By Ryan Kaczmarski
BAY hopes to build on last year’s 8-9-1 overall record, and make it to regionals in the postseason.
“We are a great deal older than last year’s squad,” Rockets head coach Robert Dougherty said. “We graduated two starters and seven seniors (overall). We had seven freshmen (last year) play large sections of time, so they are a year older and stronger.
“My senior class is big and strong, with great numbers, 13 altogether.”
The key returning players are goalkeeper Koray Sayir, captain Chris Eaton Back, leading scorer Matt Toth, midfielders Adam and Ben Tepper, and Brady Kinsey comes back from injury.
Senior captain Jack Creech will be lost for the season with a torn ACL.
“We are very balanced and deep, with a great deal of experience,” Dougherty said. “We need to be more consistent on offense, and we need to relax and play within ourselves.”
ROCKY RIVER is coming off a 2011 season in which it had an overall record of 8-7-3 (3-2-1 in the West Shore Conference) and made it to the district semifinals.
“We were an inexperienced, young team last year,” Pirates head coach Kevin Zerbey said. “The good thing about that was a bunch of sophomores and freshmen were able to find out what varsity soccer is all about.
“Basically, we beat the teams we should have beaten and lost to the teams that probably should have beaten us.”
The Rockets have eight returning lettermen, including goalkeeper Dominic Liva, forward Spencer Klodnick and midfielders Trent Newby, Sutton Klodnick and Nathaniel O’Halla.
“Those boys are going to be relied upon to provide the majority of our offense – except the goalie obviously – and get us through tough games with their experience, ability and leadership,” Zerbey said.
The team captains are senior Tristan Smith and junior Newby.
“They set a good example for others to follow,” Zerbey said. “We have some very talented players.
“We will need to replace five seniors who all were a part of the varsity team for more than two years each,” he added. “The guys who take those spots are in need of on-the-job training.”
LUTHERAN WEST finished with an overall record of 14-4-1 (7-2 in the Patriot Athletic Conference) in 2011, and was 2-1 in the postseason.
“Last year’s squad was an excellent group of athletes,” Longhorns head coach Josh Huber said. “We were strong, tall and fast, however, it more of an individual effort.”
The key returning lettermen are seniors Nick Vrabel and C.J. McNamee; and juniors Josh Sekola and Aaron Beckman.
“We have nine seniors, which would include our two captains, Tim Couther and Vrabel,” Huber said. “Tim brings drive and leadership by his actions and words. Nick brings the necessary technical skills to bond our team.
“We are technically sound at each position,” he added. “Team chemistry is much better than previous years. We don’t necessarily have a go-to guy and therefore everyone has to put in the effort for the team to be successful.”
The Longhorns will be playing on the new artificial surface at their stadium this year.
“It will help play into our strategy of playing,” Huber concluded.
FAIRVIEW is coming off its first PAC championship, in which the 2011 squad was 11-7-1 overall and had a conference record of 8-0-1.
“With the graduation of the class of 2012, we lost our defensive and forward lineup,” Warriors head coach David Snow said. “They were a big part of Fairview boys soccer.”
The key returning players are seniors Blake Beard (captain), Iven Chaqueco, goalkeeper Connor Gibbons (captain), Zach Jones, Connor Kiesner, David Salamon, Kyle Starks and Mike Wilkinson; and juniors Rey Galindo, Eric Groh, Henry Hvizdos, Logan Johnston and Dan Karliak.
The overall team goal this year is to repeat as conference champions.
NORTH OLMSTED will look to improve in the 7-11-1 record of last year.
“We were in every game,” Eagles head coach Chris Marsh said. “We played one of the toughest schedules – nine teams were ranked in Cleveland’s top 10.”
The key returning players are seniors J.J. Ball, Mike Butera, Alec DeAnna, Kevin Sorenson, M.J. Akpo-Esambe, Steve Newport and Stefan Spanu.
“Captains J.J. Ball and Mike Butera bring leadership, passion and grit,” Marsh said. “We have a very young starting 11, who are not flashy, but that can and will play with anybody.”
OLMSTED FALLS had an overall record of 7-11 last season and lost in the first round of the postseason.
The Bulldogs will have the largest numbers in recent program history, but will lack depth at the varsity level, as they will field two goalkeepers and 15 field players.
“Our biggest concern is to stay healthy,” head coach James Walchanowicz said. “We have two starters that we hope to have back by our second game of the season.
“Although Olmsted Falls will again be low in numbers and lack depth, we do have a very talented, hard-working group for the 2012 season,” he added “We have told ourselves that this year will mark a key point in the development of the program, for our team has set some high expectations. We have a quality coaching staff with college playing experience and who care about the kids and program.
Seniors Jake Samsel and Adam Woodruff will complete for the time in the varsity net.
“Each has positive qualities and have worked hard this off-season to be where they are at now. They are two blue-collar, hard-working keepers who want nothing more than to keep the ball out of the back of the net,” Walchanowicz said.
Olmsted Falls will have sophomores Christian Klein and Rytan MacDonald; junior Eric Skutt; and seniors Ryan Crozier and Conner Bailey anchor the back line with help from junior Zach Cleversy and sophomore Ryan Klimchak.
“Our Midfield this year will be comprised of seniors Brad Sommer, Adam McQuillian, Brian Bildstein and junior Mike Payne,” Walchanowicz said. “All are big and strong and will hopefully function as the engine of the team. They will be greatly helped out by freshmen Pat O’Toole and Austin Lockhart.
“At forwards, we have a committee of players who all have strengths.”
WESTLAKE did not reply in time for this article