Joe Bernstein didn’t know much about the history of Independence’s soccer program when he took over as the Blue Devils’ starting goalie during his sophomore season.
As he began collecting shutouts, Bernstein began investigating the school record for most clean sheets in a career. That’s why he knew he was on the verge of breaking the record when the Blue Devils traveled to Wickliffe on Sept. 11.
Bernstein tied the record two days before when Independence beat Berkshire, 7-0. That was the 12th shutout of Bernstein’s career. With a 3-0 win at Wickliffe, Bernstein became the school’s all-time leader in the statistic.
“I knew about it when the season started,” Bernstein said. “I have been watching the record for a while now and I knew I had a chance of breaking it. It’s nice to get it out of the way but it wasn’t just me breaking it. I have to give my defense a lot of credit and the whole team.”
Bernstein recorded six shutouts as a sophomore and added four more as a junior. He already has four clean sheets this season, including three straight, as the Blue Devils are on a four-game winning streak heading into tonight’s rivalry game at Cuyahoga Heights.
“In our last four games Joe has tallied three shutouts and in the fourth game he only conceded one goal, which came in the last two minutes with the reserve team in front of him,” said Independence head coach Ryan MacRaild. “This past Saturday he preserved a 1-0 victory with a diving save against Lake Ridge Academy by pushing the shot into the upper corner of the goal and off the post.”
While Bernstein is quick to credit his teammates, MacRaild knows how valuable his keeper has been to the squad.
“His leadership has been invaluable and he continues to push our team to get better every day,” MacRaild said.
Tying the record against Berkshire was a special moment in Bernstein’s career. It was even better two days later when he blanked Wickliffe to take over the record.
“My teammates were pretty happy,” Bernstein said. “They celebrated a lot and congratulated me. They tried to dogpile me. They were very excited for me. I thanked them all. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The shutout didn’t come easily.
Bernstein gets especially tense when the games are close.
“You go a full 80 minutes and my heart is beating 1,000 minutes per second,” he said. “You’re just so pumped up because of the game. To be able to finish the game without allowing any goals is a huge relief. It’s amazing.”
With the school record out of the way, and growing almost by the day, Bernstein is focused on leading the Blue Devils deep into the post-season.
“Our big goal is to go as far as we can,” he said. “I would love to get a district final this year. That’s the plan, to go all the way. I was there my freshman year. I remember watching it on the bench and watching the excitement and craziness of it. I would love to get back there and be a part of it.”
Bernstein’s accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed.
He was nominated for the JJHuddle/Bucknuts Ohio Boys’ Soccer Athlete of the Week. Click here to vote. The winner is decided by a fan vote, so please take a moment to support Bernstein.
Here is a list of all this week’s nominees:
- Brian Spaulding, Marysville
- Griffin Rath, Liberty-Benton
- Tyler Bennett, Carroll
- Heriberto Gomez, Willard
- Chad Pever, Riverdale
- Dylan Miles, Chillicothe Southeastern
- Dan Mills, Canton Central Catholic
- Joe Bernstein, Independence
- Chase Hilliard, Beaver Local
- David Jeffries, Waynesville