The opportunity to hold a pep rally for the Cardinal Stritch boys soccer team had never come up until Tuesday afternoon.
The Cardinals entered the week at 6-1, the best start to a season in the program's history, and were looking to face Ottawa Hills later that evening.
“The most wins the team has ever had in a season is eight,” Stritch coach Dave Skoczyn said. “We're pretty much in unchartered territory.”
But it's a good position the Cardinals are in during Skoczyn's second season as head coach and his third year associated with the program. Stritch, which won only four games two years ago and five last year, has become a TAAC contender and stands in good position to claim a single-season win total.
The Cardinals have come a long way since Skoczyn decided to assume the head coaching responsibilities primarily to work alongside his son, David, a former Owens Community College goalkeeper who serves as assistant coach.
“When we came in we came in with a different mind-set,” the elder Skoczyn said.
Their approach called for the players to make a greater commitment to improve with more off-season time working out, lifting weights and practicing, particularly during the summer months.
Initial requests to participate in summer workouts drew roughly five regulars. A dozen routinely showed up last summer. Skoczyn believes the additional time together has benefited team chemistry, as well as the team's overall skill level.
“That's been a plus,” he said, of the summer workouts. “The kids hang out together and get along with each other.
Senior Danny Rogers began the week as the team leader in goals scored with seven, while juniors Justin Moore and Nathan Wamer shared a team-high five assists apiece. Goalie Kyle Hatfield, a 6-foot-5 junior, has recorded four shutouts.
Their fast start includes a victory for the first time over Maumee Valley Country Day.
“It's just been a combination of jelling at the right time and getting the kids to play,” Skoczyn said.
The optimism is high enough that they even found positives in a loss to Eastwood. The Cardinals fell 2-1, but they remember losing 8-0 last year.
“It shows we've improved so much since last year,” Skoczyn said. “Overall, we've exceeded what our goals were. It's kind of neat, but we've got to keep our reigns on.”
Cardinal Stritch's football team was picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
Stritch coach Joe Gutilla is in his second year and has the Cardinals on the verge of their first three-game win streak during his reign.
The Cardinals (2-2, 1-0 TAAC) play tomorrow at Danbury.
After opening the season with losses to Fremont St. Joseph and Woodmore, the Cardinals bounced back with victories over Plymouth (Mich.) Christian and Ottawa Hills.
“We've made tremendous improvements over the last three weeks with our offense and with our defense,” said Gutilla, whose Cardinals finished 1-9, 1-5 in the TAAC last year. “I think basically it's the kids finally believing in what we're doing.”
Gutilla has 24 returning letterwinners, including six on offense and six on defense. They've had time to work on running their multiple wing offense and have put in plenty of repetitions to execute a 4-4 swarming defensive set.
Seniors Nick Fuller (WB/SS), David Szymanski (OL/DL) and Tim Langlois (FB, FS) have provided plenty of leadership.
Fuller and Langlois accounted for five touchdowns in Stritch's 35-23 win over Ottawa Hills.
“That was a huge win for us,” Gutilla said. “It was a huge win for the program. I really think the Ottawa Hills game could be that turning point game for [the program].”
HALL OF FAME
Whitmer to add 4, coach, 2 teams
Whitmer will induct four athletes, one coach and two teams to its athletic hall of fame at a ceremony Saturday.
The inductees will be introduced at halftime of Friday night's football game against St. John's Jesuit, and they will be further honored at a banquet at Cambridge Place in the K-mart Plaza on Alexis Road.
The inductees include athletes Eric Dubendorfer, Jay Dubendorfer, Brad Huebner, and Jeremy Roberts, coach Carl Schulz, the 1983-84 state runner-up hockey team, and the 1929 baseball team, which was the school's first team to reach state-level competition.
Eric Dubendorfer (Class of 1995) was a four-year letter winner as a wrestler who capped his career with a runner-up finish in the Division I state tournament at 112 pounds. A two-time Great Lakes league champion and state qualifier, he set the record for most career victories.
Jay Dubendorfer (1967) was a three-sport athlete, earning letters in football, basketball, and baseball. He coached junior high football from 1982-93, in between two stints working with the Washington Junior Football League (1969-81 and 1994-99). He also coached in the Trilby Baseball Association. Inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1999, Jay's memory was preserved when Wernert Field was renamed Dubendorfer Field after his death in 2009.
Huebner (1965) first made his mark on Whitmer athletics as an offensive tackle in football. Co-captain of the 1964 Panthers, he earned All-GLL, all-district, and All-Ohio honorable-mention. Recruited to Miami (Ohio), Huebner transferred to the University of Toledo and lettered for the Rockets. As a Whitmer booster, he gave the lead gift to initiate the Whitmer turf program and stadium renovation plan in 2007.
Roberts (2000) is one of Whitmer's all-time greats in track and field. He was a three-time Division I state finalist at 400 meters, placing fourth in 1998 and 2000, and fifth in 1999. He was also part of the 1600 relay team that placed sixth at state in in 1998. Roberts holds Whitmer's 400 record (48.29), as well as indoor records at 200, 400, and 800.
Schulz served Whitmer as a teacher, coach, and administrator from 1969-2001. He earned seven letters at Woodward. He played baseball at the University of Toledo, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, and played three seasons in the minor leagues. He came to Whitmer and coached junior high football and basketball, but made his mark as a baseball coach with a varsity record of 106-39. His teams won three sectional titles and a district championship in six seasons. Schulz was later an assistant baseball coach at UT from 1978-80, serving as interim head coach in 1979.
The 1983-84 hockey team posted a record of 32-2-1 under coach Greg Jablonski. The Panthers won the Northwest Ohio High School Hockey League title at 15-0 before their run to the state final.
Saturday's induction banquet is open to the public, with tickets available for $30 for singles and $50 for couples. Social hour starts at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitmer athletic office at 419-473-8382.
Delta boys ranked No. 2
The Delta boys' cross country team has moved up to No. 2 in the latest Division III state poll.
The Panthers have 168 points and are just 12 points behind top-ranked McDonald.
Delta also finished second to McDonald at the Spartan Invitational at Boardman on Saturday. The Panthers posted 90 points, six behind McDonald.
Colin Fisher placed second with a time of 16:04. K.J. Abair was eighth (16:45 ) and Alec Nash finished 18th (17:29).
St. John's is ranked No. 4 in Division I. St. Francis de Sales is 15th. Napoleon is 14th in Division II. Elmwood is sixth in D-III .
On the girls side, Notre Dame is No. 4 in D-I, while Northview is ninth.
Maumee is ranked No. 5 in D-II, while Napoleon is seventh.
Liberty Center is ranked seventh in D-III.