A struggling goalkeeper can make even the best of soccer teams average or below.
So to know the Wilmington High School boys soccer team has had a pair of “volunteer” goalkeepers this season is remarkable.
The Hurricane will play 7 p.m. Saturday against third-ranked Tippecanoe in a Div. II Southwest District championship game at Waynesville High School.
Wilmington is 11-5-2 on the year. The Red Devils are 17-1-1.
“Watching them, they are a powerhouse,” WHS head coach Imad El-Macharrafie said. “The biggest concern I have about all the northern teams is one of their staples is a physical game. They are always big and strong and physical.
“We know our hands … our feet are full. We have to bring our ‘A’ game, there’s no doubt about it. They are good in the air and we’ll have to be ready for that.”
Wilmington allowed 18 goals this season in 18 games. The Hurricane had eight shutouts this season, seven of them by now-injured goalkeeper Graham Vilvens.
“He had never played goalie before on any serious level,” E-Macharrafie said. “He volunteered to play (this season).”
Vilvens was stellar in goal through the regular season. But an injury sidelined him and forced the Hurricane to resort to plan B – Jake Vaughan.
“Early in the year, we were fooling around in practice,” El-Macharrafie said. “I kidded with him (Jake) and said, ‘Get in goal and see how good you are.’
“The boys started firing penalty kicks. He (Jake) runs out of the goal right at me and said ‘That isn’t me. I can’t play goalie.’”
Fast-forward to mid-October and an injured Vilvens.
“I said to Jake we don’t have Graham anymore; get in goal,” El-Macharrafie said. “Jake said OK.”
Three wins later, the Hurricane are playing for a district title.
El-Macharrafie said Vaughan brings a combination of three sports to the goalkeeper position.
“He’s calm as ice,” El-Macharrafie said. “When he catches the ball, he bounces it like a basketball between his legs and around his waist. When he throws it, he does it like a baseball pitcher.
“The football part of his talent is he owns the box. You can not challenge him in the box. He plows his way through and wins every ground ball.”
El-Macharrafie admits talent and tactics win many games but teams also need “a little good fortune” to have a great season.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports