LOVELAND – Though many of the athletic teams at Loveland High School were successful in the 2013-2014 season, the boys soccer team had to claw to a 7-7-4 record after starting with just one win in their first five demanding games last year.
In addition to the competitive Eastern Cincinnati Conference menu, where they were 4-2, coach Mike Dunlap’s Tigers played St. Xavier, McNicholas and Elder from the Greater Catholic League; Mason, Lakota East, Lakota West, Fairfield and Sycamore from the Greater Miami Conference and Indian Hill from the Cincinnati Hills League.
“(We’re) hoping to bounce back after an average 2013 and compete for a league title,” Dunlap said.
Senior midfielder Ryan Melink (second team ECC) and defender Joey Papa (honorable mention) should lead the Tiger charge in 2014. Other seniors paving the way for Loveland will be defender Sam Fjestul, goalkeeper Matt Noland, midfielder Dillon Frees and defender Conner Wagner.
This season’s schedule is equally challenging as the Tigers open up with St. Xavier and Indian Hill before hosting Fairfield Aug. 21. Loveland is at Mason Aug. 23.
With 251 wins coming into the season at Moeller High School, Crusaders soccer coach Randy Hurley will be looking to get his team back over .500 in the ultra-competitive Greater Catholic League-South.
The Crusaders were 5-9-3 (2-4 GCL South) for third place. Moeller last won a league title in 2010.
Top players returning for Hurley are senior center back Mitch Meece, a first-team all-league pick last year; senior defender Josh Brunker; senior midfielder Drew Scott and senior defender/midfielder Cody Swartz. Other seniors are goalkeeper Anthony Whyle and forwards Jake Giebler and Ryan Frank.
Moeller begins at Walnut Hills Aug. 21. The home opener is Aug. 23 with Centerville.
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy graduated seven seniors from a 7-9-3 team a year ago. That record included a 3-4 mark in the Miami Valley Conference leaving the Eagles in fifth place. CHCA recorded a pair of sectional tournament wins before bowing out against eventual state champion Summit Country Day.
The MVC will be a challenge again, with two-time defending state champion Summit looking to three-peat. Both Seven Hills and Cincinnati Country Day look to get back to the district and regional level they attained last season.
Head coach Bryan Daniel said for the Eagles to reach the .500 mark and challenge in the league, his squad will have to improve around the net.
“Realistically we’ve got to finish our chances in the close games,” he said. “We’re really good at generating chances, but we have to finish at the net. Right now we’re trying to figure out who that primary goal scorer will be for us.”
Senior Tanner Bowman – a legitimate college prospect – returns in goal for the Eagles to keep other teams from scoring. Mark Smith may be the first junior in program history to earn a captaincy; he will anchor the midfield after playing center back last season.
CHCA opens the season against Georgetown Aug. 16 at home; the Eagles open MVC play at CCD Sept. 4.