It was this time last year Todd Sheely and Mike Bishop were preparing for new challenges in their coaching lives.
Sheely had taken over Center Grove’s boys soccer program after serving as girls coach from 2003 to 2012. That left opportunity’s door ajar for Bishop, a nine-year girls assistant, to elevate to the top perch.
Both helped orchestrate impressive seasons with Trojans teams kicking deep into the Class 2A postseason tournament.
“Coaching boys was definitely different. There was a lot of newness. Coming into last year we had lost eight starters from the year before, so I was really proud of what the boys accomplished,” said Sheely, a former Trojans player who played outside midfielder in the 1990s.
“I now feel better about where I’m at. The players know what I’m looking for from an effort standpoint.”
The same holds true for Bishop, who is now in a position to put his own stamp on the girls program.
“Last year was a great experience, honestly. We ended up playing a lot of kids a lot of minutes, and it worked,” Bishop said. “The biggest thing about the job I wasn’t used to was all the administrative work. My laundry list of things to do was long at the time, but you learn.”
The boys squad finished 16-4-1, advancing to the Elite 8. The girls were 15-4-3 and a Final Four qualifier.
Monday is the first day of preseason practice for both teams as they look forward to possibly surpassing heights achieved in 2013.
Center Grove’s girls bring back a formidable nucleus led by senior midfielder Brittnee Gilbert and senior forwards Hanna Johnson and Erin Sutton.
This trio paced the Trojans in goals scored and assists, though senior forward Taylor Rasmussen also provided her share of points. Also watch for seniors Amber Perry and Desi Golden, as well as junior goalkeeper Alexis Rasmussen.
“I think our girls are more prepared, and they know what they can accomplish. With the talent we have I would be surprised if we didn’t make a deep run in the tournament,” Bishop said. “These girls know they can be competitive no matter who they play.”
Sheely shares a similar mindset regarding the Center Grove boys.
A senior quartet of forward Brock Exline, midfielders Bradley Bennett and Tony Bennett and defender Collin Patterson are back. Junior forward Kyle Parry is another major component to how the upcoming Trojans’ season unfolds.
Coming up short in a 2-1 double-overtime loss to Evansville Memorial at the Evansville Harrison Semistate made for a long, heartbreaking bus ride back.
Hindsight being 20/20, the experience likely toughened an already talented group.
“The areas we have to focus on most are on the defensive side of things,” Sheely said. “I’ve tried to give the kids time off this summer and let them be kids. I don’t need the players ready for the first of August, I need them ready for the first of October.”
Center Grove’s girls get their season started at Mooresville on Aug. 18. Then it’s the home opener against Perry Meridian (Aug. 20), another road test at Brebeuf Jesuit (Aug. 23) and back home with Lawrence Central (Aug. 25).
On Aug. 30 Bishop’s team takes part in an tournament at Avon featuring the defending 2A state champion Orioles along with Castle and North Central.
The boys squad opens at Bloomington North on Aug. 19, hosts Perry Meridian two days later and the Trojan Classic on Aug. 23.
Necessary challenges all for both programs. But as Sheely implied, October is the real test.