Lincolnview soccer coach Anson Moody has been presented with an unusual challenge.
In the spring, after determining that there were not enough girls for a separate team, Moody was informed that Lincolnview’s two squads would be merged for at least this season with the hope of bringing back the girls team in the future. So, when the Lancers take the pitch for their 6 p.m. season opener Friday at home against Ottoville, they will be coed.
“I’m excited to have a large group of athletes to work with this season,” said Moody, who has 10 girls on the combined junior varsity and varsity teams. “The chemistry is great. Players are pushing each other to become better athletes.
“I think we should have a solid core group of starters. I’m excited that the boys and girls teams have meshed so well together. Everyone is out there competing for a varsity spot. Nobody’s position is a given position.”
Those returning for the Lancers include first team all-Northwest Conference and Division III all-district selections seniors Jared Pollock and Kyle Wallis, NWC second team member sophomore Clayton Leeth and NWC honorable mention choices seniors Raegan Boley and sophomores Hanna Young, Creed Jessee and Landon Moody. In 2017, the boys team finished tied for third and the girls were seventh in the conference standings.
Here is a look at the boys teams teams by conference.
Western Buckeye League
Six of the eight letter winners returning for defending WBL champion and Division II regional finalist Elida were starters last season, including all-league and all-district second team selection senior Caleb Jones, third team all-WBL pick junior Draek Littler and all-league honorable mention pick sophomore Seth Mahlmeister.
“Our goal will be to train well and improve every day,” coach Tommy Thomas said. “Development, growth and maturity will be big keys for us this season. Our returning players will play a big role in leading the younger players this season. We’re optimistic and ready to get after it this year.”
Kenton finished two points behind Elida in the league standings and return 15 letter winners, including first team all-WBL selections seniors Drew Hoppe and Landon Bartlett, who was also a D-II second team all-state selection, senior Hayden Hicks (all-league second team), senior Isaac Mendez and junior Patrick Bartlett (both third team all-league) and senior Luke Woodruff (all-WBL honorable mention). Landon Bartlett and Hicks were also first team D-II all district and Patrick Bartlett was all-district honorable mention.
“We have a veteran squad returning with some high expectations,” coach Jamie Bartlett said. “The WBL is extremely tough and to have to advance in the postseason through the WBL makes it quite the gauntlet.”
St. Marys, which was third in the league in 2017, has 15 letter winners back, including second team all-WBL pick senior Howie Spencer and all-league honorable mention member junior Max Mielke.
Fourth-place finisher Shawnee has nine letter winners back, including seniors Ryan McGuire, a D-II all-district second team) and Ethan Swallow (each second team all-WBL), senior Cameron Tenwalde (third team all-league and all-district honorable mention).
Nine letter winners return for Ottawa-Glandorf, including senior Ethan White (all-WBL second team), senior Nolan Unterbrink (all-WBL third team) and junior Ethan Alt (all-WBL honorable mention). Unterbrink and White were also D-III all-district honorable mention.
“After losing 13 seniors, we have a lot of spots to fill in,” O-G coach Kyle Metzger said. “We have a good group of guys with varsity experience, but we will need other guys to step up for us to be successful. We have a hard working group that has great team chemistry. I believe that one of our best strengths will be our defense this season.”
Tieing O-G for fifth place in the 2017 league standings was Wapak, which has 16 letter winners returning, senior Luke Beach (all-WBL first team), senior Aaron Good (all-WBL third team) and senior Hunter Coffey (all-WBL honorable mention).
“Our squad is extremely experienced as we return eight starters from last season.” coach Keith Rambin said. “With that experience also comes great leadership from our 12 seniors. Offensively, we return 44 goals from last season’s starters as well as our entire midfield. Our goal this season is to simply stay healthy and hopefully be able to compete in every match.”
Celina finished seventh in the league last year and have back 10 letter winners, including senior Jim Aquino, who was on the all-WBL third team.
Bath, which was ninth in the league in 2017, has eight letter winner returning.
“After losing 15 seniors we are looking to develop as a team with all of the sophomores and juniors,” coach David Briggs said.
Van Wert hopes to bounce back after going 0-9 in the league games last season.
Defending conference champ Bluffton returns 13 letter winners, including first team all-NWC selections seniors Jesse Montel and Luke Young (both D-III all-district honorable mention) and junior Matt Daws (all-NWC first team), senior Dakota Clymer (all-NWC second team) and sophomore Simon Derstine (all-NWC honorable mention).
Coach Stephen Smucker said the Pirates are strong at passing and controlling the ball and should be competitive thoughout their schedule.
Seniors Chris Reyes and Noah Garmon earned first team all-NWC honors for Ada, which finished second in the conference.
Third-place finisher Allen East has 10 starters returning, including senior Christian Hedrick and junior Bryce Wilcox (both second team all-conference) and all-NWC honorable mention picks seniors Dalton Clum and Ethan Reichenbach and junior Jack Williams. Wilcox and Clum were also D-III all-district honorable mention.
Coach Jason Calvert that the Mustangs had low roster numbers last year and couldn’t have a junior varsity. This year they have a full squad and plan to play some JV matches.
“This year having 24 players ready to go we expect to be much more competive,” Calvert said.
Those back for Paulding, which finished fifth in the conference, include honorable mention all-NWC selection senior Charles Clapsaddle.
“What I like about this team is they are scrappy, determined and hard-working and a lot of fun to be around,” coach David Clapsaddle said. “I expect the boys to play with energy and determination, to be competitive in all their matches, and to demonstrate the tenacity, energy and teamwork they will need to continue to progress.”
Spencerville, which was sixth in the 2017 standings, had senior Jacob Litsey and sophomore Grant Hackworth receive all-conference honorable mention selection.
“The Spencerville High School soccer program continues to build.” coach Josh Van Gorder said. “With a balance of veteran leadership and fresh newcomers, the team is setting it’s sights on a season of continual improvement. The boys are working hard to develop solid soccer fundamental skills as well as foster pride in their team, their school, and their community.
West Ohio Soccer League
First place Botkins saw sophomore Zane Paul and Connor Smock named first team all-league and senior Cody Meyer and sophomore Nathan Schneider make second team all-WOSL. Second place Jackson Center had two 2018 graduates on the first team and another on the second.
Fourth place Temple Christian has eight letter winners returning.
“We are going to rely heavily on our upperclassmen to lead this group after graduating a solid senior class last season,” coach BJ McPheron said. “There will be several new players relied upon to play a lot of different positions on the field. Working hard to get better every day and outworking our opponents will be the keys to victory throughout the season.”
Fifth place Lima Central Catholic had senior Michael Briggs and junior goalie Jack Zerante on the all-WOSL second team and receiving D-III all-district honorable mention recognition.
Sixth place New Knoxville has four letter winners back, including all-WOSL first team member and D-III all-district honorable mention pick senior Joseph Baende and all-league honorable mention selections senior Zach Davis and junior Chris Covert.
“Our team will be a mixed bag of returning players and a lot of incoming freshmen,” coach Matt Stetler said. “We lost six seniors to graduation, and they all played a big role in our defense. That void will have to be filled by players who have not played at the varsity level. Our success will rely on how well those kids improve on a daily basis.”
Allen East and Lincolnview left the league at the end of last season after finishing seventh and ninth respectively. Spencerville remains a member.
Putnam County League
Continental, the league co-champs in 2017 with Kalida has nine returning letter winners including second team all-PCL honorees seniors Konnor Okuley and Jarret Keck and senior Alex Hale (all-PCL honorable mention).
“We are looking to build on a good season from last year, however, we lost a big core of seniors,” coach Brian Stegbauer said. “The returning lettermen will have their hands full trying to fill shoes from last year. This year’s freshman class has a great bunch of kids that will help fill in the gaps from the graduating class.”
In 2017, Kalida saw senior Grant Laudick earn first-team all-PCL and D-III all-district honorable mention recognition, junior Brayden Recker and senior Keith Doepker make the all-league second team and junior Evan Roebke receive all-PCL honorable mention recognition.
Third place Ottoville has 10 letter winners back, including all-PCL honorable mention picks juniors Drew Fisher and Joe Miller.
“We have a young, determined group that is ready for the challenges ahead of them,” coach Dustin Markward said. “Everyone on this team has a good mind-set and confidence to have a successful season.”
Fourth-place Miller City had senior Aiden Searfoss make first team all-PCL and second team D-III district, senior Isaac Fillinger on the second team and sophomore Zach Fillinger earn all-PCL honorable mention recognition.
Fifth-place Fort Jennings saw senior Derek Luersman make the all-PCL second team and seniors Alex Wieging and Nolan Grote receive all-league honorable mention recognition. Luersman and Grote were also honorable mention D-III all district.
After finishing seventh in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference in 2017, Lima Senior has more than a dozen letter winners back, including all-TRAC honorable mention recipient senior Cole Mericle.
“The Spartans return this year as a young team with a small number of upperclassman to lead them.” coach Brad Brock said. Having lost only a few seniors from last season, they hope to use the skills they have learned to make improvements in the 2018 season. We have a talented group of young athletes to make up the Lima Senior Spartans team this season. We are playing with a combination of a few experienced upperclassmen and a lot of young potential.”
Cory-Rawson is coming off a fifth-place finish in the North Central Ohio Association where Ada finished fourth.