Each of the players assigned captain’s duties for the Center Grove boys soccer team offers something unique.
Connor Campbell, a three-year starting midfielder, combines varsity experience with a desire to motivate those around him.
There have been times this season his words had to be heard from the bench. Campbell, the lone remaining starter from last season’s Class 2A state championship squad, sat out two matches due to a concussion sustained nine minutes into a scoreless tie at Lawrence Central on Aug. 23.
Center Grove is 4-1-2 and ranked No. 10 in 2A.
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A year ago, Campbell finished with three goals and three assists. Those numbers don’t come close to measuring the worth of a player trying to make Center Grove the first repeat boys state champion since the 2A class came into play in 2011.
“Connor isn’t one who is going to rack up a bunch of statistics. He plays a defensive midfielder for us, so he plays deeper,” second-year Trojans coach Jameson McLaughlin said. “His ability to control the pace of the game is second to none.
“He’s just so cool, calm and collected out there.”
Aside from Campbell, Center Grove put an all-senior starting lineup on the field for last year’s Class 2A title match against West Lafayette Harrison. There were 13 seniors altogether.
A starter in every Center Grove match except one (Senior Day) since the beginning of the 2014 campaign, Campbell knew he would have to wait to contribute the way he hoped.
“It’s good to kind of get out of the seniors’ shadow from last season, but I’m probably more close to that class than this (senior) class,” Campbell said.
Speaking on his leadership style, he added, “I’m definitely a verbal guy. We had a lot more seniors last year, but we didn’t really have that outspoken leader. I try to pick people up. Try to be positive with my teammates.”
Campbell verbally committed to play men’s soccer at the University of Indianapolis. He selected the Greyhounds over scholarship offers from IUPUI and the University of Evansville.
Other Center Grove captains are seniors Jared Wilkerson, a midfielder, and defender Gus Caito.
About the only thing that hasn’t changed within the Trojans the past year are the expectations.
“The goal is to defend our state title,” Campbell said. “I really think we can because of the way we’ve improved since the beginning of the season.
“It’s a tough transition going to varsity, but our players are starting to know their roles better.”
Campbell certainly knows his.
McLaughlin, who calls Campbell one of the five best boys soccer players in Indiana this season, leans on his senior to establish the tempo of what his program on the field and off.
“Connor leads both vocally and by example. He’s got so much natural ability, but he takes the time to build on that,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve had leaders who were vocal, and I’ve had leaders who were hard workers.
“I’ve never had one who does both. Connor’s soccer IQ is off the charts. He’s just an awesome player in every aspect of the game.”
Name: Connor Campbell
Family: Parents, Dave and Susan; brothers, Travis, 29, and Cayden, 14; sister, Kaitlyn, 26
Favorite TV show: “The Office”
Favorite food: Macaroni and cheese
Favorite movie: “Step Brothers”
Favorite athlete: Paul George
Favorite team: Manchester United