By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TIPP CITY — Even after passing out the medals and holding the trophy in his hands, his team’s accomplishment was still too fresh to truly sink in.
“It’s sort of surreal at first. It takes a couple days to really hit you,” Tippecanoe boys soccer coach Scott Downing said. “I think Sunday night and Monday it started to sink in, especially going in to school on Monday. The teachers had decorated my room with streamers and such. And it’s been a lot of fun talking to the alumni and the community — you start to realize just what it is that the guys accomplished this year.”
And following the Red Devils’ 1-0 victory over Warren Howland the previous Sunday in the Division II state championship game at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Tippecanoe High School will host a celebration for the team at 2 p.m. Sunday in the high school gymnasium, with the community invited.
“Sunday at 2 p.m. we’re having a get-together in the high school gym,” Downing said. “Anybody in the community is invited to come. We’ll have a couple speakers … and I’m not sure what else. I’ve never got to do this before.
“It’ll be that sinking-in moment, hopefully. The kids did something special that they’ll never forget, and we want to reward them for it.”
• The Toughest Path
The hardest part of winning a state title this year may well have been just getting out of the regional tournament.
Tippecanoe made its fourth regional tournament appearance in a row, having lost in 2016 and 2017 to Alter in the regional final and in 2018 to Summit Country Day in the regional semifinal. And going into the regional semifinal round this year, all four teams — Tippecanoe, Wyoming, Marietta and Monroe — went in with undefeated records. No other region in the state had a better combined winning percentage. It was also the only region where all four qualifiers were ranked in the state.
Tippecanoe ended the regular season ranked No. 2 in the final state poll, tied with Wyoming. The top-ranked team in the state was Bay Village Bay, but it lost in the regional semifinal round to fifth-ranked Lexington, which eventually lost to ninth-ranked Warren Howland in the state semifinal round.
The Devils, meanwhile, routed No. 8 Marietta — which went in with a matching 19-0-1 record at the time — 5-1 in the regional semifinal round to set up a showdown against Wyoming, which held off No. 11 Monroe 1-0 in its regional semifinal. The two teams battled to a 3-3 tie after regulation and two overtimes, and Tippecanoe eventually won in a shootout to advance to the state semifinals. From there, they scored a 1-0 win over No. 14 Columbus Academy — the only ranked team from its regional bracket — and the rest was history.
“If you look at the Southwest region, it’s one of the hardest regions to get out of,” Downing said. “You’ve got teams like Indian Hill, Wyoming and Alter — those are three tough teams to get through every year. That was the big thing. We felt if we could get through that region, we had a pretty good chance of making it to the finals. And once you’re there, anything can happen.”
• Wanting It More
In the end, Downing cited his team’s will to win, even at the end a long and grueling season, as one of the main reasons his Devils were able to go 23-0-1 and claim the trophy in the end.
“The big difference was that the kids were completely committed throughout the season,” Downing said. “Even in the last couple weeks, they were pretty enthusiastic in practice and not tired of it. And the further we kept going, the more into it they got.
“I’ve had teams in the past that, after a long season, kind of lost interest a little. But these guys kept their focus the whole way. They had the heart and the drive to continue to play at that high level.”
• Support System
Another factor, though, was Tippecanoe’s community support.
The D-II state final had the largest official attendance of the three finals on the day with 7,803 people — and with Tippecanoe’s fan section appearing to have the advantage over Warren Howland, at that. The D-I final between Olentangy Liberty and Cleveland St. Ignatius had an attendance of 7,008, and the D-III final between Columbus Wellington School and Bluffton had and attendance of 6,542.
“The crowd was amazing,” Downing said. “I think they said that we had the largest crowd of all three of the state finals that day. It was pretty amazing.
“We had a lot of people in the community come, a lot of alumni, and even people from out of state came back to watch. It was great to get the chance to see them when we don’t really get to a lot anymore. And the crowd was really into it, too. These last couple games, it was kind of hard to talk to the players on the sideline, to be honest.”
It was especially big for the Tippecanoe boys soccer alumni that had reached the state semifinals before but never the finals. Downing himself played on the 1989 and 1990 Red Devils teams that reached the state semis, then he graduated in the spring of 1992 before the following class again reached the state semis in the fall of 1992 — the last time Tippecanoe has done so before this season.
“For a lot of the alumni, for my class and the class after mine, it feels like redemption for a lot of us,” Downing said. “We came so close … but now one of our teams finally did it.
“During the season, we thought we had a chance to win it all. We felt like this could be the year — and it turned out to come true.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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