Three is a charm.
And that is exactly what the Summit Country Day boys soccer team is after, three straight state championships.
“Coming off of back-to-back state titles ensures that we will have a huge target on our back night in and night out, regardless of the opponent,” said new head coach Scott Sievering, who comes to Summit after 10 years at Sycamore. “Seven Hills, CCD and CHCA will once again make the (Miami Valley Conference) … extremely competitive. But our goal will remain the same in 2014. Win another state title.”
The Silver Knights were 17-2-4 on their way to their second Division III title. They lost some outstanding players – including state player of the year Christian Hay, now at the University of Cincinnati – and were especially hard hit on the defense.
However, sophomore Nate Logan returns in goal after recording 14 shutouts as a freshman. Also back is senior striker Austin Smythe, who had 25 goals and 12 assists as a junior. Junior Charlie Maciejewski returns at center midfielder.
Sophomore Ethan Hay, senior Phil McHugh – coming coming back from back surgery and sophomore Cameron Belle bring additional championship experience. Sievering has a quartet of freshmen who should make in immediate impact in Harrison an Henry Schertzinger, Nick Mishu and Diego Vallota.
Summit opened the season with a 3-2 win over Middletown Fenwick Aug. 16; Smythe scored all three goals. The Silver Knights host MVC rivals Seven Hills Sept. 4 and Cincinnati Country Day Sept. 23.
Mariemont High School won the Cincinnati Hills League with a perfect 7-0 record in the conference while going 16-2-2 overall. The second and final loss was particularly tough, falling via penalty kicks against Springfield Central Catholic in the district championship game.
The Warriors lost eight players from that team to graduation, but head coach Erik Vanags has plenty of experienced athletes ready to step into starting roles. Several have been in them already, including a quartet of fourth-year varsity players like Steve Hassey, Chris Benson, Bobby Gerberick and Riley Henderson.
Junior Connor Jacob returns for his third varsity season, while senior Andre Melling, juniors Brennan Hand, Adam Romick, Matthew Teeters, and sophomore Bobby Dennerll lace up for their second.
“We need to build a sound defense first and then move forward,” Vanags said. “We return a lot of our forward players, but need to look to generate goals with the graduation of Sander Henning (who scored 23 goals last year). The core is there for us to be very competitive.”
Mariemont opened with a 1-0 loss to Seven Hills Aug. 16. The Warriors are at home Aug. 19 against Batavia and go on the road to face CCD Aug. 23. Key CHL matches include Indian Hill Aug. 26, Wyoming Sept. 23 and Madeira Sept. 30, all on the road.
Seven Hills only graduated two players from a team that went 13-3-4 last season. The Stingers finished third in the MVC behind Summit and CCD with a 4-1-2 league record; they tied eventual state champion Summit 0-0 the third game of the season and lost 4-1 to CCD in the last match of the regular season.
Veteran head coach Terry Nichol’s squad then put together three tournament wins before falling 3-2 in overtime against Summit in the regional semifinals.
Needless to say, the league is important to Seven Hills.
“We haven’t won the MVC in three or four years, and that is always huge team goal,” Nichol said. “Our conference is so good so that is something we really want to focus on. And like anything else, when it comes to the state tournament you always want to advance further than you did the previous year. We are really excited to get the season going.”
They did just that with a 1-0 victory over Mariemont Aug. 16. Returning players like Max Pochobradsky, Jackson Callow, Jarod Nelson and Turner Anderson hope for more of the same as they break in their new home field.
The Stingers are on the road at Summit Sept. 4 and host CCD Oct. 8.
The Walnut Hills soccer Eagles won the inaugural Eastern Cincinnati Conference title in 2012, but finished second to Turpin in 2013.
With 13 players and all but three starters back from last year’s sectional champions/district finalists, sixth-year coach Eric Rothwell is shooting for the top again.
Among those back are senior ECC first team and all-city players Logan Weidmann (goalkeeper) and Daniel Bundschuh (midfielder). Seniors Brandon Pitz, Adam Cooper, Alrashid Abdelwahed and junior Jes Carr also add depth. Abdelwahed is a Roger Bacon transfer.
“This is one of the strongest and deepest teams to ever go through Walnut Hills,” Rothwell said. “Last season, Walnut Hills had the best ever record to date with a tough schedule. This year, we look to improve on that with an even tougher schedule.”
After opening on the road at Wyoming, the Eagles start at home with Moeller Aug. 21, then Fairfield Aug. 23.
Withrow begins its first season in the ECC with an intriguing story.
The Tigers who are referred to as “Les Tigres Indominatables” or “The Unconquerable Tigers” on a self-made You Tube video come from more than 15 different countries. Coach Tyler Barrott has successfully raised money and gathered used gear through a funding site, http://www.gofundme.com/9ndga0.
“Many, if not most, of our players are refugees from some of the world’s most impoverished and war-torn countries,” he said. “In the two months since the video was published we have received over $12,000 in financial contributions and another $3,000-$4,000 in used equipment.”
Playing without a league, Withrow was 5-11-1 last year. Among those to watch are senior attacking middle Baboucar Gai, senior defenders Sileye Fall and William Sebastian, senior forward Ahmadou Bengaly and junior midfielder Jeffrey Addy.
“The number of players participating expanded tremendously from when I took over halfway through the season last year,” Barrott said.
The Tigers are running an attacking style modeled off a famous Norwegian team of the 1990s as they approach their toughest schedule ever in the ECC.
Withrow starts on the road at Glen Este Aug. 27 and at Ross Aug. 30. Their home opener is against Kings Sept. 4.
Barrott’s squad also supports the local community through the “Tigers Give Back Campaign”. More information is available on the Withrow Soccer Facebook Page and on Twitter (@WithrowSoccer).
Taking over the Clark Montessori boys soccer squad is Jerald Dixon who has been an assistant the past four years.
Dixon gets a Cougar club that was 12-4-2 (4-1-2 in the Miami Valley Conference). Clark finished tied with Seven Hills and behind Cincinnati Country Day and Summit Country Day.
Five starters return for the Cougars including MVC-second team pick Sean Dubose and fellow seniors Jalen Terry, Ian Turner and Nick Thuerling and junior Aiden Hastings. Freshman Cory Carr is also expected to contribute.
“We are implementing a system and the boys are buying in 100 percent,” Dixon said. “Again, we have a great blend of technical and athletic ability. Many of our younger guys will have the opportunity to step in and make an immediate impact.”
Completing the Cougar roster is senior Kevin Haid, junior Orion Williams, sophomores Ben Hammond, Daniel Rowe, Dorian Carr, Michael Gabbennesch and Tom Gallagher.
Clark’s next game is Aug. 23 against Roger Bacon.
Third-year Purcell Marian coach K.C. Ryan has another young team but did manage a 4-13 record a year ago. The next step is getting some wins in the Greater Catholic League Coed.
The Cavaliers have just one senior in goalkeeper Kyle Lewis. Juniors Ben Shaw and Douglas Fairbanks and sophomore Quin McBreen are top players, with McBreen making second team all-league as a freshman and Shaw first team.
“Shaw played every minute of every contest a year ago and will anchor a strong defensive back four,” Ryan said. “Quin McBreen will transition back to defense to assist in taking over for his older brother (Aidan) who graduated last year. We’ll rely heavily on Douglas Fairbanks in central midfield to begin and lead our attack.”
Freshmen Ryan Lamb and Jack Seedhouse are also expected to eventually contribute.
After early games with Deer Park and St. Bernard, the Cavaliers host North College Hill on Aug. 20 and Norwood on 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.