November 7, 2023 // Diocese

Year After Coming Up Short, Marian Claims Soccer Crown

Ever since its 2022 season ended in a heartbreaking overtime loss to Brebeuf Jesuit High School in the Class 2A state title game, the Marian boys soccer team rallied behind the singular goal of getting back to state and taking care of unfinished business.
Members of the Marian High School boys soccer team pose with a state championship banner during a pep rally on Monday, October 30, celebrating their Class 2A state finals victory.

On Saturday, October 28, that goal was achieved in historic fashion.

The top-ranked Knights erased the memories of last year’s defeat by topping third-ranked Evansville Memorial 4-0 in this year’s Class 2A title game at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis. Senior midfielder Eli Moody scored all four goals for Marian, setting an IHSAA state finals record in the process.

“Ever since we lost, you could tell it affected all of the returning players from last year,” senior forward Reid Gillis said. “We wanted redemption this season. We didn’t want to feel the same way we did before. This pushed us every day at practice to keep improving and working as hard as we can on the field to make sure we brought home a championship trophy.”

Indeed, the Knights were vocal about their title aspirations from the first team meeting this year, when head coach Ben Householter sat his players down and asked them about their goals for the upcoming season.

“They said their goal is to get back to state and change what happened the year before,” Householter told Today’s Catholic. “It was always a realistic goal, with 12 seniors coming back, so that made it possible, for sure. But you always have postseason games that can go one way or another, or an injury could happen, so you never know what’s going to happen.”

The Knights (20-2) cruised through the regular season behind a dominant defense, notching six shutouts and only allowing more than one goal on three occasions. After dispatching three ranked teams during their tournament run, the Knights took their 11-game winning streak into the title game. That’s where Marian ran into a battle-tested Evansville Memorial squad (13-7-1) – one that had just knocked off two-time defending state champion Brebeuf 2-1 in the semistate championship.

“I knew they were going to be a tough team with their pedigree and their history,” Householter said. “I knew they won a 2A state title a few years ago. Their coach is a veteran, a Hall of Famer in the Soccer Coaches Association with over 600 wins, so he definitely knows what he’s doing.”
Marian High School students attend a pep rally at the school on Monday, October 30, to celebrate the boys soccer team’s Class 2A state championship.

In fact, Evansville Memorial head coach Bill Vieth had steered the Tigers to six state titles in his 38 years at the school and an undefeated 6-0 record in championship games. To break that trend, Householter said he knew the Knights would have to stay true to the strategy they had relied on all season.

“Offensively, we try to get the ball as wide as we can,” said Householter. “We’ve got speed out wide and can attack and serve the ball in. Definitely, with Reid Gillis up top, it puts pressure on that back line. They weren’t able to handle the pressure he applied.”

Gillis agreed, saying: “Our main goal was to just keep attacking and make sure we have the ball a majority of the time. This led to a lot of opportunities for Eli and I to take on the defense. I am lucky enough to have Eli there to finish some of my passes. We connect well up top mainly because of our speed and physicality.”

“Reid’s a pretty crazy guy,” Moody said with a laugh. “I call him my sidekick because he does so much for me. He works so hard up there, and he’s definitely the main reason that I scored so many goals.”

Nine minutes into the contest, the Knights struck as Moody maneuvered his way through several defenders to put the ball into the back of the net. The senior then added three more goals in the second half – two assisted by Gillis and one on a penalty kick. When the dust settled, Moody had scored the most goals by one player in a state finals game in IHSAA history, male or female, in any classification.

“It was an amazing day for him,” said Householter, who said he was surprised that the Tigers gave Moody so much room to operate. “On the second goal he had, Eli volleyed with his left foot to score – it was an unbelievable goal. The first and fourth, he created off his dribble; he had the goalkeeper going one way and took a shot the other way, so the keeper would be off-balance.”

“I was extremely excited for the first one,” Moody said. “I’d never scored at state before – I didn’t last year – so the first one was a big motivator. After the second, it was like, ‘Wow, two?’ Eventually, with the fourth, I was told it was a record after the game. I had no idea; I was shocked. It means a lot to me, honestly. I work so hard every game – it’s definitely something special to me.”

The Knights secured their fourth shutout in six postseason games thanks to a stalwart defensive effort. Evansville Memorial only mustered two shots on goal, both saved by senior goalkeeper Noah Balyeat.

“He’s continually gotten better and improved,” Householter said of Balyeat, a third-year starter for the Knights. “He’ll really be missed. Noah and that back line did a tremendous job. I don’t have enough accolades for them.” Householter credited the entire senior class – team captains and non-captains alike – with pushing their younger teammates to a championship level of play and leading by example.

The victory marked Marian’s third state championship in program history and first in Class 2A. Householter, who was also at the helm of the Knights for their back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016, said this one was every bit as sweet.

“Every time you get to state, its special,” Householter said. “Any coach would be happy to get there once, but I’ve been blessed to get there five times. Each teams holds a special place in your heart, and you keep memories of all those times. I’m just so happy this team got to experience it. These are the things they can tell their kids about years down the road.”

Moody, for one, will have quite the story to share – one that can’t be told without recognizing the Lord’s presence among his teammates.

“God’s a huge part of everyone’s life on that team,” Moody said. “Every time before the game, we pray a Hail Mary as a team, and then again later. Everyone’s thinking in the back of their head, ‘Thank you, God,’ while we’re playing. And every time I’m scoring a goal, I’m thanking God. It all comes down to Him.”

Gillis agreed. “Having faith in God is the main priority for all of us,” he said. “Just having God on our side pushed us to play as hard as we can.”

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