LOVELAND – Though they resurrected themselves in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference standings, the Loveland High School boys soccer team had a dreadful beginning to this season.
The Tigers lost all four of their August games and by Sept. 12 were only 1-6. Since then, they’ve tacked on a few wins and tied some competitive squads.
“I think it just took us the first four games to get our feet wet,” Loveland coach Mike Dunlap said. “With the schedule we had early on (St. Xavier, Lakota East, Fairfield, Mason) those are teams you can’t really play when you’re not ready. They’ll definitely expose you.”
Loveland was able to shut out Milford, Glen Este and Withrow, but were also blanked by Anderson, Lebanon and Lakota West. In some of those games, Dunlap saw progress.
In October, the Tigers have tied very good Walnut Hills, Sycamore and Moeller teams.
“We defended our butts off,” Dunlap said of the game against the Crusaders Oct. 10. “We were resilient and had a lot of heart that night. I’ll take a 0-0 draw with them.”
Dunlap has never fixated on the overall won-loss record, consistently playing a tough non-conference schedule. Usually things even out when Loveland faces ECC foes.
“What I want to do is make sure we’re playing good teams to prepare us for our conference opponents and prepare us for the end of the year,” Dunlap said. “I want to continue to play that type of schedule.”
Recently, at the tournament draw, Loveland drew the No. 15 seed. As Dunlap looked on the board, many of the teams were previous opponents or teams he was already familiar with.
The difference in this season and others is no “go-to” scorer. In 2014, Loveland’s Ryan Melink led the ECC in scoring and in 2012 it was Johnny Williams. In 2015, Dunlap is encouraging anyone within sight of the goal to fire away with the hope that anything can happen.
“What I have is a bunch of kids that play well enough to keep us in games right now,” Dunlap said. “If you don’t have a true goal scorer, you have to be pretty creative defensively.”
Loveland has already celebrated Senior Night to send out Peyton Terry, C.J. Regan, Adam Paulson, Tyler Oblong, Joe Distler, Joseph Lynch, Isaac Gordon and Drew Austin.
Austin and Gordon were recently injured, hurting Loveland’s depth for the rest of the season.
“Isaac Gordon’s has been pretty much the starting center back the last two years,” Dunlap said.
Once the postseason tournament play ends, Dunlap will be looking forward to the next batch of Tigers to march up the hill and take the turf.
“We’ve got a very talented group of freshmen,” Dunlap said. “We have 18-20 freshmen and our JV team’s looking good. I think as we continue to go forward, there’s certainly potential here.”