Not long into preseason drills, when first-year Catholic-New Iberia boys soccer coach Adam Glover was devoting more time the technical side of the game, he detected something much greater.

“I could see that we had a good group,” Glover said.

What Glover saw was a team with eight returning seniors from a Division III state quarterfinalist with all the requisite pieces to potentially surpass that round and achieve even greater success.

Turns out Glover was on to something, having guided Catholic to a 9-0-1 start a No. 3 ranking in Division IV and the LHSAA’s No. 1 unofficial power rating heading into Friday’s 6 p.m. nondistrict match at Division II’s No. 1 Beau Chene (4-1-1).

“I’m always optimistic and wanted to push them as far as we can and hopefully get over that hurdle in the quarterfinals and progress further,” Glover said. “I think we have a very good chance this year.”

Catholic established a solid foundation in Division III, having reached the state quarterfinals in each of the past four years. The Panthers twice lost 1-0 and in penalty kicks in another match.

Glover arrived with plenty of international playing/coaching experience, having spent 12 years in his native Bath, England, coaching upon the completion of his semipro career.

Through his previous job with Challenger Sports — which connects prospective coaches from England and Scotland with club coaching positions in the United States — Glover has coached in Lafayette with the Dynamo Juniors club program.

Given his background as a former defender, it’s no surprise Catholic’s success has been rooted on the defensive end.

That’s where senior goalkeeper TJ Norris, along with a back line featuring senior center backs Jack Germany, Adam Mannina, and defenders Webb Broussard (senior), Sam Robichaux (sophomore) or Michael Tarantino (senior) have contributed to seven shutouts, including six straight until a recent 2-2 tie with St. Martinville.

“All five of them are pretty much seniors, having played together and have a good understanding,” Glover said. “You keep games tight, play to your strengths, and you’re going to create chances.”

Catholic has plenty of scoring options to choose from, relying on senior strikers Thomas Purdy (six goals) and Bailey Broussard (five goals) along with freshman striker/midfielder Steven Champ, Jr. (five goals) and junior midfielder Berkly Louviere (four goals).

Catholic reeled off nine straight wins, opening with a 1-0 with over Division IV’s No. 4 Menard and has outscored its opponents 21-5.

The Panthers’ season took flight during last week’s championship in the Orange Division of the Copa of Acadiana tournament where they won five straight games and outscored the opposition 8-0.

They garnered wins over Division III’s No. 9 Lutcher and No. 8 Episcopal-Baton Rouge, Division’s II’s No. 5 Neville before finishing off North Vermilion 3-0 in the title game.

“We go out with the same mentality every game that we can get the ball down, play to our strengths, get our main players on the soccer ball and we can hurt some teams,” Glover said. “So far this season we’ve been able to do that.”