By Joe Ostrica and Ryan Kaczmarski
The Avon Lake boys soccer team looks to build off of last year’s thrilling district championship run, which was the first for the Shoremen since 1998. Avon Lake compiled a 12-5-3 record. Matt DeCapua returns for his second season as head coach and expects his team to show last season was not a fluke as they prepare to defend their title.
“First off, winning the SWC is something the Avon Lake boys soccer team has not done in many years, maybe 13 or so, I guess,” DeCapua said. “We are really aiming for this. Last year we were just short and finished second to Berea-Midpark. Westlake, who we finally figured out last year, is in our way. They have looked very good in the preseason. Equally hungry will be Berea-Midpark, who will not fall easily.”
DeCapua believes adding Avon, Bay and St. Ignatius, and playing St. Edward and Mentor again, will give Avon Lake tough matches to hopefully position it well to win the SWC. DeCapua also hopes this competition will help prepare the Shoremen for the postseason and at least repeat as district champs.
DeCapua expects senior goalkeeper Kane Adams will lead the way. Senior captain midfielder Evan Carlson, who was a first team All-SWC player, also returns. “We lost some key guys,” DeCapua said. “Our plan is to continue getting these guys to play hard, fast and to believe. We can be champions. It will be tough to beat us. We can also beat ourselves at times.
“We have to stay focused, mentally strong and not be content with where we are. We want to show why we believe Avon Lake is one of the top programs in the area.”
Last year, Westlake got hot at the right time of the season and rode the momentum all the way to the district championship game. This year, the Demons return almost the entire team, so expectations are high.
“All of my players are key to their positions,” Westlake head coach Mike Besu said. “We have a strong team, and we’re deep on the bench.”
The Demons return 2013 SWC MVP Omar Salem, Brian Sutcliffe, Nick Sorg, Jack Bogart and Jesse Valadez on offense; and Moe Mustafa, David Milasky, Jacob Haas and Brian Garruto on defense. Nate Greenberg returns to the goalkeeper position this season.
New to varsity this year are Donovan DuBois, Corey DuBois, Patrick Smith, David Milasky and Nick Sorg.
“We just want to win the district, stay healthy and have a great season,” Besu concluded.
North Olmsted is coming off a season in which the team went 8-5-4 overall (4-12-1 in the SWC), and is looking to make a push for the school’s first district title since 2012.
The Eagles return senior goalkeeper Alex Gajowski, who had eight shutouts last year, senior defender Brad Reinhard, senior midfielder Ray Gorgak, senior midfielder Matt Spyak, junior midfielder Max Becker, junior defender Michael Schuler and sophomore defender Ben Gebura.
“We can score some well-conceived goals,” North Olmsted head coach Christian Marsh said. “The keys to our success depends on tightening up our defense.
“We are a very young, but talented team. We’ve been playing and hanging with the best teams of the area this summer.”
Olmsted Falls finished last year at a disappointing 6-10-2, but head coach James Walchanowicz sees his squad on the rise this season.
“This year’s team is solid technically, has good chemistry and an excellent work ethic,” he explained. “Our offseason program has helped many players get a better understanding of the game.
“Over the past eight years, we’ve been trying to build upon each previous teams’ successes, and our fitness level is the best it’s been over that time. With a great group of freshmen, who will make an immediate impact on the team, this has the potential to be the best team I have ever coached.”