By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Entering last season, the Troy boys soccer team had shared the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title with Butler — and sometimes also Sidney — for the past for seasons.
Now, as the Trojans prepare to try to reclaim their spot atop the North after the Aviators won it outright last year, they already find themselves without one of their primary weapons for the entire season.
Still, though, Troy has a large group of experienced and talented players — 10 of them seniors — to lean on as they set out to get revenge on Butler and retake their place in the division.
The Trojans went 12-5-1 last season, with two of those losses coming at the hands of the Aviators. Butler defeated Troy 3-1 in the regular season, Troy’s only loss in North play, and then after a thrilling overtime victory for Troy to begin the sectional tournament, the Aviators pitched a 2-0 shutout to end the Trojans’ season.
“The kids did well last year, but now we’ve got to move on and look to this year,” Troy boys soccer coach Richard Phillips said. “We need to focus on the North first — it’s always been that way. Our main goal right now is to win the North.
“Butler and Sidney (will be the main competition). Both squads have quality coming back, both in leadership and experience.”
And while Troy has plenty of that itself, it lost one of its top players for the year in senior Mitchell Evans to an injury early in the preseason.
“He was our leading goal scorer, and he was our leader in the midfield,” Phillips said. “The leadership and experience part of the game, knowing the game and knowing what to do and being able to get that message across to the rest of the team, he took a big part of that.”
Evans had 10 goals and 24 points last season, but Troy still returns a lot of its offense around him. Senior Jake Diffenderfer led the team with 26 points and also scored 10 goals, and fellow seniors Caleb Liebold (eight goals, 18 points), Johan Trotter (seven goals, 17 points), J.T Yenney (five goals, 13 points) and Mack Sherman (two goals, six points) all return, as well.
Cam Schulz, Tristan West and Nate Kreinbrink also return, as does senior goalkeeper Alex Williams — who posted eight shutouts last season and has the ability to keep Troy competitive in every game, offense or not.
Troy has been through losing a key player early on before — last year, in fact. Then-sophomore Grant Holland was going to be an offensive leader last season, and he even scored early in the first game before being hurt and lost for the season minutes later. Now a junior, Holland will hope to contribute this season, as well as fellow returning juniors Henry Shaneyfelt and Ben Schreiber.
New to the team this year will be senior Spencer Covault, as well as Colin Hubbell, Luke Johnson, Brandon Lewis, Tyler Mauk, Darren McCormick and freshman Joey Sheehan.
“We need experience in the midfield right now,” Phillips said. “We need to get that engine to drive the team. We’re still searching for that.
“Right now, we just need to get healthy. That’s a big concern for us right now. When we do get healthy, we should be ready for the rest of the season.”
Tippecanoe may have finished 13-6-1 last season, and it may have seen its run of Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division championships come to an end. But the Red Devils played well when it counted most, winning a district championship in a thrilling shootout and reaching the regional semifinal.
And now coach Scott Downing is back for his 15th season guiding a team that returns plenty of veteran players to improve on that run with.
“We have a lot of experienced players back. We only graduated four,” Downing said. “We won districts last season, and we should be back there again.”
Back up front this year is junior three-year starter Mitch Colvin, sophomore Andrew Debrosse — who scored both goals in a win over Chaminade Julienne — seniors Noah Lingg, Baustin Quillen and Kevin Bridgett and sophomore E.J. Wasinski. Seniors Collin Tateman and Jacob Niswonger and juniors Zach Bonifas and Wade Timmer will anchor the midfield.
Senior goalkeeper Dylan Shomper — who made the game-winning save and scored the game-winning goal in that district shootout last season — is back, as well, and seniors Dylan Clapper and Peyton Smith and juniors Alex Taylor, Adam Grieshop and Austin Haas return on defense amongst others.
Bethel went 13-4-1 last season had has 14 letterwinners back from that team, but coach Bob Hamlin says the Bees are still looking to fill some spots — particularly up front.
Seniors Zach Cohee (six goals, three assists) and Evan Hawthorn (one goal, one assist) and sophomore Daniel Ross (three goals, five assists) return at forward, with the bulk of the experience in the midfield. Seniors Sam McKenny, Collin Rust and Riley Shaffer and sophomores Korry Hamlin and Tyler Brueckman have 24 goals and 32 assists between them, and senior Daniel Garcia and sophomore David Landes join them.
Bethel also has four seniors back on defense in Elijah Thomas, Tyler Berkshire, Coleman Clark and Ryan Wallen, as well as sophomores Joe Miller, Luke Moorefield and Ben Lawson. And in goal, senior Chris Terrian and Alex van Haaren will look to fill the void vacated by graduate Kurt Hamlin.
“We have 14 returning lettermen, but we have some very important holes to fill,” Hamlin said. “We graduated our strikers, so we need to find individuals to put the ball in the net on a consistent basis. This summer, we’ve experimented moving people around, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by our findings. The midfield will be solid, as we return all our starters, and we realigned our defense a little but have a good deal of experience returning there, also.
“Our biggest question mark will be in the net. Both have been working hard but have little varsity experience in the net. So one of our goals has to be to limit shots, and I have confidence that this group can do that.”
And once again, the Bees will be looking to compete for a Cross County Conference championship, and their schedule is loaded to prep them for a tournament run.
“We had a good summer of soccer, and hopefully we can take what we learned into the season ahead,” Hamlin said. “I think Franklin Monroe and Newton are the ones you need to beat to win the CCC, but Miami East has some good young talent and will surprise some people. In the area, Dayton Christian, Yellow Springs, Greeneview and Franklin Monroe will be the better Division III teams.”
* Miami East
Adam Bell is back for his fifth season as Miami East boys soccer coach, and while the team graduated a substantial group of starters in the offseason, the Vikings still have returners coming back that will look to keep the program’s momentum moving forward.
Devyn Carson returns to hold things together in the midfield along with Shelby Elifritz and Grant McCalister, with Dalton Taynor and Connar Wilson looked at for offense up front. Ethan Remy will be the team’s goalkeeper this year, with Colten Weldy helping to anchor the defense.
“After graduating nine seniors last year, we are a very young squad,” Bell said. “But we are very disciplined and very talented.
Brent Hodges returns for his 15th season as coach.
The Indians have been a mainstay towards the top of the Cross County Conference, MVSSCA top 10 team poll and Southwestern District since Hodges took over. And last year, the Indians went 10-6-2 and 3rd place in league, and were led by Treyton Lavy, Nelson Clymer and Nick Honeycutt.
“Our goal was to get into the district finals and hopefully have enough to win it,” Hodges said. “We came up shy of what our goal was. Injuries and a short bench during tournaments hampered that goal, but the young players gain tons of experience on the field.”
While the losses of such players like Jonny White, Levi Armentrout and Dustin Coate would be detrimental to most schools, Newton still has one of the top returning rosters in the league and district
That includes junior goalkeeper Nelson Clymer, who brings 14 career shutouts and 232 saves, senior center-midfielder; Treyton Lavy, led the team in scoring with 15 goals and eight assists. All-CCC and MVSSCA senior Kyle Demido led the team in assists with 13 and set a single-game record of five, junior Nick Honeycutt had 14 goals and five assists on a short season, missing the last six games for an injury. Senior Defender Andrew Diltz will lead a returning core in the back for Newton.
With such talent returning for the Indians, Hodges hopes to yet again be contenders for not only a district title, but possibly a state run this season as well.
* Troy Christian
Ryan Zeman’s seventh season as Troy Christian coach is marked by the return of a lot of last year’s offensive and defensive leaders, as well as a young group in the middle.
Back is junior Jon Slone, who led the team with 18 goals and four assists last year. Senior captain Tom Null is also back up front, as well as sophomore Colt Tanner who tallied eight goals and five assists as a freshman last year.
Brendan Pohle and Jared Trimback return after starting in the midfield last season, with Jacob Wynne and Andrew Strait in the mix, as well. And senior captain Dillon Belcher, all-area performer Seth Wynne and senior goalkeeper Wesley Alexander return to shore up the defense.
“Overall, we are looking forward to a very bright season, and we’re looking to contend for a conference championship in the Metro Buckeye Conference this year.”
Danny Henry returns as coach.
The Indians finished 5-9-1 overall and 1-3-1 in the GWOC North last year.
Returning letterwinners include Caleb Vallieu, Jon Gerlach, Brad Hohlbein, Jared Brandt, Jacob North, Kaden Jones and Robbie Comstock.
“Although we graduated and lost a total of nine varsity players from last year’s team, I feel as though we are returning a strong group of guys and have many key additions to the program this year,” Henry said. “We believe that we have the potential to have 10-plus wins if we go out and continue to outwork every team we face this season. We have a team that seems to bound on all levels making for an even better addition for this season to come.
“The seniors, the younger guys, as well as us coaches believe we have a chance to make a run at the GWOC North title this year and is a huge focus for us. We also hope to be able to attain a win goal of 10-plus games to allow for better seeding in the tournament with the hopes of winning a few tournament games this season.”
Henry expects the GWOC North to be strong again.
“The GWOC North is going to be very tough this season with teams like Sidney, Butler, and Troy all returning a majority of their starters from strong teams last year,” he said. “We have the potential to win the division or to potentially sit at the four spot out of six teams. This truthfully depends on the way guys show up to play for each game this year.”
Tom Wiseman takes over as the boys soccer coach.
The Cavaliers were 9-7-3 overall last season and 5-1-1 in the WOSL
Returning letterwinners include seniors Alex Wiseman, Ian Smith, Connor Thobe an Nick Neumeier; juniors John-Henry Frantz, Trey Kerrigan, Jacob Schmiesing, Eli Baker and Joshua Armstrong; and sophomores Jake Emrick, Tim Buechter, Max Hamlin and Ryan Goettemoeller; and freshman Dahlton Black, Michael Denning, David Potts and Conor O’Leary.
The team’s goals include 10-regular season wins, 40-plus goals scored and 20 or less goals allowed, the WOSL and sectional titles.
“We have increased focus on physical conditioning,” Wiseman said. “We need to keep possession and increase our win percentage on 50-50 balls. We will allow players more offensive creativity, with increased focus on shooting percentage (hitting shots on frame). Aggressive mistakes can be be forgiven, lazy mistakes won’t be tolerated. We want to increase team unity.”
Some of the challenges will be increasing offensive efficiency and output, replace Lehman career saves leader Nick Earhart and still having an inexperienced bench.
“We have eight freshman,” Wiseman said. “That is one of the biggest freshman classes in awhile. This will help building the program over the next few years. Former coach Tom Thornton left the program in good shape, enabling us to move the program to the next level. As assistant coach the last two years, I learned a lot about the on-field technical and tactical aspects of the game from Thornton, former assistant coach Cody Stachler (now assistant at Troy Christian) and girls coach Jermey Lorenzo.”
Wiseman expects the WOSL to be a challenge.
“With the loss of WOSL Player of the Year Nick Earhart and a first-year head coach, many predict we will fall into the middle of the WOSL,” Wiseman said. “We truly believe we will challenge for the league championship.”
He see Lima Central Catholic as the team to beat and expects Botkins, Temple Christian and Fairlawn to be strong as well.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.