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Published: Wednesday, 9/21/2011

2 Pacesetter soccer teams win state championships

Coach calls achievement rare for club its size

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The U18 Pacesetter team. Front, from left, Jeff Cooperider and Ryan Peterson. Middle, Brad Vahalic, Michael Wainz, Matt Essig, Karter Sell, Ashton Winkler, and Troy Thompson. Back, coach Ryan Creech, Shawn Banagis, James Roberts, Nate Watkins, Adam Montague, Jeremy Ashley, Alex Smith, and Aaron Pinkleman. Not pictured is Trey Bracy. The U18 Pacesetter team. Front, from left, Jeff Cooperider and Ryan Peterson. Middle, Brad Vahalic, Michael Wainz, Matt Essig, Karter Sell, Ashton Winkler, and Troy Thompson. Back, coach Ryan Creech, Shawn Banagis, James Roberts, Nate Watkins, Adam Montague, Jeremy Ashley, Alex Smith, and Aaron Pinkleman. Not pictured is Trey Bracy.
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One Pacesetter soccer team met expectations while another exceeded them by winning state titles this summer.

The soccer teams were among 10 that play for the Sylvania-based club that reached the state final four. The U18 and the U13 Pacesetter teams both qualified for regional tournaments when they claimed state championships.

"It's been a huge year for us," club president Jimmy Walker said. "We had 10 teams in the state final four. That's the most we've ever had. It's the best in 30 years."

Ryan Creech, who coached both teams, said developing good chemistry was pivotal to both teams.

"It was terrific because I am blessed to have good players," Mr. Creech said. "I've been coaching for 20 years and I've learned you can't win without good players. I was just along for the ride."

The members of the U18 team played for high schools from across northwest Ohio. All have moved on to college and 10 are playing for their university teams.

The U18 team captured back-to-back state titles the past two summers. This year the team beat five opponents to win it. In the final the Pacesetter team beat an opponent from the Cleveland area.

The Pacesetters then went on to reach the regional final championship. Only two other teams in the history of the Pacesetter club had reached that level.

The U18 team ended up losing to a team from Kansas City in the regional semis.

"We are a smaller club," Mr. Creech said. "Most of the teams that get to that level are from huge cities."

Mr. Creech credited the team's former coach Chip Smith, who had coached the players the last few years.

"He did an awesome job," Mr. Creech said. "They got a lot from him and I just took over where he left off."

Creech said Adam Montague, who is now a starter at Michigan State University as a freshman, played a pivotal role in the regional run.

"He may be the best player to ever come through this club," Mr. Creech said. "He is just so good and is so dangerous for his team."

Mr. Creech said Mr. Montague rolled his ankle at the regional tournament and was playing at 60 percent.

Mr. Montague helped lead St. John's Jesuit to the Division I state semifinals last fall. His Titans teammate Ryan Peterson, also played on the U18 team. Mr. Peterson is now playing at Dayton.

"Ryan had four goals in the tournament," Mr. Creech said.

The Pacesetters U13 squad shows off their championship medals. Front, from left, Jonah Masters, Saleh Elhady, Alec Marshall, Aerin West, Ian Baird, Travis Russell, Matt Wainstein, Austin Dilday, and Tyler Biggs. Back, coach Ryan Creech, Quentin Stout, Stephen Wainz, Keegan Winkler, Jason Wheeler, Branden Chuhy, and Will McIntyre. The Pacesetters U13 squad shows off their championship medals. Front, from left, Jonah Masters, Saleh Elhady, Alec Marshall, Aerin West, Ian Baird, Travis Russell, Matt Wainstein, Austin Dilday, and Tyler Biggs. Back, coach Ryan Creech, Quentin Stout, Stephen Wainz, Keegan Winkler, Jason Wheeler, Branden Chuhy, and Will McIntyre.
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Perrysburg's Karter Sell was the team's second-leading scorer. Mr. Creech said Michael Wainz and Shawn Banagis also played well throughout the postseason.

Mr. Creech said the core of the team has been playing together since they were 15 and four had played together since they were 9.

Mr. Creech said Mr. Wainz, Ashton Winkler, Nate Watkins, and Jeff Cooperider were key cogs on the team.

"If you take one of those out we don't do quite as well," Mr. Creech said. "They weren't leading scorers, but they were good defenders."

Mr. Creech also heaped praise on goalie Jeremy Ashley. At 6-foot-4, Mr. Creech called Ashley a "monster in net."

"Goalkeeper is the most important position on the field," Mr. Creech said. "You can get far if you have a big and agile goalkeeper in net."

Mr. Creech said this team's training was second to none.

"But what made it so great was the chemistry. They all got along so well and also worked really hard," Mr. Creech said.

He said the team members all have committed to coming back next year to play on a U19 team together.

"They're committed to each other and their goal is to make it back to the regional final," Mr. Creech said.

Mr. Walker, the club president, said, "It's very hard to win a state title because you're competing against the bigger areas like Cleveland and Cincinnati."

Walker said no team from Pacesetters has won a regional title. He said the club typically advances just one to the tournament each year.

"This year we had two," he said.

Creech said he has been coaching the U13 team for two and a half years. He said the players have a similar mentality to the U18 boys.

"They're starting to establish better work habits and it's a very committed team," he said. Yet Mr. Creech said he did not expect them to do so well at the state and regional level this summer.

"They surprised the heck out of us. We ended up blowing out teams in the [state] semifinal and finals," he said. "They were ahead of the curve."

At the regional tournament, the U13 team exacted revenge on a team from Detroit that beat it 10-0 early in the indoor, winter season.

"We ended up making leaps and strides and we beat them 1-0," Mr. Creech said. "That was huge for us."

Mr. Creech said goalkeeper Stephen Wainz excelled. "He improved greatly and did a nice job," Mr. Creech said.

Keegan Winkler made a tremendous step forward as a player, according to his coach. "He's a great defender and very smart in the back," Mr. Creech said. "Our defense was awesome."

Mr. Creech said Will McIntyre has developed into one of the best players in the region.

"He is a forward that scored a lot of goals for us," Mr. Creech said. "It would have been hard to get to regionals without him."

He said Ian Baird and Brendan Chuhy also played big roles in the run.

Overall, Mr. Creech said the team's chemistry clicked at the right time.

"They developed as a team," Mr. Creech said. "It's a good group of kids. They've really learned to focus and train. We're really excited about the spring because now they are playing very well together."

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade



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