The O Cup hasn’t left head coach Matt Dennis’ desk in days.
It’s more than a silver soccer ball standing atop a plaque, the trophy is a testament — a symbol — for Seymour’s boys soccer team.
Seymour hadn’t earned a regular-season win against Columbus East in 12 years until they toppled their Hoosier Hills Conference foe 3-1 on Tuesday.
The trophy, which is given to the winner of the Olympians vs. Owls regular season game, started traveling in 2005.
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So this is the first time that the cup has resided in Jackson County.
Columbus East, a perennial powerhouse over the past decade, had won 25 straight HHC games.
The Olympians were riding 34 wins and one tie in HHC play since a loss to Jeffersonville on Oct. 2, 2011 — which included three straight undefeated 7-0 seasons from 2013-15.
So when the final whistle blew under the lights at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex, the Owls had every reason to celebrate.
“I don’t know how to describe the feeling,” Dennis said. “We’re certainly excited. There’s a sense of relief. We haven’t beaten either of the Columbus schools in so long — to know that we can now, it shows how far our program has come and it give us confidence moving forward. It’s cliché, but it’s the monkey off our back.”
While the season is early, the Owls have a legitimate chance at taking the HHC in 2016.
Seymour has never won the HHC outright but tied for the title in 1997, ’98, ’01, ’02 and ’09.
With the toughest team out of the way in Columbus East, the sky’s the limit for the Owls.
The recipe to this year’s starting successes? Setting small goals in each game.
Dennis has a Velcro chart with five objectives for his team in each contest, like not allowing more than five corner kicks or posting a shutout.
He said that if the team can meet at least three or four of those goals each game, more times than not it will result in a win.
“There’s a lot of little goals we try to meet in a game,” Dennis said. “Regardless of the outcome, we want to meet those goals. We were excited about the 3-1 victory, but the boys were disappointed because they didn’t get a shutout.
“You’re trying to achieve this point where your ability level is maxed your drive to succeed. Once you reach that goal, you have to set a new goal. You can never be satisfied. Once you achieve it, you just have to reset what the top is.”
With five sophomores starting on the team, the Owls have a lot of fresh faces.
But don’t by fooled by their youth — they haven’t lost a match to a Columbus school in their high school career.
The junior varsity team finished 8-2 on the season and 5-2 in the HHC last fall.
“Our team dynamic is interesting right now,” Dennis said. “We play five sophomores. Those sophomores haven’t lost to Columbus. Last year, (junior varsity) beat East and didn’t play North because the game got rescheduled. Our sophomore class doesn’t know losing. They play freer.”
In the games I’ve attended, two things stand out about this Owls team: the IQ level of the players on the field and leadership of the three senior captains — Mason Pottschmidt, Griffin Sciarra and Brantley Adams.
Mental errors have looked minimal, and the Owls are winning the possession battle more times than not.
Pottschmidt, Sciarra and Adams act as the calm, collected veterans — the glue — that holds the unit together.
In most scoring conversions, one of those three had their foot on the ball at one point.
The path to the varsity’s HHC title will not get much easier, as Seymour plays four of their final six conference games on the road this season.
Jeffersovnille and Floyd Central will both serve as tough tests, and Jennings County is a toss-up when you factor-in the U.S. 50 rivalry factor.
It’s a long road ahead, but the opportunity is there for this team to take the HHC for themselves.
Jordan Morey is the sports editor for The Tribune. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.