ANDERSON TWP. – The photo decorating the cover of Turpin High School’s 1987 Soccer Guide looks much like a typical team picture.
Players are lined up in three horizontal rows – sitting, kneeling, standing – with coaches and team managers flanking the last row.
The difference is the makeup – so to speak. It’s not a team photo. It’s a teams photo. The players – members of the 1986 Spartans boys’ and girls’ soccer squads – are mixed. They are lined up boy-girl-boy-girl, as if they were one team.
In a way, they were. Those Spartans were like one team chasing two state championships, an historic feat they pulled off, almost 29 years ago.
“We were very close,” recalls Barb Heis, now Barb Schneider, a junior fullback on the girls team that finished 18-1-2 under coach Dave Lawson while capturing the state title in just the second season that girls’ soccer was sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
“We were very close,” echoed Brad Campbell, a senior midfielder on the boys’ team that went 23-1-1 under coach John Basalyga on its way to winning the Class AAA boys’ state title. “As you go through high school, we were all friends. We wanted them to have the same level of success we had.”
“I think it was the closest-knit two teams I’ve ever been associated with,” Lawson said.
“The kids got along so well in school,” Basalyga said. “They hung out after school. I was close with Lawson. We bounced things off of each other. There was so much closeness, we could feed off of each other.
“Don’t kid yourself,” he added. “When you’re going through a run like that, there’s unwritten pressure from the other program not to be beaten. We had to win. They had to win. We had to keep up with each other.”
Turpin was just starting its second decade after opening in 1976, joining Anderson as a Forest Hills School District high school. It almost immediately established itself as a soccer power, with the girls winning unofficial state championships in 1982 and 1983 and losing to Clayton Northmont in the finals in 1984 by penalty kicks and in 1985 in the first tournament sanctioned by the OHSAA.
Even though the high school was relatively new, its soccer tradition already was strong enough to motivate each season’s teams.
“I think Turpin’s tradition was always to go win the state championship,” said Schneider, who now lives in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. “It was instilled in us even before high school. Losing was always a motivation. You’ve always got that thorn in your side.”
The boys’ team had logged four straight winning seasons but had been unable to get past St. Xavier. The Bombers had knocked the Spartans out of the last three consecutive tournaments, including by a 2-1 score in the 1985 regional final.
“I don’t know that we had a chip on our shoulder,” said Campbell, who still calls Anderson Township home. “I don’t know if we were motivated in that sense. We were just an extremely competitive group. We competed against each other in practice especially hard.”
How hard? Basalyga, a self-described “baseball and hockey guy” who got into coaching soccer later in his career and now is the Northern Kentucky University coach, traditionally turned his boys’ Friday practices into mini-tournaments, played by scaled-down teams shooting at mini-goals behind the middle school. He called it the “Bundesliga” league, in honor of Germany’s top division, and “intense” only scratches the surface of description.
“We had to call off the league by the end of the season because people were going to get hurt,” said Campbell, a co-captain with fellow senior midfielder Bob Cramer on the 1986 team. “They were fun, but they were intense.”
Basalyga laughs at the memory.
“Every time I see any of my players, they always remind me of that,” he said. “I was the Russian referee, and there were no fouls. The kids had a blast. We had prizes for the teams that won. You had to be ready. It was controlled mayhem, and the kids ate that stuff up.
“The biggest thing is they learned to compete every day. They drew so close together that, when they were in tough games and they were tired and beat up, they pulled together. Those Fridays identified our program.”
The boys’ team won the Eastern Metro League championship while the girls had to settle for a tie with Glen Este, the only team to beat the Spartans. Both Spartan teams were their district tournament’s No. 1 seeds, and they opened postseason play with back-to-back doubleheaders at Forest Hills Soccer Stadium. Freshman goalkeeper Becky Rowland posted shutouts in both girls’ wins.
The boys’ victories set up the turning point of their tournament, a matchup with league-rival Milford. The Spartans led, 1-0, when junior goalkeeper Greg Murphy was ejected with 9:57 left in the first half for arguing too vehemently about a penalty-kick ruling. Turpin had to play almost 50 minutes with 10 players to the Eagles’ 11 and junior George Parsenios, a wrestler in his first season with the soccer team, in goal.
Basalyga believes that predicament is where those Friday “practices” paid off.
“No doubt about it,” he said. “We lost arguably one of the best goalies I’ve ever had, including ones I had in college. Those kids? It didn’t even faze them. While Parsenios was warming up, we pulled the other kids away and told them, ‘If they score on him, it’s all your fault, because you let them shoot at him.'”
Parsenios knocked one Milford shot over the crossbar that would have tied the score, 2-2, and senior Brandy Atkins – just in his second soccer season – scored two of Turpin’s four second-half goals as the Spartans advanced with a 5-2 win.
“That game started us,” Basalyga said. “We weren’t afraid to play down with our backs to the wall. We had a lot of composure.”
The girls needed a fourth consecutive shutout from Rowland and a goal from junior fullback Diane Pfeffer – the first of her three game-winning tournament goals – to overcome Amelia, 1-0, and set up a 5-1 win over Seton that propelled the Spartans into the state semifinals against their archrivals, Northmont, on a frigid Nov. 12 night at Huber Heights Wayne.
Schneider remembers that game even better than the final. Turpin, supported by members of the boys’ team who went shirtless, came back from a 2-0 halftime deficit with goals by Pfeffer off a corner kick and, with 51 seconds left, junior midfielder Kelli Cummins off a throw-in from senior midfielder and co-captain Jenny Molloy to send the game to overtime and, eventually, penalty-kick shootout. Pfeffer connected to give Turpin a lead and Rowland sealed it with her third shootout save.
“That was the harder game,” Schneider said. “It was an insane game. Crazy things happened in that game. We wore pantyhose and put Vaseline on our legs because it was so cold. We were in it to win it, and we were going to do anything to do it.
“The intensity of that game and how we pulled together as a team and did everything we could to win made that the highlight of the year.”
The win set up another boys-girls doubleheader on Saturday, Nov. 15, at Trotwood-Madison High School. The boys, who’d edged Oak Hills, 2-1, in overtime on a game-tying goal by Campbell and game-winner from exchange student Pablo Diez from Madrid and Lakota, 2-1, on goals by sophomore scoring leader Rob Martella and Cramer, played Beavercreek in the state semifinal nightcap. Cramer scored on a header to give Turpin a 1-0 win.
In the opener, the girls got goals from Molloy – whom Lawson said won a state title in Texas the previous spring before her family moved to Cincinnati – and Pfeffer for a 2-1 win that clinched the state championship.
“Those kids at Turpin were so tough,” said Lawson, now a volunteer assistant at Indian Hill. “I’m not sure they were the best, but they were the toughest and the best-conditioned. They just would not take no for an answer. They were a lot of fun to work with. No matter how hard you pushed them, they were ready to be pushed a little more. I had teams after that that had better skill levels, but they weren’t as tough.”
All that was needed for the boys to complete the unprecedented double was a win in the state final over Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, which they accomplished on Nov. 17 at Dublin High School with a 3-2 win. Diez, Atkins and junior midfielder Mike Hollingsworth scored goals for the Spartans.
No Ohio school had ever had teams win two state championships in the same sport in the same season.
“That was big news back then,” Schneider said. “I remember my grandfather saying, ‘You just remember this. This has never happened.’ It was really cool.”