Welch, defense rewrite Naperville North record book
Tommy Welch will get official recognition for the school record, but the Naperville North goalkeeper understands the bigger picture around his 34th varsity shutout.
"The credit of the shutout record, yeah, it's going to have my name on it, but really it should have this year on it because of the way this team works defensively," Welch said after the Huskies' 1-0 DuPage Valley Conference victory Tuesday at Neuqua Valley. "I get all this praise and stuff, but there should be definitely a lot more just for the back four, the midfield and the forwards. Even the forwards defend really well.
"It's the whole team's honor, not just mine."
His defense sends the kudos back at Welch, who broke the record of 1991 Naperville North graduate Steve Hipp.
"Honestly, I think our defense played very well, but Tom's just such an athlete, a freak athlete," Huskies senior Colin Iverson said. "I'm so happy for him. It's such a great accomplishment."
The 34 shutouts are a good indication of how the Huskies (8-0, 2-0) won the last two Class 3A championships in Illinois.
"I come into every game looking to get a shutout, and you saw in the state tournament we didn't win games by more than 3 goals or anything crazy like that," Welch said. "It's our defense that our program is built on and a culture that coach (Jim) Konrad has built here. Defense first. We get goals in some sloppy ways, but defensively we're sound. That's how we win."
The Huskies got the game's only goal in the 22nd minute, taking advantage of a little miscommunication by Neuqua Valley. A Ty Konrad free kick from in front of the Neuqua Valley bench found Colin Iverson's head for his sixth goal of the year.
"It's a very unfortunate goal," Neuqua Valley coach Arnoldo Gonzalez said. "You know, miscommunication, coming out, 'Hey mine, no yours.' The ball's in."
Still, the game was a great example of the strength of the Naperville North defense, which includes starting left back Cesar Recendez, center backs Iverson and Christian Romano and right back Cam Ferus.
Neuqua Valley (4-3-1, 0-1) had good possession and was determined going forward, but the Wildcats managed just 4 shots, forcing 1 Welch save.
"I didn't get anything today and I got bored," Welch said. "I was kind of not into it and then I came out, I almost got hurt (briefly leaving the game after getting hit in the ribs), and I was like, I've got to be a little more focused the whole time."
Of course Welch plays a role not only in stopping shots but preventing them too. Part of that is by sheer size.
"It's very intimidating," Iverson said the 6-foot-7 Welch. "You hear guys talking about always how scared they are of him. He's such a friendly guy, but it's so funny because the intimidation factor is huge."
He is aggressive coming off his line to pick off crosses before the opponent can redirect the ball at the net. Colliding with a Neuqua Valley player on one such play is how he suffered that slight injury to his ribs.
"People don't get that he takes so much away in the air from the other team that other people would face 6 or 7 more shots a game, but Tommy just takes them away because the ball just gets gobbled up," Konrad said.
Welch will forgo soccer next year when he focuses on playing basketball for Loyola University.
"Tommy's just a special kid," Konrad added. "He's a Division I athlete in a number of sports. Even today he made a couple of saves that would be hard for other guys to make."