ANDERSON TWP. Forgive the Turpin High School boys soccer team if it appears confused early in the season.
Losing the better part of your roster will do that to a team.
The Spartans went 15-1-4 overall last season – the second-best winning percentage in school history behind only the 1986 state championship squad – and a perfect 6-0 in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference. But ECC coach of the year Jamie Harloff graduated virtually every starter – including nine seniors who earned all-league honors.
And while it’s not fair to say Turpin is starting from scratch, the Spartans certainly will have a different look from last year.
“That’s going to be our challenge,” Harloff said. “Putting the right guys in the right places. We have forwards playing defender, midfielders playing forward, everything. We’re just trying to see what works best for this team. We have to have guys ready to adapt to the varsity game.”
Among those looking to fill the bill are returning juniors like Richard Feil (forward and midfielder), Luke Gonos (forward), keeper Brad Herndon and Nick Hogan (midfield). New to the varsity are senior midfielder Alex Brail and junior defender Ben Harris.
“We like to possess the ball and attack with the whole side,” Harloff said. “We’re working on that and working on putting people in the right places.”
Turpin opened the season Aug. 19 at home against Fairfield. The Spartans host ECC contender Walnut Hills Oct. 2 and they close the regular season on the road at Loveland
McNicholas High School posted a 10-4-5 overall record under first-year head coach Jason Peters last season. McNick went 5-0-2 in the Greater Catholic League Coed Central, a record that landed the Rockets a league title and Peters coach of the year honors.
What will he do for an encore after graduating 11 seniors?
“Although we may not have the most experienced squad this year, we have a talented group of players,” Peters said. We will rely on leadership from our more experienced players … and we expect contributions from (the) juniors. Overall we are excited and looking forward to a good year.”
The experienced players include a trio of seniors in defender Trevor Hogue with midfielders Christian Null and Justin Brunot. Also back are junior midfielders Griffin Garrison and Tristan Bently.
New varsity players include junior midfielders Jake Round, Zach Arnold and Blake Murphy. Sophomore forward J.T. Tilley could be a solid scoring threat.
The Rockets open the season Aug. 16 against Batavia. McNick hosts league rival Middletown Fenwick Sept. 30 and squares off against King of the Hill rivals Anderson Aug. 23 on the road and at Turpin Sept. 13.
Anderson High School struggled with injuries on its way to a 3-12-2 season and an 0-6 mark in the ECC, where the Redskins brought up the rear in 2013.
Head coach Andy Deimling said the team started working on a strength and conditioning program in January to help prevent injuries this year and so far so good. Along the way, the squad also built a camaraderie it’s taken on to the field.
Anderson will be led by its tri-captains, senior midfielder Grant Gallagher, senior center mid Ken Stapleton and junior center back Luke Fickenworth. Sophomore Max Hoffman is up from the JV team to play outside midfielder.
“Every player on on varsity now is playing on a high-level club team,” Deimling said. “They got a lot of skills. What I’ve really seen is how much our defense has improved. They’re disciplined as a unit and don’t have to constantly chase.
“Anderson soccer is ready to get back to the power that it was once. We’re heading in the right direction.”
Anderson opened the season Aug 16 at home against Indian Hill. The Redskins host Wyoming Aug. 21 and McNicholas Aug. 23 before going on the road for the first ECC game against Walnut Hills.
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.
Walnut Hills High School 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.