September 3, 2014

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Prep soccer notes: Family values key Lake Ridge’s quick start

Oh, brother, is Lake Ridge off to a good start.
With three sets of brothers making up their core, the Lions have won eight of their first nine games. A big factor is a solid defense and the play of goalkeeper Diego Chahda, whose goals-against average is under 1.0 — and who doesn’t have a brother on the team.
Other factors are an offense able to finish scoring chances and midfielders who are good at transition. This is where brothers come in.
The leading scorer is junior Adam Severs, who has 13 goals and 28 total points. His twin brother, Evan, is the starting center midfielder. Second-leading scorer is senior Ryan Cross, with nine goals and 20 total points. His brother is junior sweeper Rhett Cross.
Then there are the Ibrahim brothers, Sami, the assists leader with eight, and outside midfielder Hazem.
“We’re fortunate to have these guys,” said first-year coach Ryan MacRaild. “They’ve been playing together for years, so they communicate very well. Actually, we’re down a set of brothers this season. We had four last year.”
The Lions’ record includes a win over a good Oberlin team.
“It has been a great start, but the meat of our schedule is coming up,” said MacRaild, the coach at Normandy last year.
For sure. The Lions have three big tests coming up: at home against Lutheran West this afternoon; at Wickliffe, the state’s seventh-ranked Division III team, on Tuesday night, and at undefeated Wellington in a 5 p.m. match on Oct. 4.

Middies improving

Midview’s girls have a sub-.500 record at the moment, but their fans have reason to be optimistic. First-year head coach Josh Moore is enthusiastic about the talent on his roster and the fact that it’s a young team.
It’s been good defensively through nine games. Although the Middies were outshot and defeated 3-0 by Elyria Catholic on Monday night, the defense kept them within a goal for more than 50 minutes. Had they been able to finish some of the many scoring chances they had, it might have been a different story.
“There have been only two or three games where we’ve been outshot,” said Moore. “We’ve outshot teams 31-5 and some teams even worse than that. But we’re working. We’re young. Look at the roster and there’s not a lot of seniors.”
There are just three senior starters: defender Alannah Sword, defender-midfielder Kara Stark and goalkeeper Lesley Booher. Two freshmen midfielders started against EC, twins Ann and Grace Turner. A third freshman, Grace Demyan, also logged a lot of time.
One of the area’s best defensive players is Ashley Reeves who’s just a junior. And she’s versatile.
“At the beginning of the season, she started up top for us,” said Moore. “But we needed some speed and that’s something Ashley has. She’s probably one of the best defenders I’ve seen in the area, as far as solo play.
“I’ve also been impressed with Alannah on our left outside,” Moore said. “She usually does not let anything down her side if she can help it. She’s a senior this year and that’s a big plus for us.”
Demyan and the Turner twins, incidentally, are also good softball players who were on a couple of Grafton Pharmacy’s OGSO state championship teams in recent summers.

For the defense

Keystone’s boys needed a goalkeeper, so first-year coach Mike Cracas nominated junior defender Tim Giesel. Cracas’ instincts were on the money. The Wildcats are well below .500 again, but Cracas said that takes nothing away from Giesel and the way he has adapted to the new position.
“I think he’s one of the top keepers in Lorain County,” said Cracas, a former Avon Lake and Defiance College player. “Tim has come up with some very big saves. And he’s a very good leader on the field. I couldn’t be happier with him.”
He might be a career defender, but Giesel also has offensive skills. The ’Cats were down to Fairview 4-0 recently, so Cracas took Giesel out of the net and put him up top. He scored a goal and assisted on the other in Keystone’s 5-2 loss.
Things are looking up for the Keystone program. The Wildcats have Giesel back next year along with two promising forwards in freshman Drew Fitzgerald and sophomore Ryan Valentic.
Also, Keystone’s numbers are up. Cracas said 29 players reported for practice last month. That’s the most ever and enough to give the school its first boys JV soccer team.

Net gain

Wellington’s high school soccer facility is evolving into one of the best in Lorain County.
The Dukes’ soccer-only field began as just that — an open field behind the school, lined for soccer with a couple sections of bleachers along the south sideline. Over the years, the soccer boosters have furnished a small concession-ticket building near the west end of the field and an electric scoreboard, also at the west end. Last season, the boosters provided Olympic-style goals and this season have outdone themselves. They donated chain-link fencing around three sides of the field and 21-foot-high net backstops behind each goal. The poles are set nearly 4 feet into the ground.
The boosters have also erected a wooden tower on the south sideline from which varsity games can be taped by the team and local cable television.
“All we need now are lights,” said Dale Huelsman, longtime soccer booster. Exactly. Lights and a Jumbotron to enlighten the crowd with replays. Did you know you can rent a Jumbotron? You can.

Coaches poll

The Associated Press no longer carries statewide polls in soccer and some other sports. However, the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association conducts a weekly poll that it posts on its Web site every Monday.
No area teams are ranked in the top 10 in any of the three boys and two girls divisions this week.
In the boys polls, St. Edward is ranked first in Division I, Columbus DeSales in Division II and Kidron Central Christian in Division III. Of interest, Medina is fifth and undefeated Solon, under the direction of former Firelands coach Ryan Conner, fourth in Division I.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Strongsville and Medina girls are ranked first and third, respectively, in Division I. Closest to home in Division II is second-ranked Hathaway Brown.
Contact Bob Daniels at soccer@bobdaniels.info.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK 

CHRISTIAN HUELSMAN, WELLINGTON
POSITION: Forward
YEAR: Senior
LAST WEEK: Huelsman scored the goal that defeated Oberlin 1-0 Wednesday. He had a hat trick against Northwestern, one goal against Lutheran West and four in the Dukes’ rout of Columbia.
BIO: The goal against Oberlin was the 125th of his career, moving him within three of former Lorain Catholic star Chris Dore and the No. 2 spot on the county’s all-time list. The record is 144 set by Billy Waters, also a former LC player. Huelsman is also a member of the basketball team and the fourth member of his family to play varsity athletics at Wellington. Brothers Norm and Nick and sister Lucille have gone before him.
LOOKING AHEAD: He expects to play college soccer, but is undecided as to where.

BRITTANY CRUZ, AMHERST

POSITION: Goalkeeper
YEAR: Senior
LAST WEEK: Cruz had two saves in the North Ridgeville game, three against Midview and nine against Avon. Her play is a big reason the Comets are off to a 7-1 start, their best in years. 
BIO: Cruz began turning heads as a freshman with her athletic play, and has been improving since. She had 45 saves — 5.6 a game — through the first eight matches. She is a co-captain and is good at working with younger players, especially the goalkeepers. “The saves she makes aren’t just routine,” said coach Roseanne Kuncel. “There’s a picture of her stretched out and totally horizontal making a save. The way she moves is incredible.”
LOOKING AHEAD: Cruz wants to play college soccer, but hasn’t decided where.