FORTVILLE — As a former defender in high school, Mt. Vernon head coach Matt Mayhew knew all about soccer’s unwritten hierarchy.
Offense creates headlines. The first thing most people talk about are the goals and hardly ever the team.
But to be successful, said Mayhew, who spent five years as an assistant at Hamilton Southeastern and another 10 at Mt. Vernon, it takes more than a single player.
In his first year as head coach, that was the philosophy he wanted to instill, and it stuck immediately.
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“We did a team reading of the book ‘The Hard Hat’ which talks about 21 ways to be a great teammate,” Mayhew said. “We talked about it from the beginning, and it really all came together. We had a great run at it.”
Using Jon Gordon’s book as inspiration, the Marauders shed all notions of individualism on the field, at practice and to the very end of the 2015 season, which led to a memorable three-plus months.
The Marauders finished 6-1 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference, sharing the title with rival New Palestine after a hotly-contested race in the season’s final weeks.
Behind 64 goals scored as a team (four players with nine or more) and a stingy defense led by first-year goalkeeper Josh Powell, the Marauders carried their momentum into the postseason despite only having three returning starters from the year prior.
First, they defeated HHC foe Shelbyville 3-0 in the opening round of the sectional. Next, they avenged their previous regular-season loss to New Palestine in PKs with a 3-0 shutout to seize the team’s first sectional title since 2012.
Their third consecutive playoff shutout, 2-0 against Perry Meridian, earned them a regional championship match appearance and a 16-3-1 overall record.
It was a team effort, Mayhew said, and one the Daily Reporter Coach of the Year is most proud of seeing unfold.
“I think everyone kind of took a page out of that book and made it unique to themselves and contributed that way this season,” Mayhew said. “It was a philosophy my assistant Greg Cooke and I really wanted to emphasize with this team — not to be selfish and win for each other. Our guys did it.”
Recently, coach Mayhew, who also is the director at Sporting Indiana, spoke with the Daily Reporter staff about his first season, the team’s success and the future.
DR: After losing eight starters from last year, how surprising was it to see the new players adapt so quickly at the varsity level?
Mayhew: Definitely surprised at how far we were able to make it, but I’ve coached a lot of these boys since they were younger in club soccer, and they’re good-natured boys. I knew they wanted it, and they really came together as a group in the summer. They were tight-knit, and I think that’s what really helped us achieve success.
DR: How much momentum did the team gain from such a heated Hoosier Heritage Conference race prior to the postseason?
Mayhew: When we had New Pal at our place and it went into PKs, that was our first loss of the season. We just came out a little flat, but that kind of lit a little fire under us. It was between us, New Pal and Greenfield for the longest time before it came down to just us and New Pal. It motivated us.
DR: When the postseason rolled around and you had the opportunity to face New Palestine again, was there a strong determination to avenge that previous loss?
Mayhew: We had talked about it. Everybody thought we had the lucky draw because we played Shelbyville to start, but they are a good team and gave everyone a run in the regular season. We set our sights on a sectional championship. That’s what we wanted, and it ended up being against New Pal (in the finals). We watched the game film a couple of times and everybody was motivated, and it evident by the way we came out. We were up 2-0 at around 15 minutes into that game, so it was a good revenge match and the boys were hungry for it.
DR: Could you ask for a better first year, coming in and winning a sectional championship?
Mayhew: No. With that group of boys and obviously as a first-year coach, the seniors had to buy into a new philosophy, and they did. All the boys really wanted to win, and I talked to them in the beginning and I told them I wanted to be in the regional finals. They kept saying, ‘What about semistate?’ My response was, ‘We have to get through sectional first.’ Different goal setting that the kids wanted to do like that, and they obviously put in the time in the offseason, kept them focused and dedicated. I’m very happy for the team and for their success.
DR: Before the season started you emphasized the motto, ‘United as One.’ Was that a coaching philosophy you’ve always had and something you wanted to bring to this team?
Mayhew: I’ve always stressed, it doesn’t matter who scores goals or who’s goalie. I was a defender myself, so I know that the defensive line hardly gets credit for a lot of the team success. They don’t really have the stats.
But it’s really all 11 guys that contribute to that one goal. And they believed in it. I think we had four guys that had nine goals or more, so it was something where it wasn’t just one guy. All the players and Josh Powell in goal contributed to the success of this team.
DR: How much are you thinking about the possibilities of next year already?
Mayhew: We had the banquet (this week), and we all said at the end that we want to see if we can make it to state next year. We got to the regional finals and ran into a very tough Center Grove team, but we talked about the steps to get there.
Obviously, we have a conference that is very competitive, and we know there’s no cake game in our sectional. We’re already trying to figure out how to get there, looking to get back in the weight room and a lot of the boys are back out with their club teams. The boys are motivated and want to repeat.