HAMMOND — The last time junior midfielder Bruno Zamora took the field for Bishop Noll, he was busy scoring the game-winning goal that gave the Warriors their first soccer state title.
When Zamora laces up his cleats again for Noll's season opener Wednesday against Highland, he'll be playing a completely new role on and off the field. Now a junior, Zamora is one of the leaders of a young Warriors squad that hopes to stave off complacency after their dramatic 1-0 Class 2A title win over Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter last October.
“I don't think we're gonna be scared of anybody having more energy against us, because we're gonna come back with even more,” Zamora said. “The talk in the locker room is we have no entitlement this year, because nobody has won anything this year.”
Zamora called the Warriors' Class 2A title “a wake-up call for the Region,” but he has been hard at work this offseason with his club team, Indiana Elite. An All-Area attacking midfielder last season, Zamora will move into a deeper-lying role similar to what he plays at the club level.
Previously, Zamora could stay higher up the field rather than track back to contribute on defense. When Noll won the ball, Zamora would wait for a pass and then try to set up forwards Jake Wichlinski and Jake Fuehrmeyer.
He won't have that luxury anymore as Noll switches from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-3-3. Still, coach Quinn Cloghessy believe Zamora will make a quick adjustment.
“The good teams evolve,” Cloghessy said. “I saw glimpses of it last year. If he made a run into our attacking half of the field and we got the ball taken away, he ran back and played some solid defense for us. ... I know the capabilities are there.”
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Wichlinski, a junior, said Zamora's composure separates him from other midfielders. That will help Noll's young defense, which lost all three center backs and All-Area goalkeeper Danny Salazar to graduation.
Freshman Xavier Zuckley will be one of the center backs, and Wichlinski said the new group has adjusted well to the change in formation.
Goalkeeper could have been a huge question mark with Salazar moving on to Valparaiso University, but Cloghessy got a pleasant surprise when TF North transfer Fernando Ramos arrived this summer.
“He fell right in my lap,” Cloghessy said. “I didn't do anything. It wasn't like I went out like, 'I've got to find the next Danny.' Our next move was Miguel Mendoza, who had the one save in the state game and was going to take the reins. Fernando just came to us. … Danny himself was like, 'You're getting a stud.'”
Noll moves to Class 3A this season, where it will join the likes of Morton, Lake Central, Munster and Highland in a loaded sectional. Morton coach Chris Jagadich said he expects the state champion to come out of that field, and Cloghessy admitted that if Noll plays poorly against a bigger school it can't shrug off the result anymore.
If the Warriors' defense plays above its age, that transition could go smoothly. The issue isn't talent — instead, oddly enough for a defending state champion — it's self-belief.
“We've got a lot of kids who played (junior varsity) last year and are now stepping up at the varsity level, and they've got some nerves — as you always do,” Wichlinski said. “So we've got to step up as leaders and reassure them. They've got the talent and we know it.”