Four years ago, North Side boys soccer coach Joe Carter took over a program known more for keeping players in shape for other sports than for winning.
The Redskins had never won a sectional championship, with a few decent athletes in the sport in any given season, but nothing to match the top programs in the SAC and area.
It was a program that had not even won a trophy in any event.
Put simply, it was a culture of losing.
Fast-forward to 2013, with Carter and North Side on the verge of appearing in their first-ever regional game after winning the Homestead Sectional last Wednesday.
The Redskins (10-5-2) will take on DeKalb (15-3) in the Carroll Regional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.The winner will play either Canterbury (11-7-1) or Bellmont (10-8) in the regional championship Saturday.
The soccer culture at North Side has not only turned to winning, but also has brought together several different cultures from many continents.
“We are as diverse of a school as there is, and our players are not foreign exchange students,” Carter said. “We have Asians, Europeans, Hispanics, a little bit of everybody. It has been fun blending cultures and different styles of play.”
A Bishop Dwenger graduate, Carter saw the potential firsthand that North Side had on the soccer pitch. After a year coaching at Elmhurst, Carter moved over to take over the Redskins.
“I looked at it as a challenge,” said Carter about the North Side job. “When I took the team over, I knew I was going to get very good players. The goal was to build a program.
“North Side is a very diverse school, with a lot of people from a lot of different countries. We had a lot of guys who knew how to play.”
So Carter went to work building a program. The first few years were rocky in getting players to buy in and understand how he wanted them to play.
But the last few seasons, it has clicked. The Redskins went 7-8-2 a year ago and broke out this year with victories over traditionally strong programs like Blackhawk Christian and Bishop Dwenger.
“We set the goal at the beginning of the year to be the best North Side soccer team that has ever been around,” Carter said. “We talked about winning trophies. When we won the Harrison Invitational (in September) we talked about winning another one and another one.”
The Redskins now have their first sectional championship trophy and will go for more beginning Thursday. But North Side will have to contend with the Barons' Brennan Cochran, who is one of the state's leading scorers with 39 this season.
“Brennan is obviously a handful … we have to know where he is at all times,” Carter said. “They are very fast and physical … in order for us to be successful; we have to defend like crazy.”
Carter hopes that this year's run continues this weekend, but feels good about the future of the program, despite a senior-dominated squad in 2013.
“My goal is to continue to build a soccer program here at North,” Carter said. “We have examples here with (Coach Ryan Hall) in football and (Coach Shabaz Khaliq) in basketball, now we have to get our name out there and build up our culture.”