WEB EXTRA: A conversation with Ben Ralph

Tom Batters
Peoria Notre Dame defender Ben Ralph

Ben Ralph is one of the best kept secrets on the Central Illinois high school soccer scene. He is not flashy, but he works extremely hard and plays a mean game of defense for the Sectional final-bound Peoria Notre Dame Irish.

His teammate, Dominc Bonello, was an All-State selection, and rightfully so. But, without Ralph, this defense (which earned its sixth straight shutout Tuesday night) would not be the dominant force that it has become this season.

ND coach Mike Bare: "Ben is so fast and so athletic. He gets to balls and makes plays when most defenders would just clear the ball out of bounds."

I talked to Ralph after the Irish best Richwoods, 4-0, Tuesday in the Sectional semifinal game. Here is some of that conversation.

Batters: Are you feeling a 'state championship vibe' yet?

Ralph: We're just taking it one game at a time. We don't want to look past our next opponent. we're playing well and we know what we're capable of doing, but, you have to win the next game before you can think about the game after that.

Batters: That was the second straight shutout against Richwoods. What is the key to stopping their big scorers, Dave Benavidez and Matt Abraham?

Ralph: We just try to contain them and force them to the outside of the field. We didn't want to let them get in the middle in open space. we were able to stick with them and put a man on them all the time.

Batters: What makes this defense so special (six straight shutouts)?

Ralph: We have a lot of experience on the back line, and we've played together for a long time. We work very hard, and we know what each other is going to do and where they are going to be on the field.