A deep pool of talented boys soccer players in northwest Ohio could lead to a long run in the postseason for a number of the area's top teams.
Perennial powerhouses Anthony Wayne and St. John's Jesuit head up a group of about a half dozen Division I programs poised for playoff success.
The Titans and Generals battled to a 1-1 draw in an early season showdown Aug. 22. Area coaches think it could serve as a precursor for a matchup deep into the district tournament. St. Francis de Sales, Northview, Findlay, Southview, and Perrysburg also are contenders for a berth in the regional tournament, according to area coaches.
“Some of the best players in the state of Ohio reside right here in the Toledo and surrounding areas,” St. Francis assistant coach Ryan Titkemeier said.
Anthony Wayne (1-0-2) features a deep group of talented and experienced players, Generals coach Brian Billings said.
Seniors Caleb Gibbon (forward), Tucker Ramirez (midfielder), Bryce Ulrich (M), Adam Passino (M), Austin Sisler (defender), and Max Rivera (D) lead the way along with sophomore forward Zach Mowka.
Billings has nine starters back and 16 seniors. He said goals include carrying a team grade-point average of 3.5, win a regional title, and going undefeated in the Northern Lakes League to capture the title.
“We need to be stronger mentality and cut out the simple mistakes that are giving goals away or costing us from scoring,” Billings said.
St. John's (2-0-2) has won the Three Rivers Athletic Conference title three times in the past four seasons. The Titans have either taken the title outright or shared it in four of the league's six seasons of existence.
The Titans finished 7-0-0 in the TRAC, then topped TRAC rival Findlay 4-1 in a district semifinal to advance to the district championship game.
“Our No. 1 goal is to win the TRAC every year,” coach Tom Shook said. “And the next goal is to be district champs, and then it's just a matter of how far you can go after that if you get hot.”
Junior center backs Dane Kalman and Usman Khan are two of the best defenders in the area, according to Shook. Senior Kale Nichols (M), junior Eli Shope (M/F), and senior Derrick Huddleston (M) all are among the area's top players.
“Our defense is really coming together and playing well,” Shook said. “If we can start manufacturing two to three goals per game, we can be really doggone good.”
St. Francis (1-0-0) has seven returning starters led by senior forward Scott Upton, who earned All-TRAC first-team honors last season. The Knights have won two TRAC titles overall, including one outright.
“Our team is firmly centered around possession of the ball and communication. We collaborate as a collective unit both on and off the pitch,” Titkemeier said.
Seniors Justin Kenner (M), Majd Awad (D), Jacob Oberski (D), Matt Dills (G), Shane Truss (M), Drew Swerlein (M), and Zach Lenz (M/D) also return.
” Our goal every year is to push the team to its full potential, whether that be a district championship or a state championship,” Titkemeier said. “Unity, continuity, trust, and respect will help us reach our goals.”
Northview (0-2-0) captured a share of the NLL title in 2016 and won the program's first district title since ’07. The Wildcats knocked out rival Southview from the postseason with a 3-1 win in a district semifinal, then ousted St. John's Jesuit 1-0 to claim the district title. Northview then defeated Anthony Wayne 1-0 in a regional semifinal before falling 3-1 to eighth-ranked Medina in a regional final.
Coach Mark Del Verne has five starters back, led by senior Marios Kamilaras, and juniors Nathan Masters, Alek West, and goalkeeper Ryan Bules.
“Our strength is our pace and our keeper,” Del Verne said. “We would like to take the next step as a program and get to the final four. For this to happen, we need our youth to grow up quickly and to gel from a group of individuals into a team.”
Findlay (2-1-0) has won two of the past three TRAC titles, and five starters return for coach Bill Geaman.
Senior Pace Thomas (M) earned second-team All-Ohio honors last season after posting 14 goals and seven assists. Thomas also was named first-team all-district and All-TRAC.
Senior Taylor Miles (F) had 20 goals and 12 assists to also earn first-team league and district honors. Junior Brady Shenise (M) returns after producing 10 goals and five assists. Senior Aidan Detterman (D) earned All-TRAC second-team honors.
“Our team’s strength is our ability to score goals and play a good possession game,” Geaman said. “Our goal is to try to win the TRAC championship and do well in the state tournament.”
He said the keys to reaching those goals is getting in better shape, playing hard, and getting on the same page.
Southview (1-2-0) has seven starters back, and the Cougars are resilient, patient, and relentless, coach Andy Kufel said. Seniors Peter Huffman (M), Jared Oslakovic (M), Nolan Johnson (D), Connor Brutlag (D) are back, along with juniors Mitch Liber (D), Zeke Schuele (F), Alex Sagesse (F), and sophomore goalie Alex Brock.
“We will continue to improve every day while gaining confidence and motivation from our results,” Kufel said.
Perrysburg (1-1-0) has six starters on a young team that works hard every day, according to coach Brandon Decker.
“We are organized defensively, and have some very good players,” he said.
Sophomore Brendan Graves (G), senior Adam Rorhs (D), junior Etan Pedry (M), and senior Nathan Skrzyniecki (F) all have talent and experience.
“Our goals are to compete for a league and district title,” Decker said. “We have to continue to improve every day and study our opponents and their tendencies.”
In Division II, Oak Harbor (4-0-0) made the deepest playoff run among local teams in 2016. The Rockets went 18-2-1, won a district title, and reached a regional final. Oak Harbor had upset state powerhouse Bay Village Bay 2-1 in a regional semifinal.
In Division III, Archbold (3-1-0) was undefeated and made it to a regional semifinal. But the Blue Streaks, who went 19-1-1, fell 2-0 to Mansfield Christian.
Local coaches expect the Rockets and Blue Streaks to be strong once again this season.
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