(Photo by Nina Campbell Photography)
(Photo by Nina Campbell Photography)
When Madison boys soccer coach Kyle Bipes was looking at his roster this past summer, he knew that he had the goal scorer he needed. But he wasn’t sure if he had that all-important distributor of the ball that all teams need in order to be successful.

As it turns out, Will Heitz was the perfect person for the job and the result was one of the best seasons in school history.

Heitz used his athleticism and ball skills to record the rare “double-double” of 10 goals and 13 assists this season to lead the Cubs to a 12-7-2 overall record and a regional runner-up finish and earn Madison Courier Boys Soccer Player of the Year honors.

Bipes doesn’t mince words when he talks about his junior star.

“Without him, we don’t win nearly as many games as we did,” Bipes said. “He controls the middle, he wins everything in there, he gets all of the guys fired up and ready to go, and if the other team scores, he’s there picking everybody up. He was just so big for us.”

Senior Carson Denton led Madison in goals with 18 and was the player who opposing defenses feared most, but it was Heitz who was behind nearly every great Cub play. Whether it was controlling the middle of the field, finding the perfect pass or even scoring a goal of his own, Heitz was seemingly everywhere.

“My favorite thing about soccer is finding the plays and getting assists is probably one of my favorite things,” Heitz said. “Because if you play a good pass, it looks good and it gets the team involved in playing their heart and playing all out until the 80 minutes are done.”

Being the emotional backbone of the team was arguably Heitz’s greatest strength. After opening the season with a 3-0 loss at home to Corydon, Madison ripped off six-straight wins and showed what kind of team it could be.

Heitz, predictably, was in the middle of the rally with six assists over that stretch. But he also showed he could score and even recorded a hat trick in one game, opening his coach’s eyes.

“I knew Carson would be our leading goal scorer, but after that, I didn’t know where we would get scoring from. We didn’t have that last year,” Bipes said. “Will didn’t score much to start the season, but he had six assists early and then he started scoring and I’m thinking to myself, ‘he could have at least 10 and 10’ which is huge for a player around here. He did everything for us. Carson was our leading goal-scorer and had a great season, but Will did absolutely everything for us, offensively and defensively.”

Despite a rough final three weeks, Madison still ended the regular season with eight wins and won three more the following week to claim its first sectional title since 2010. The Cubs then opened the regional tournament with a 3-0 victory over West Vigo.

“This year, everything clicked all at once. We lost our first game, kind of hung our heads, thought about it for second. But then the next game, the way we played, I thought there was no doubt that we were going to have a good season,” Heitz said. “And with the freshmen coming in and having a good season, that helped a lot and made our bench much deeper.”

Madison’s run ended with a 9-0 loss to eventual state champion Evansville Memorial in the regional final, but even with that loss, the Cubs couldn’t hang their heads. Just reaching that level for the second time ever was an accomplishment in and of itself.

“That was something that I’m going to remember from a long time,” Heitz said. “I looked at the scoreboard with a minute left and I was sad, but then I thought of everything we accomplished this year and everybody being closer. It was a great season.”

Soccer wasn’t Heitz’s only activity in the fall. He also played kicker in football for the first time and drilled a 30-yard field goal in the season opener and missed only two extra points all season.

“It was really cool. The first game was really surreal because in practice, I would kick off and I would just stand there but in the first game, I kicked off and was just trotting down the field and I got hit. I was like, ‘OK, now it’s real. I actually have to stand my ground,’” Heitz said with a laugh. “My friend is the PAT holder and when I made (the first field goal), he came up to me and gave me a big hug. It felt nice knocking that first one through.”

Although the high school soccer season is over, Heitz will quickly transition into club soccer with plans on getting even better. The Cubs may have surprised everybody this year, but Heitz knows the pressure is now on for next year.

“I want my touch to be better. I want to be able to control the ball better, that’s something I need to work on,” Heitz said. “And I definitely need to improve my shot, because that’s not something I was too good at this year. It wasn’t my specialty. I just took the shot and hoped it went in.”

“He’s probably going to have to be in a more offensive role. I think he’ll excel at it, but it will be a different role for him because he’s used to playing in the middle but now he’ll be in more of an attacking role,” Bipes said. “He’s got to work on his shot and his communication a little bit, but it’s going to be extremely fun to have him as a senior because he’s worked hard for three years and he’ll work hard next year and hopefully we’ll defend that sectional title and then take the next step.”

Taking the next step is definitely something Heitz is banking on. Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, he’s already guaranteed it.

“We’re going to go back to the regional,” Heitz said. “We’re going to win another championship.”