Anyone who has seen soccer at Bay’s Memorial Stadium in recent years knows that after about a month, the condition of the playing surface is abominable.
Scores of varsity, JV and youth football games, plus boys and girls varsity, JV and youth soccer matches are played on it in a short period of time. The result has been, in a word, mud. This even after Brad Friedel, Bay Village’s world-class goalkeeper, made complete resodding a gift to his alma mater two or three years ago.
It has all changed for the better. The Rockets now have a beautiful new artificial surface which was completed Labor Day weekend and which the Bay soccer team used for just the third time Wednesday night.
It cost more than $600,000 — not a dime of it tax money. And, according to Rockets boys coach Bobby Dougherty, the new surface is the only one of its kind approved by FIFA. For the uninitiated, FIFA is the commonly used French acronym for the International Federation of Association Football, which is nominally the governing body of organized soccer, based in Switzerland.
“I keep falling asleep and I wake up and I go, ‘Is it still here?’” said Dougherty. “Is it just a dream? Is it a joke? But what a difference. It’s amazing to play on and we can do so much more on it. We can play on it the year round and that’s the nice part of it.”
Comets on a roll
Amherst’s girls are off to their best start in years. Under first-year coach Roseanne Kuncel, they’ve won six of their first seven games, which is more than they won all last season. In addition, two of the wins were against Southwestern Conference opponents. The Lady Comets won no SWC games last fall.
“The girls are really putting it together,” said Kuncel, the former JV coach. “They’re playing well defensively, the girls in back are bringing the ball up well and spreading out the offense around midfield. Their communication is much better and they’re starting to realize their skills and talent.
“(Kelsey) Bronson and (Hannah) Conn are playing great in the middle, (Brittany) Cruz is outstanding in goal and Angelica (Meggitt) and (Kelsey) Pekare are strong as usual up top. And we’re really deep,” Kuncel said. “We can give the girls a break, let them catch their breath and freshen up and we don’t lose a thing.”
The Comets’ lone loss has been to Avon Lake, which last season won its first district championship and advanced to the regional at Ashland.
“We wondered what we didn’t do right in that game,” Kuncel said, “and we learned that we have to come on strong and be aggressive from the get-go.”
Now the Comets face a reality check. After hosting North Ridgeville on Monday, their next four games are against SWC opponents and three are on the road. They play Sept. 22 at Brecksville, host North Olmsted on Sept. 26, travel to Westlake on Oct. 3 and to Berea on Oct. 13.
Bay’s boys have lost three soccer matches, but make no mistake, this is a very strong team.
“We just got off to kind of a funky start,” said the Rockets’ Dougherty. “We’ve played very good teams and we’ve given up a soft goal or two.”
Bay and North Ridgeville each had a 3-3 overall record after the Rockets’ 6-1 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday night. But there’s a difference. Bay’s losses were to Chagrin Falls, Youngstown Mooney and University School. In short, the level of competition was a smidge higher than Ridgeville’s.
“Obviously with a good team, you can’t do that,” Dougherty said. “Maybe it’s a little bit falling asleep or coming out a little bit soft and then we’ll turn it on. One of the things we’ve talked about is we have to come out faster, harder, quicker and make an impression from the get-go as opposed to kind of swinging the ball around and keeping possession.”
This year’s edition of Rockets soccer compares favorably to the 2005 team, the Division II state runner-up after a 2-1 shootout loss to Bexley in the state title match.
“This is as good a group as I’ve had since then,” Dougherty said.
This year’s team is deep, as most Bay teams are. For the last 25 minutes of the North Ridgeville match, Dougherty had three freshmen back as defenders.
“We played Alex Petro, Tony Passalaqua and Will Irvine as our three backs, and I played them 25 minutes back there,” Dougherty said. “You wouldn’t have known they were freshmen and that’s what we’re looking for. That’s the future of our back line.”
Yep. And that’s why Bay soccer is always competitive.
Rumors have surfaced that Bill Little, Wellington’s highly successful veteran boys coach, will retire at season’s end.
“It’s a rumor till you hear it from me,” Little said earlier this week.
Actually, Little, a teacher at Wellington’s McCormick Middle School, has announced that he will retire from the classroom. He will assess his personal situation at season’s end and make a coaching decision then.
It would be great to see the season end for Little and his Dukes at Columbus Crew Stadium the second weekend in November.
It could happen. The Dukes are loaded. They’ve also moved up to Division II from Division III, which will put them into faster company than in the past. Well, it will put them in the same division as Bay (see above).
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PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Chris Schmittle, Amherst
Last week: Schmittle scored two goals in a 4-1 victory over Firelands, had an assist in a 3-1 win over Olmsted Falls and assisted on a goal in the Comets’ 4-2 loss to Avon Lake.
Bio: No gee-whiz numbers? Not necessary, said coach Brett Thompson. Schmittle has developed quickly in his first varsity season, doing what coaches call the “little things” that helped Amherst get off to a 5-2 start. Among them: winning 50-50 balls, pressuring opposing defenders and creating problems for opponents with movement away from the ball. He’s also a sprinter and long jumper on the track team, plays club soccer for the Erie Football Club and likes his math courses.
Megan Repas, Avon
Last week: Repas scored twice in each of the Eagles’ victories over Vermilion and Columbia and nailed the tying goal in a big West Shore Conference tie with Rocky River.
Bio: One of the area’s top offensive players, Repas had 10 goals and three assists after eight games. Scored 21 goals and 49 total points as a junior. She’s also a member of the track team, plays Olympic Development Program soccer, is a member of the Key Club, Varsity Club and has been a class officer. Repas is a good student and enjoys studying history.