Erika Kleinholz has a year under her belt as girls head coach at North Olmsted and her presence is starting to show in the Eagles’ improved play. A major part of her coaching philosophy is fitness and this year’s Eagles are nothing if not fit.
Don’t take her word for it.
“We’re more fit than last year, definitely,” said junior midfielder Erika Wilhelm. “We don’t look forward to her (Kleinholz’s) practices, because it’s a lot of running and hard work. We never leave without sweating.”
She’s right, said Kleinholz, former Elyria Catholic and University of Michigan star.
“We’re running tomorrow,” she said Wednesday. “That’s important because we gotta be fit. I think they’re much better at that than last year. We’re more fit. We’re playing with more heart and more intensity and that’s nice to see.”
Incidentally, Kleinholz has added an old friend to her staff this year, Chrissy Abbott, a North Olmsted starter who went on to earn All-American honors at West Virginia. Kleinholz and Abbott didn’t play against each other in high school (both graduated in 2000), but played club and Olympic Development Program soccer together.
“She’s excellent, she’s brought a lot this year,” Kleinholz said. “She’s got a lot of experience and she’s good at getting after them (Eagles players), getting in their face.”
Wildcats win first
Keystone’s boys earned first-year coach Mike Cracas his first victory on Wednesday afternoon. The Wildcats topped Brookside 3-1 in a Patriot Athletic Conference match.
“Our kids played very well,” Cracas said. “They’re in the process of learning a whole new system. It’s more of a possession style of play and they’re starting to make progress with it. I know Brookside is a little down this year and there’s no way we’re going to run the score up. So we had a chance to give a lot of kids some playing time.”
Cracas said the staff promoted a half-dozen freshmen to the varsity squad for the game and several of them logged up to 20 minutes on the field. The Wildcats got a goal from sophomore Ryan Valentik, who also assisted on a goal by Cody Falatic. Josh Hack scored the third. Goalkeeper Scott Beverage had five saves.
Keystone returned 11 players from 2006, but only four of them saw action in 10 games, Cracas said. The good news is the Wildcats’ soccer numbers are up this season. Keystone has a JV team for the first time in seven years.
Ryan Conner came back to Lorain County for a brief visit Tuesday. The former Firelands boys and girls coach is now the boys coach at Solon, and his Comets pinned a 4-1 loss on the Pioneers.
Conner was asked why soccer teams in the eastern suburbs are more successful at tournament time than many teams in Lorain and western Cuyahoga counties.
“The programs have been around longer on the east side,” he said. “Those schools have older and more established feeder systems. They have older and stronger soccer traditions. It seems like the farther west you go, the younger the programs are. But the west side will catch up as soccer becomes more established out here.”
Conner and his family moved to Aurora from Wellington after he got coaching and teaching jobs at Solon. Conner led the Comets to a 17-4 record and a spot in the Division I regional final last fall. They lost 1-0 to Stow-Munroe Falls, the eventual state champion.
Speaking of Elyria-Solon, Pioneers goalkeeper Jared Backs played as well Tuesday afternoon as any keeper we’ve seen this season. But Backs is a relative newcomer in goal. Prior to last season, the lanky senior was a defender.
“We needed a keeper,” he said. “The coaches said I was tall and looked like I could keep balls from going in, so they put me in goal.”
He’s learned quickly without so much as attending a goalie camp. Backs, a tri-captain, had 13 saves against Solon.
Contact Bob Daniels at email@example.com.