- Val T.
Aguilar-Mendez’s goal lifts Caston to first soccer sectional sectional title
Season ends with loss to Westview in regional semi
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FULTON –- “Get better” is a phrase that Caston boys soccer coach Narciso Sanchez is known to tell his players during his 13 seasons as coach.
Their measured improvement had its biggest payoff when the Comets edged Winamac 1-0 in the Class 1A, Sectional 36 final at Caston on Oct. 9.
Caston (9-6-1) will travel to Westview for a regional semifinal on Oct. 14. No. 16 Westview won the Sectional 35 title with a 1-0 win over Bethany Christian on their home field.
This is the first year of the IHSAA’s overhauled regional format in which all boys semifinal games will be played at home sites on a Thursday and all regional final games will be played at predetermined sites on the Saturday after the semifinals.
Freshman Jan Aguilar-Mendez scored the game’s only goal with 28:17 left. He fired an initial shot that was blocked and deflected right back to him.
His momentum helped him slip two defenders and then slot a finish inside the right post and past Winamac goalkeeper Max Murray.
“I tried to dribble past both players, and it bounced off them, and I was all by myself, and I just kicked it to the corner and luckily it went in,” Aguilar-Mendez said.
The sectional title is the first in school history. It also denied Winamac their first sectional in 20 years.
Sanchez has been affiliated with Caston soccer as either a head coach or assistant coach for 20 years. He replaced Mark Gardner as coach in 2009.
Caston lost in the sectional final in 2010, 2011 and 2019 during Sanchez’s tenure.
“It took too long to get here,” a smiling Sanchez said afterwards. “It took too long to get this one. I feel like we had some really, really good chances before, but I mean this team is a really good, complete team. We didn’t put a lot of goals on the board, but the way they played systematically and the way that they built up the ball is another block on the building that is Caston football and we’re quite proud. … This is the foundation block for that legacy that continues on.”
Sanchez showed good footwork afterwards avoiding an attempt at an ice bucket shower after the game. The closest anybody game was dropping an ice cube or two down his shirt. Still, that didn’t prevent some good-natured ribbing afterwards.
“Amazing, amazing. It feels nice to bring one back for Nars, especially after 20 years of him coaching,” junior Rowan Jellison said. “It’s amazing to bring back one for him – at least one before he retires. He’s getting old.”
Jellison called Sanchez “one of the most genuine guys” afterwards.
“He said he hadn’t won a sectional championship since he’s been here,” sophomore defender Caleb Stinson said. “It’s really big for him. … He’s better improved me as a person and as a player. I really do like Sanchez.”
Asked for a favorite Sanchez saying, Stinson said, “Get better.”
“He stands by that,” Stinson said.
Winamac had a 4-0 advantage in the first half in shots on goal and a 2-1 edge in corner kicks. They relied on defenders like Sawyer DePoy, Braeden Linhart, Carter Field and Tyler Tankersley to lighten the load for Murray.
Meanwhile, midfielders like Thomas Fierens, Alex Stark, Jacob Housinger, Conner Burton and Mitchell Bonnell used their speed to create scoring opportunities up the middle of the field.
Winamac had beaten Caston 1-0 on Sept. 30 in their regular season meeting that decided the Hoosier North title on a goal by Bonnell.
“We talked about that at halftime,” Sanchez said. “We knew that 8 (Fierens) and 9 (Stark) were really good at controlling the midfield for Winamac. I feel like a lot of their build-up of play comes through them. They’re the motor for that Winamac squad.”
But Zimpleman and defenders like Stinson, Brady Evans, Ryan Spin, Talon Zeider and Kade Zeider helped keep Winamac scoreless.
“Bailey has been an absolute stud in the back line for us,” Sanchez said. “As a goalkeeper, I don’t think I’ve had a keeper as good as him come through in the 20 years that I’ve been here. Let me talk a little bit about this back line: We have three sophomores and a senior, and the senior (Kade Zeider) only started playing with us last year. … Kudos to them. Their effort has really, really kept us in games that we shouldn’t have been, and because of them, we were able to win games that we maybe didn’t play as well.”
Aguilar-Mendez learned soccer at age 7 in the little leagues in Logansport. His older brother Edgar is a junior midfielder. Jonathan Pacheco, a junior forward who led the team with 18 goals, is Jan and Edgar’s cousin.
He said Sanchez has helped both his mental and technical skills.
“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve had,” Aguilar-Mendez said. “He’s pushed me to do stuff I couldn’t do or would never have done – like being confident in yourself, controlling the ball, shooting the ball.”
Class 1A regional semifinal: Westview 11, Caston 0
Teague Misner notched a hat trick and added an assist for the No. 16 Westview boys soccer team in a win over visiting Caston in a Class 1A regional semifinal Thursday.
Westview improved to 15-4 and will play Illiana Christian in the regional final. Illiana Christian defeated Trinity Greenlawn 3-0 in the other semifinal.
Caston finished 9-7-1.
Eight different Westview players scored a goal. Jadon Yoder scored twice, and Braden Kauffman, Gramm Egli, Mohamed Aamer, Carson Brown, Braden Rogers and Asher Bontrager scored once each.
Westview led 5-0 within the first 10 minutes, which triggered a running clock per the IHSAA soccer mercy rule.
The lead was 8-0 at halftime.
The game was stopped with 20 minutes left per the mercy rule.
Caston was playing in their first ever regional game. They won their first sectional title in school history with a 1-0 win over Winamac five days earlier.