PREBLE COUNTY — If contact sports in Ohio are approved, boys soccer will begin this weekend, and county teams will be looking to improve on their records from 2019.
Eaton continuing to improve with senior class
Eaton boys soccer will look to improve on their 2-13-2 last season as coach Matt Money returns for his 19th season at the helm of the Eagles.
“We have all starters back including seniors Justin Lammers, Caleb Caplinger and Evan Tolliver who were all league players,” he said. “We look to be greatly improved this year with 10 seniors.”
He said that league will be very competitive and that the Eagles will have to compete against perfection. Additionally, he welcomed Coach Daniel Howard to the staff, a former player of Money’s, and Andy Bergeron who has been there since 2015.
“We hope to complete the season with the new challenges we all face,” he said.
North setting new goals for 2020
Despite a challenging 2019 campaign in which the Panthers finished 2-12-1 overall and 0-4-1 in conference play, Tri-County North returns 12 veteran players and will look to improve in 2020.
“The Cross County Conference is one of the toughest conferences in the Miami Valley,” coach Dylan Hemmerich said. “Obviously any coach wants to win conference, but for us to do that we must play at our absolute best. We finally have a team full of veteran players that know each others style. With 12 returning players I think anything is possible with this group.”
Three-year starter and captain Nathan Lefeld will help lead the charge for the Panthers. Named First Team All-Conference, Second Team All-District, and TCN Defensive MVP last season, he led team in scoring in 2019.
Hunter Harry, Lane Kerby and Walker McPeck all return as three-year starters for Tri-County North.
Harry is a two-year captain and was named Third Team All-District in 2019.
Kerby has played in goal for three years, is a previous captain and was Special Mention All-Conference in 2019.
McPeck was a recipient of the Kettering Health Network Sportmanship Award.
Connor Evans and Jackson Isaacs will also return for the Panthers.
“This will be Conner’s third year as a starter and he has really grown into an important role on the team,” Hemmerich said.
He added that expectations are high for Isaacs, who is a three-year starter and previous TCN offensive MVP, and that he believes this will be his standout season.
The one newcomer for North will be freshman Gavyn Boyd, who Hemmerich says has good, raw talent.
”Still working on multiple things but with his work and effort I see Gavyn being a great addition to the team for the future,” he said.
The goal for North right now is to reach at least a .500 record, but they will not stop there.
“We will not settle for this goal, though,” he said. “We set small goals, and once those goals are reached, we make new goals.”
South looking to continue momentum
Twin Valley South will be looking to further improve after delivering on a record-breaking 10-win season in 2019.
“Last season we broke the school record for wins with a record of 10-6-1,” coach Clay Young said. “I think our schedule this season will be more difficult than the previous season, but I also think we have more talent. We did lose some talented seniors last year, but you can see the amount of impact players that we are returning far outweighs the players we lost to graduation.”
The Panthers will have no shortage of talent returning to their roster with five starting seniors including forward Brayden Marker, central attacking midfielder Logan Davis, central defensive midfielder Aidan London, forward Luke Petersen and center back Stetson Raybourn suiting up for Twin Valley South this season.
“Brayden is one of our captains this season,” Young said. “He is a 4-year varsity starter. He was voted one of the top 12 players in Miami Valley Division III Boys last season. He was All Miami-Valley West Second Team as a freshman and sophomore. He has accounted for 30 goals and 15 assists in his career at TVS.”
Davis and London make up the other two captains, and Young said that Davis is a great leader and has worked hard this off season to make the most of his senior year and that London, a four-year varsity letterman, is a great teammate and can play pretty much any position on the field.
“Luke was second on the team in scoring last season with eight goals, and he makes a lot happen for us offensively,” Young said. “We are expecting big things out of Luke for his senior year.”
He added that Stetson was a starter for the Panthers last season defensively and that he has grown a lot since his freshman season, showing dedication to the sport and putting in many hours before and after practice to get better at his craft.
Along with the returning starters, Young is looking forward to the contributions of senior center back Justin Evans, junior goalkeeper Will Jerdon and sophomore midfielder Jake Sarver.
“Justin was a starter last year,” he said. “Justin played outside mid and he played defensive back for us. Justin is very versatile in his ability to play multiple positions on the field.”
Jerdon has been South’s starting goalkeeper the past two seasons, and Young said that he has a great work ethic and has some of the best foot skills on the team, and they expect for him to get some field time this season to help with depth.
“Jake was the only freshman that started every game he played last year,” Young said. “He played forward and midfield for us last season, but he can play anywhere on the field. He has a great soccer mind and is very knowledgeable about the game. He has put in a lot of time over the off season and has improved a ton.”
Outside of the starters and other key playmakers for the Panthers, Young said that sophomore outside midfielders Easton Kurtz and Mason Hundley as well as junior outside midfielder Zander Hale will have a big impact on the team.
“Easton started a lot of games for us last season,” he said. “He is a great team player and very knowledgeable of the game of soccer. He has worked hard at improving his foot skills for this upcoming season.”
He said that Hundley started a lot of games for the Eagles in 2019, and that he is unique because he is the only left footed player on the team.
“Mason’s greatest strength is his ability to move off the ball and he gets up and down the field,” he said. “This kid never gets tired. As a coach, you wish you had 100 of this kid.”
Hale earned his varsity letter as a freshman and sophomore, and Young said that he has improved a lot since his freshman year and has a great understanding of the game in addition to helping put his teammates in great positions to be successful.
Despite the amount of returning talent for Twin Valley South this season, Young cautioned that they will face tough competition in the league this year.
“With that being said, we do play in a very difficult league,” he added. “Bethel, Newton, and Miami East have always had very strong soccer programs. You always see those guys competing for sectional and district titles year after year. Tri-County North is a rival game, so that game is always a very tough physical game. They tied us once last year, and we beat them 1-0 at their place. So we know what to expect when we play them, and that is going to be a very hard nose, grind it out type of game.”
Young believes that they have a possibility of making it to a district final this season if they continue to work hard, trust each other and stay clear of injuries.
”I am always very optimistic and have high expectations for my teams, even in seasons where we may not have as much talent,” he said.
He said that coming off of their 10-6-1 season, he believes they can have another successful year in 2020.
”We have really grown this program in the five years that I have been here,” he said. “We have a tremendous group of seniors this year and the sky’s the limit. If we continue to work hard and work together as a team then our team potential is limitless. I think it’s going to be a fun season, and I am very optimistic about this season.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles