Shawe’s soccer team celebrating its sectional championship win Friday night at Rising Sun. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Shawe’s soccer team celebrating its sectional championship win Friday night at Rising Sun. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Shawe Memorial is in the midst of the greatest soccer season the school has ever produced. But the Hilltoppers aren't done, not by a long shot, and are planning on adding another championship to their already impressive resume.

Shawe opens regional play at Switzerland County tonight against Lawrenceburg in the regional semifinals. The Hilltoppers have never won a regional in soccer and will be aiming for only the second regional crown in school history for any sport.

"We need to come out better prepared than we did today," said senior captain David Grote after the Hilltoppers won their second-straight sectional crown last Friday. "We need to play our best game."

Shawe Memorial, now an impressive 18-1, will face Lawrenceburg (11-7) in the second game of the Switzerland County regional at 7:30 p.m. today. Providence (10-5-2) plays Salem (11-6) in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m.

Shawe and Lawrenceburg squared off in the regional finals a year ago, a match won by the Tigers 2-1. In that game, Lawrenceburg was the clear favorite and the Tigers ended up reaching the semistate championship.

Although No. 22 Lawrenceburg spent most of the season ranked in the top 20, it's hard not to believe that Shawe enters the contest as the favorite. The Hilltoppers' only loss this season came at Seymour three weeks ago and Shawe has allowed multiple goals in a single game only four times all year.

But despite that impressive resume, the Hilltoppers did not receive votes in the state coaches poll until the final two weeks and enter the regional ranked 25th.

Grote said that that lack of respect by the voters statewide has been one of the team's chief motivaters throughout the season.

"We come in as the underdog even though we're beating other teams that come in as the top dog," Grote said. "We're going to be the underdog going into the regional but we want to come out and score early and set the tone."

Scoring has not been a problem for the Hilltoppers. Shawe has scored 72 goals this season and has three players who have tallied double-digits in scoring.

Joe Nchia leads the team with 19 goals - including six in a single game - while Grote and Luke Higgins have 14 each. Jack Heitz is just one away from joining that club with nine goals.

Defensively, the Hilltoppers have shut down nearly every opponent they have faced and have given up only 17 goals in 18 matches. Goalie Kyle Daugherty is one of the best keepersin the area but sometimes goes long stretches in games without even touching the ball thanks to a defense that is led by seniors Eamon Fry, Ryan Cox and Jordan Chandler.

Lawrenceburg scored two second half goals to beat South Ripley 2-1 in the sectional championship last week. One of the goals was a penalty kick by Alex Panaro, who scored the Tigers' first goal against Shawe in the regional a year ago.

The Hilltoppers beat South Ripley twice this season by scores of 7-1 and 5-0.

Should Shawe get past Lawrenceburg, the Hilltoppers will play a championship match against one of two teams that couldn't be more different.

Salem, which lost to Shawe 4-0 in the regional semifinals last year, scored only 32 goals all season and relies on its defense to win games. Senior keeper Derek Catlett has a 1.33 goals against average while junior Jason Lewis, who has 12 goals on the season, is the Lions' only double-digit scorer.

Providence, a traditional power, is having a down season by its standards but can still fill up the net. Senior Pierce Crawley had 25 goals and 14 assists and classmate Andrew Wimp has 20 goals and 12 assists to lead the Pioneers although no other player has more than five. Junior goalie Jeff Wiles has a 1.74 goals against average.

If Shawe can pull out victories in both matches it will be the first regional title for the school since the baseball team posted an impressive 30-4 record in 2001. That squad dropped a heart-breaking 1-0 decision to Triton in the state semifinals at Victory Field in Indianapolis.

This Hilltopper team would advance to the four-team semistate at Floyd Central next Saturday. Only seven of the 16 teams left on Shawe's side of the bracket are ranked and the door seems to be open for a long Shawe run.

"This team can go as far as it pushes itself to," Shawe coach Kevin Fry said. "They've got the talent, they just need the drive and the focus. Now, they need to refocus. They're happy now because they just won the sectional, but there is still more to play. I think they'll be ready."