The time has come for area boys soccer teams to take to the pitch again.
Plenty of teams are looking to build off last season as the majority of the teams in the Star Beacon’s coverage area were playing with young rosters, leaving only one team with a winning record in 2012.
That team, Geneva (8-7-2), loses 12 lettermen while most area teams return the core of their team.
Following is breakdown of each team in the Star Beacon’s coverage area and how their coaches feel about their respective team’s chances.
Coach Rich Shields returns for his fourth season with the Spartans, who are coming of a 6-9-2 campaign in 2012.
Conneaut loses just four lettermen from last years team and returns six seniors who lettered last season — Dylan Campbell (midfielder), Dillon Griswold (defender), Kyle Sprinke (midfield), Mikey Teed (midfielder), Tommy Webb (goalie) and John Mannion (midfielder).
That group comprises half of the returning lettermen as junior midfielders Andrew Gibson, Tommy Manning and Jake Spees return as well as sophomores Kirk Jennings (midfielder), Tyee Stewart (forward) and Hunter McClintock (defender).
“In each game, we need to get out and control the ball,” Shields said. “A key to success for us this season is to maintain possession of the ball. With each possession our goal is to move the ball, make runs and create high percentage shot opportunities.
“We have an experienced group with an overall season goal of advancement in the state tournament.”
Conneaut remains without a conference and will play as an independent.
However, Shields said he looks forward to squaring off with the Spartans Ashtabula County rivals.
“Although we are not in a conference, we look forward to our rivalry games against county opponents,” he said. “We have games against Edgewood, Lakeside and Geneva. We expect competitive games with each of those opponents.”
Through strong play, Shields hopes his team catches the eye of a conference that will be interested in adding Conneaut.
“Our goal is to play strong and turn some heads with the hopes of an invite into a conference in the near future as we are the only school not in a conference for miles and miles,” he said.
The Warriors are coming of a difficult 2-12-2 campaign but are looking to improve under coach Kevin Santee and a strong core of returning players.
Edgewood lost five lettermen from last year’s squad but return 12, led by seniors Aaron Ball (defender), Erik Hodges (goalie) and Lance Butler (forward).
“I’m looking forward to the season as we are still a relatively young team but we have had a lot of positive energy and play during our presason workouts,” Santee said. “Keys for us will be to establish ball possession during matches so we may take more advantage of scoring opportunities and not have to be playing so much in our defensive third.
“On the other side of the ball or at least in transition from offense to defense we will need to put immediate pressure on the ball and get supporting players behind to defend.”
Santee has a strong group of juniors returning, led by midfielder Adam Heffner, Gian Englemen (forward), James Kulko (midfielder), Justyn Oliveraz (midfielder), Joseph Scarpetti (defender) and Joe Wimer (defender).
Also returning are sophomores Garrick Butler (midfeilder), Breyton Santee (forward) and Ben Spangler (defender).
This will be the final season Edgewood competes without a conference as the Warriors join the All-American Conference in the spring of 2014.
Overall, Santee looks forward to playing a difficult schedule this year.
“We are looking forward to playing all the schools,” he said. “We have some very tough competition and look forward to raising some of our individual and team play to meet the challenges ahead of us.
“This is a great group and many are very motivated in competing for these starting varsity spots.”
Although the Eagles have plenty to replace, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a rebuilding year under first-year coach Jeff Hull.
Hull still has a strong group of seniors including Antonio Simoes (forward), Tyler Hunt (midfielder), Chad Weisbarth (forward), Ryan Weisbarth (defender) and Josh Swanson (midfielder).
Still, Hull knows it’s no small task to replace that many lettermen.
“It will be difficult to replace 12 lettermen from last season,” he said. “Our team has been working hard this off season and is ready for the challenge. Our success this season will depend on how well our seniors can take over as leaders and help our underclassmen fill in the holes.”
Also returning are juniors Michael Ankrom (midfielder), Anthony Cardaman (defender) and Tyler Hobel (midfielder).
As far as the Premier Athletic Conference is concerned, in which Geneva went 4-2-1 last year, he expects it to be another tough season.
“The PAC is a strong conference for boys soccer,” he said. “If we continue to work hard I think we can play with the better teams in the conference and compete for a conference title.”
The Mustangs lose just three players from last year’s team and look to build of a 4-9-2 season with a large group of returning players.
Leading the pack are senior midfielders Zack Utz, Peter Trapp and Josh Furristal.
Defense looks to be the strength for coach Holly Hull’s team.
“Defense — we have a strong defense this year along with team work, hard work and a developing offense — we hope to be successful,” he said.
Also returning are juniors Baley Hull (midfielder), Dustyn Anderson (forward), Chelsa McArdle, Samantha Truckly (goalie), Justine Stugl (defender) and Nick Bukhammer (midfielder).
Add to that a large group of sophomores — Cedric Shutts (midfielder), Mike Miller (midfielder), Ashley Allman (forward), Max Overberger (midfielder), Jeffrey Russell (forward) and Taylor Huffman.
Behind the strength of her returning lettermen, Hull looks for the Mustangs to be more competitive in the NAC this season.
“We hope to be competitive in the NAC this season,” he said. “We are hoping for a winning record this year. We have a talented group of returning lettermen and a promising freshman class to help us attain our goals.”
In his second season with the Dragons, coach Andrew K. Austin is looking for his team to improve upon last year’s 3-13-1 record.
Back are seniors Floran Kololli, Andrew Steen and Jake Cimorelli as well as juniors Jordan Wallace, Trevor Bartone and sophomores Armend Kololli and Carlos Hernandez.
But the success of the season seems to rely on how the underclassmen perform, of which there are 15 looking to play varsity.
“We have a lot of youth this year and a very unselfish team,” he said. “If they respect and trust each other they can go for this season. Having a year under my belt, I know this program is headed in the right direction.
“Hard work, dedication and positive attitudes will lead to success this year.”
Austin did not comment on the PAC, a conference the Dragons finished eighth in last year going 0-6.
The only team that was hit harder by graduation than Geneva was likely the Blue Streaks, who lost nine lettermen, but returns seven, only two of which are upperclassmen — senior forward John Dahlhausen and junior midfielder Carter Ryuarcyzk.
Also returning for second-year coach Sue Blabolil are sophomores David Albert (midfielder), Aaron Markgraf (midfielder), Rimington Mann (defender), Peter Otterman (defender) and forward Brandon Terelmes.
For Blabolil, youth is the name of the game.
“For our alumni game, we only had one starter over 15 years old,” she said. “So, a big component will be whether we can match up to the physicality of older players.”
Blabolil didn’t comment on the PAC, but the Blue Streaks finished sixth in the league last year.