Whether in practice or an actual match, Chesterton junior goalkeeper Charlie Eaton never fails to impress.
“When you think someone has hit a perfect upper-90 shot, he just comes out of nowhere,” Chesterton coach Lucas Sabedra said. “He's like a cat sometimes, jumps across the goal and gets a hand on it to save it. He just has those jaw-dropping moments that separate him, in my opinion.
“His athleticism, a lot of keepers will be consistent and do all the right things a lot, but he has those moments even in practice where it's like, 'Jesus, how did he even get his hand on that?'”
Eaton made numerous key, acrobatic saves throughout Chesterton's run to the Class 3A state title last year, and he's back to his old tricks. He's even better this season after a monthlong summer trip to Germany with Chesterton forward Seth Conway.
The pair both participated in an exchange program through school that placed them with host families about 20 miles north of Munich. Eaton said both wanted to stay with families whose children play soccer so that they could train during the summer, and the results are showing.
Sabedra said Eaton has improved his “soccer IQ” since last season, and the new experience overseas is a big reason why. Eaton said he and Conway both speak German, allowing them to learn from new players and coaches.
“German is a vicious language, so you're hearing things like, 'Oh, the game sounds so much more intense coming out of your mouth,'” Eaton said. “You play a different team that plays a different way, you think more creatively and you think better about how to react and how to keep your guys in line.”
Unbeaten Chesterton (14-0-2) has scored 19 goals in its last three matches and averages 5.1 for the season, so Eaton's talent hasn't always been needed.
That will likely change, however, in the postseason. The Times No. 1 Trojans could face No. 2 Crown Point in the Class 3A Valparaiso Sectional semis on Wednesday.
“It's not gonna be an easy ride, but we've just gotta take it game-in and game-out,” Eaton said.
Baker does it all for Marquette
Ian Baker leads Marquette in goals. His 11 this season more than twice anyone else's. He's also a defender.
You read that right. Baker is one of the Region's most stilled defensive players, to the point where Blazers coach Austin Cogdill has experimented with him at central midfield and even center forward. But his heart is in defense.
“Ian has got a nose for goal,” Cogdill said. “Ian is a very consistent player, a very smart player and a very smart kid in general outside of soccer.”
Baker is a major threat on set pieces thanks to that intelligence, and it has helped the senior play all over the field. He has also played sweeper and stopper at various different times, settling in at the latter position within Marquette's diamond back four.
Marquette (6-8) had had a solid second half of the season after starting 2-3, but a 9-1 loss to Bishop Noll on Tuesday dampened spirits. The Blazers lost 6-1 to Boone Grove and 4-0 to Griffith to close out the regular season.
Young 'D' has Kouts surging
Kouts is one of the Region's youngest teams, and the Mustangs don't have to wait for that to pay off. It already is now.
At 5-4-2 (3-2 Porter County Conference), Kouts was competitive in a 2-0 loss to Boone Grove and sits in second place in the league with a head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington Township.
“We've got a good young squad,” coach Nathan Breininger said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that our strength this year has been our defense, just providing us the opportunity to have protection in the back and give confidence to the guys up front.”
Sophomore Aden Ash leads the Mustangs with eight goals, and Kouts has scored nearly four per game. Junior Jeremy Ryan is perhaps the team's best overall attacker with seven goals and six assists.
Center backs Mark Smolios and Cole Spagna have been the key combination, however. The sophomores have already built up great chemistry in the back four thanks to their middle school experience and their friendship off the pitch.
Breininger said they've excelled at pressuring the ball and cutting off through-passes, and continued growth from the duo could take Kouts to new heights.
“Long-term upside, I think we've got good chances of turning some heads in sectional play this year as well as in our future,” Breininger said. “We've set that as a goal. Getting that first sectional win for our club would be huge.”