MICHIGAN CITY — There's nothing like playing the defending state champions in your first match to find out about your team.
You just have to be careful not to get smacked upside the head with that measuring stick.
"They're a great team. They're always a hard game for us," Michigan City senior Omar Serrano said after Wednesday's 5-0 loss to Chesterton. "Honestly, I really like playing them first. Going against a good team, we know what we need to work on. The first game, you can't expect to be great from the start. We can learn from our mistakes. We have to play to our strengths. They're good all-around. You can't try new things against them because they're not going to forgive you."
Chesterton didn't even need a minute to take the lead, expanding it on a Seth Conway penalty kick in the 28th minute, then making it 3-0 on a Jory Stark goal at 38:52.
"You love it and hate it," City coach David Harris said of opening with the Trojans. "It's a reminder what DAC soccer is. "I think the message is every game is a chance to get better."
Serrano had Michigan City's only two shots on goal, both coming on free kicks. A third from a tight angle over the defensive wall curled over the crossbar.
"The goalie made a good save," Serrano said. "I got it on target but I didn't hit it like I wanted to."
Two of Serrano's three shots came early in the second half when the Wolves made their best offensive push of the match, but Zack Bowser stifled that energy with some slick ball handling along the end line, sneaking a goal inside the near post at 53:52
"We knew right away 5-0 was a little harsh," Harris said. "Ninety percent of goals come from the middle of the field and they squeezed in a couple near post. I'll take those shots from any team all day. We didn't sit back. We tried to take it to them. That team, any sub coming in as good as the next guy. We sub a couple guys out, we change dynamics. They don't have to do that. Our guys work incredibly hard. We've just got small numbers. They have 30 freshmen, we have 30 total. I'm proud of the guys. They were hungry for the ball. Even at the end, two minutes left, guys were like, coach let me in."
Serrano's play stood out for a Wolves team that will take on a different look this season with the departure of a large group of seniors.
"We have to come in with a different playing style, playing more aggressive, being more confident with each other, helping each other," Serrano said. "We did some good stuff. There are little mistakes they need to fix, but we'll be fine. It's a good starting point for us. We've got a lot of juniors and sophomores, and we were toe to toe with them. Toe to toe with Chesterton is a heck of a job. You've got to be physical. I'm proud of the guys. They're getting a lot of experience."he's
Harris liked what he saw from his senior captain, who will have to orchestrate the attack for the Wolves.
"He's really gifted." he said of Serrano. "He's worked hard for it. We'll count on him to pull the strings. His intelligence, we have some fast guys around him, he can get them in position, make runs, and we're dangerous. He can play the ball, make space for himself, sometimes beat that one guy, playing direct, simple and quick."
Showing his ready to wear the captain's arm band all summer, Serrano was a regular at summer workouts, also doing the team talks at the end of practice, according to Harris.
"The guys know he knows his stuff," Harris said.
Even as an underclassmen, Serrano took on a leadership role, so it's a challenge he embraces.
"Great leaders have to go through adversity, he said. "I have to set the example, set the tone. If i'm not doing it, then they're going to step back. If I'm bringing it, being positive, they're going to have the same energy that I delivered. We have to play with a lot of heart. It's keeping the intensity up for a full 80 minutes. If we do that, we're going to be good. I'm positive on that."
Chesterton 5, Michigan City 0
Gabe Galvan made 10 saves for the Wolves.