MOUNT CARMEL — It was just a friendly between Mount Carmel and Princeton Tuesday, a pre-season exhibition soccer game designed as a fundraiser for the Golden Aces travel expenses for the season ahead.
Mt. Carmel looked impressive at times in a 4-0 victory before a large crowd at the Wabash Valley College field.
The next time these two rivals meet, in a Big 8 Conference matchup Oct. 1 at WVC, it won’t be so friendly. The game will count in the league standings.
“The main goal isn’t to win games at this stage, but we want the kids to play like that,” said Mount Carmel coach Ed Berberich. “The coaches are trying to see where we’re at. A win or loss won’t necessarily tell you that.”
Berberich liked some of what he saw, especially over the first three quarters when the hosts built a 2-0 lead in a game divided into four 20-minute quarters.
In the fourth quarter, though the Aces struck quickly for two more goals — the final goal a perfect header from Brayden Stipp on a delivery from Wyatt Hargrave — much of the final period was played in the Aces end of the field, which Berberich termed “disappointing.”
“We did get two more goals in,” he said. “But it seemed like we let up at the end. If we’re going to have success, we’re going to have to learn how to close those games out.”
That led to increased work for goalkeeper Alex Stoneberger, who made three solid fourth-period stops in the box while constantly on the move to preserve the shutout. “He did a really good job,” Berberich said. “He’s looked really good all summer.”
Other Aces goals came from John West, Cole Linson and Jessie Brown.
Berberich was most pleased “with out ball movement” in addition to the way “our defense passes the ball back. We’re being patient and not panicking. We use Stoneberger a lot. He may have touched the ball as much with his feet as often as his hands. That’s always good.”
More patience is still needed “when we throw the ball up the field,” Berberich said. “We have to work on keeping our possessions a little longer. But we were combining well.”
Mt. Carmel has 25 contact days to use during the summer, and Berberich has covered four of the dates with games. The Aces are 2-2 so far, having defeated Evansville Mater Dei, 2-1, while dropping games to Gibson Southern (2-1) and Mt. Vernon, Indiana (1-0). One more game is in the process of being scheduled, according to Berberich.
The summer win total matches all of last season, when the Aces struggled through a 2-16-2 campaign. So, the future looks bright.
“We will be better this year,” Berberich said. “We made a jump last year, with a lot of close games. This year, with our experience, those one or two-goal games may go the other way.”
The Aces open the regular season Aug. 29 at the Effingham St. Anthony Invitational. The home opener is Sept. 3 at 4:30 p.m. against Harrisburg.
Berberich said over $500 was raised through donations at the gate and concessions, money that will be used to pay transportation costs, a necessity now for all District 348 athletic teams after budget cuts announced last spring. He also thanked Princeton for volunteering to make the trip, aware of the Aces financial straits.