Irish legacy: One of the best ever.
All season long, Peoria Notre Dame soccer coach Mike Bare and his 11 seniors talked about leaving their legacy.
After winning the Class 2A state championship in dominant fashion, that legacy has been set.
Years from now, we will all look back and say that this 2008 Irish team was one of the best in school history.
Just think about some of these facts. They are astonishing.
• The Irish outscored their opponents, 113-14 for the season, and 29-2 in the postseason. The only two goals allowed came late during a 6-2 rout of Westchester in the semi-final game.
• The team posted a 21-3-1 record, and earned 16 shutouts, including eight in a row late in the season. Two of its losses came early in the season to nationally-ranked teams from the St. Louis area.
• The Irish beat Richwoods three times, and outscored the Knights, 17-1. Those were the only three games Richwoods lost all year. They beat Morton, the Mid-Illini Conference champions, twice, including a 1-0 victory in the Sectional final.
• Notre Dame finished the season ranked No. 10 in the Midwest Region by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. That ranking may have even been a little low. A top-five ranking would have been justified for this team.
Those numbers are impressive, but it was even more impressive to watch this team in person.
It all started with senior All-State player Dominic Bonello, a midfielder who played like a staunch defender and a fleet-footed forward wrapped into one.
Bonello dominated the middle of the field, rarely letting anyone get by him. His passes were so precise, he could not have placed the ball any more directly onto a teammate’s foot.
Then there was the back line.
Eight shutouts in a row is no fluke. Matt Barkley, Ben Ralph, Cody Gilfillan and the rest of the ND back line played a higher level of defense than other area teams.
They shut down offenses with their air tight guarding, but they also pushed the ball up the field aggressively to set up goals.
If the ball did get by the defense, junior goalkeeper John Andersh was there to make big saves.
The Irish were loaded with goal-scorers, too. Forwards Vince Cicciarelli, Michael Schrader and Brogan O’Brien routinely found open space and did not miss many chances to put the ball in the net.
And, let’s not overlook Bare, who deserves a lot of credit.
A former Irish player himself, Bare did a great job keeping this team loose and focused. At times, he was tough and demanding, but he also showed a lot of compassion for these players and it was apparent that he wanted this championship for their sake, not his.
“I’m proud of each and every one of these players,” Bare said. “They all worked so hard and gave so much. This is their trophy.”
The Irish have a lot of talent coming back next year. They may win another state championship or two before Bare is through. But, it would be difficult to top what the 2008 team accomplished.
This team will be remembered as one of the best ever.
That’s quite a legacy.