Men’s Soccer Pre-Season Preview
Special to bluedevilathletics.org
Jon Huff ‘03
One way to draw attention is to win one of the toughest conferences in the state for a second straight year. This fall, all eyes in the Greater Cleveland Conference will be on Brunswick. Not that the team is worried too much. They have their own goals they are locked on.
“One of the biggest things we focused on in the off-season is we have to block out the extra noise and focus on what do,” head coach Ben Dotson said. “If we do that then we’ll be ok. Last year we had a song that really described the season and really held strong with the boys. It was a song about contagious attitude. This year’s positive thought is about blocking out that additional noise and focusing on what we’re talking about and where we’re going. If we handle our internal business I think we can be very successful.”
The Blue Devils return off a solid season, but one that still left the team unfulfilled. A 12-4-2 regular season record was nice, along with the 7-0 record that clinched another GCC title. But a 2-1 loss in the district semifinal to old foe Medina ended the season earlier than Dotson and the squad hoped.
Of course that’s all in the past, and Brunswick is ready to take lessons learned into the new season. That starts at the back with goalkeeper Gavyn Ernst. The sophomore steps into the box with a solid foundation under him, and around him, after gelling with the team last year.
“It built up a lot of confidence for me coming into this pre-season,” Ernst said. “[The team makes] it a lot easier with their support. They always keep my head up and pump me up before games. It’s made it really easy for me this year. Last year if I made a mistake my head went down pretty quick. This year I’m trying to stay confident and do my best at the back.”
Ernst doesn’t have to look far for that support. The Brunswick back line will also provide the team’s backbone. Seniors Sean Tarbuck, Aaron Ogorzaly, Nathan Bohrer and Ryan McConnell all return to give stability in a defense that earned five shutouts and gave up only 24 goals last year. Ogorzaly and Bohrer both earned First Team, All-GCC honors for their 2018 efforts.
“That’s a seriously intimidating backline that is organized and has been playing together since they were six years old,” Dotson said. “You can’t replace that, you can’t teach that, that kind of experience together. I think they will be the core of the team. Behind them, Gavyn Ernst has had a phenomenal off-season and I think he will take big steps as a sophomore.”
So the defense is good. But where will the goals come from after losing All-American Nick Felician to graduation? Felician notched 26 goals for the Blue Devils last season.
Never mind that. Dotson believes he will see goals by committee with the likes of sophomore Cole Parete, junior Justin Hagler and senior Garrett Shay.
“We have two fantastic younger players [in Parete and Hagler],” Dotson said. “One made all-conference as a freshman and one made all-conference and All-Gazette as a sophomore. Those two guys have been on fire all pre-season, I think they did fantastic. Combining with Garrett Shay, they will form a pretty formidable front three that makes for a much more fluid offense this season which we’re excited to watch.”
Senior leadership comes in midfield with senior captain Ryan Utrup, the glue of the team in Dotson’s opinion. Utrup and Ogorzaly will serve as the examples for the younger players and be the calming influence.
Junior Andrew Miranda joins Utrup in the midfield, providing creativity and a holding presence for the Blue Devils. Sophomore Logan Scherer has impressed so far with his on-the-ball ability, and Dotson is excited to see how he develops through the fall. Juniors Ryan Craska and Tyler Hudy will act as sparks off the bench in super-sub roles.
One issue that put a damper on pre-season hopes is injury. Utrup and Bohrer are coming off of knee surgeries. Senior Collin Parete is recovering from a hamstring injury. Also spending time in the recovery room are seniors Tyler Brosky and Nate Musto.
“Collin has scored some big goals in his career,” Dotson said. “He had a big goal against Strongsville last year. He’s going to be that utility guy. He’s strong, he’s big, he’s athletic. We’re excited to see what he can do when he can step into a starting job. Unfortunately, we have two other seniors in Tyler Brosky and Nate Musto who are both out injured now. They are both great program kids who have busted their tails to get to this point in their career. We’re excited to have them back soon to see what they can do on the field.”
The Blue Devils aren’t going to focus too much on injuries or who they don’t have. It seems to be Brunswick’s style, finding guys to step in to fill those holes. It worked last year…why not again?
“It’s a mentality thing,” Ogorzaly said. “Everyone has a desire to go in and do their best. If one kid comes out for some reason, another one wants to step up and fill that spot. Everyone is working. We’re all pushing each other and everyone wants a spot so we’re all fighting for it, but as a team.”
That mentality is boiled down to one word for the Blue Devils.
“We use a word, ‘contagious,’” Hagler said. “Everything is contagious so we have a good work effort, everyone is going to work hard and everyone is going to work towards the goal and it’s just contagious and you just got to stay positive.”
“It starts with the coaching and works down through the captains,” Cole Parete said. “It’s contagious through the whole team. That’s why we use that word.”
That contagiousness will be needed in GCC play with the likes of Strongsville, Medina, Shaker and others ready to knock off the Blue Devils. The team knows the challenge ahead and is prepared to take it on.
“We’re going to have to work a lot harder,” Utrup said, “which we have been all pre-season. We’re going to be working hard, all together, and that’s a big part of how we’re going to be successful all season.”
Brunswick isn’t looking too far ahead yet. The focus now is on game one. First up is Padua on Aug. 17 as part of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Friday Night Futbol. The team will play as part of a doubleheader with the Brunswick girls. There will be the band and cheerleaders and soccer under the lights.
“We have some new black jerseys we’re going to debut with Friday Night Futbol and we’re all looking forward to it,” Utrup said. “It’s going to be different on a Friday night, with our first game. Hopefully there will be a lot of people there. It’s going to be special.”