Indiana Fire Juniors U18 Red Team coach Shane McIntyre knows his boys soccer team was special.
“Determination, resilience, belief and team, those would be the best words to describe the team,” said McIntyre, who is the boys director of coaching for Indiana Fire. “These players trusted and believed in each other like no other team I have ever been around, and I’ve been this for about 20 years now. They never quit believing they could do it, even after being in some tough circumstances in some games along the journey. You can have special individual players but that only takes you so far.
“Not to say this team doesn’t have special players because there is no doubt we do, but it’s when you come together and can look each other in the eye and know that you have each other’s back when times get tough, that’s when you know you are on the verge of something special.”
The team, which plays its games at Westfield’s Grand Park, reached the semifinals of the United States Youth Soccer National Championships before losing 2-1 to Kingdom FC of Michigan July 24 in Bradenton, Fla. Kingdom went on to win the national title.
“They really cared about each other and the team,” McIntyre said. “That and the unbelievable support system I had from our family of coaches within the club. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to see four or five coaches sitting on our bench supporting the team. That goes a long way for me but also shows the players the investment that our club and coaches put into these players.”
The majority of the team’s players have been playing together since they were 13.
“We won our club’s first boys state and regional championship, so we really gained some valuable experience from those games and knew that we belonged in the conversation if we played to our potential,” said McIntyre, whose team qualified for the national tournament by winning the regional in St. Louis. “It was a journey we will never forget and I couldn’t be prouder of the players. The support we received from the entire state of Indiana from Indiana Youth Soccer to families within the club to coaches from other clubs in the state and Midwest was incredible.”
The team finished with a 32-3-6 overall record, including 10-2-1 in state, regional and national tournaments.
“Hopefully, their legacy will inspire our younger teams in our club to set their goals high to go get that first national championship for our club,” McIntyre said. “That is if this group doesn’t make one more run at it next season since we will be returning 11 juniors and now have the invaluable experience of being so close and determined to get back to finish it out lifting the national championship trophy in 2022.”
Players from Hamilton County on the team included seven from Noblesville High School and four each from Carmel and Westfield high schools.
The NHS players are Brayden Doll, Gabe Ingle, Drew Cochran, Andy Stansfield, Spencer Holland, Michael Crandley and Brady Horn. Holland was one of the team’s leading scorers with 20-plus goals.
The CHS players are Baenan McKeown, Will Morgan, AJ Caito and Jackson Carl. The WHS players are Declan Wheeler, Collin Maris, Jacob Schurman and Ellis Douthit.