.

Times All-Area First Team and First Team All-District keeper Danny Salazar hasn’t made many mistakes during his storied career in between the pipes, but the three-year starter puts the blame on himself for the loss.

After the ball was lofted in the air by FWCL’s Maxwell Miller from 35 yards out after being in a scrum, Salazar misjudged how far the ball was traveling and it went over his head and into the net.

“I can’t lie and say I didn’t, because I did, but you win some, you lose some” said Salazar on the loss. “You just have to move on and learn from those big losses.”

While it loses its biggest offensive threat and one of its leaders in Romo, Noll has plenty coming back for another possible deep run in the postseason, with young Jake Wichlinski (16 goals) and Alonso Soto (six goals) taking control up front and several defenders back, including Salazar, who is regarded as arguably the best goalie in Northwest Indiana, and quite possibly the entire state.

“The team is progressing. We’ve definitely learned from our loss and are using that experience to our advantage this season,” Salazar said. “The team is aware of the mistakes we made last season, now we’re training every day to prevent them from happening again.”

New coach Quinn Cloghessy has high hopes for the team and will not change things too much from the formula that was configured by departing longtime coach Armando Garza, who has moved over to coach the girls soccer team at Noll.

“Since coming in as an assistant three years ago, I’ve just asked the boys to play more as a team. When the boys play together, they are truly beautiful to watch,” Cloghessy said. “At the end of the day as long as these guys play the game respectfully and enjoy themselves while doing it, then I’ll be a very happy coach.”

Also on that same scope, Crown Point was 69 minutes from yet another appearance in the semistate last year.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 2-nil lead over Goshen within the first 11 minutes of their Class 3A Merrillville Regional final only to shockingly fall 4-2. They will have to cope with the losses of Zach Carpenter, Filip Stefanoski and Parker Darnstaedt.

The Dunleand Athletic Conference co-champs, too, have plenty of talent coming back from a team that went on a 17-match undefeated streak last year until the Goshen loss.

Jack Mumaugh comes back as a senior with an abundance of experience at keeper along with Trevor Witte, Enrique Barajas, to name a few.

The biggest question for the perennial soccer power is if it can overcome a roadblock that it hasn’t necessarily had to face before since coach Mike Bazin has been there.

“We’re returning a majority of our starters from last year’s team,” Bazin said. “Although the season didn’t end as expected, this year’s team is determined to continue our tradition of success.”