Landon Troyer photos
The West Holmes Knights’ boys soccer team has faced a brutal early-season schedule that has left them with more losses than victories, and head coach Dave Zimmerly knows they have been through a gauntlet. The only problem is in an Ohio Cardinal Conference littered with really good teams, there will be little rest for the Knights as they tread lightly through a tough slate of action this season.
“The OCC is just brutal,” Zimmerly said of the league. “Are we going to win the OCC? To do so we would have to go through five really, really great programs, so the focus is going to be on getting better and better as the season goes along because we are going to get challenged.”
The Knights two most recent contests saw them split with a solid victory over Tusky Valley, a regional qualifier last year, before falling to OCC rival Wooster 3-0 in a Sept. 4 game at West Holmes High School.
In the win over the Trojans, the Knights got scores from Carson Yoder, Grant Miller and Jackson Oliver before Tusky Valley was saddled with an own-goal for the fourth and final score on the night. It was a good way to respond to a rough game versus Lexington.
“After the Lexington game, where we struggled, it was nice to come back to get a win over Tusky Valley,” Zimmerly said. “The one thing we want to do is not get too wrapped up in wins and losses because we are a young team and we are trying to build a program. We are young, and we have a lot of fight, and there are times when you watch us play and you can tell we are getting it. We talk about working together, whether it is on defense or attacking. We want to get everyone on the same page.”
Zimmerly said his team played with a lot of passion against Lexington, but even as they pressed, they suffered far too many unforced errors and turned the ball over too much to get any kind of momentum on offense. With a veteran and talented Lex team, those types of turnovers often turn into scoring opportunities for the Minutemen, and that was the case in the 7-0 loss.
However, Zimmerly said they went back to their principles against Tusky Valley, and the results were positive.
“We put together a great run of 20 minutes to end the first half and the first 20 minutes to start the second half,” Zimmerly said. “You could see glimpses. This team has a great deal of potential, and we want to use every game as a learning tool to get better daily.”
Zimmerly said in the Wooster game he watched his team move the ball well and accomplish some nice things, but he also saw a young team going through some five-minute stretches where it was hurting itself. He also said Wooster has plenty of quality talent, enough so that an early score in the sixth minute by Joe Stoll put some doubt in his mind.
“We were playing kind of open, and I was worried it might be one of those 10-0-type games,” Zimmerly said. “But then we settled in and played pretty well. Again, we saw those glimpses that make me excited about what we are going to be seeing in four weeks.”
Wooster’s Seth Schoenfeld then took a long ball and went one on one with Knights’ keeper Brendon Yoder for a goal to make it 2-0 in the 31st minute, and Stoll found Andrew Martinez for the clincher with a nice pass in the 62nd minute.
“It was nice to see us generate some good chances and finish tonight,” Wooster head coach J.P. Lytle said. “We put a lot of shots on goal tonight, and we have been working hard on putting more shots away when we get the chance. I think this team can be really good. We just need to get everything together.”
Lytle said they have concentrated on getting their forwards to work together to cause problems for opposing defenses, and Stoll and Martinez did that well in this one. Wooster generated a whopping 25 shots with 17 of those on goal, meaning Yoder made 14 stops in goal for the Knights.
Lytle said this was a quality win for his club, and it was good to post a win. Now 2-4, Wooster has played some terrific teams including losses to state powers Brunswick, Kidron Central Christian and Lexington, to whom they lost 2-1.
“We want that great competition, and we have some more great teams on the horizon with teams like Green, Wadsworth and Copley coming up, so we don’t get many nights off, but we want it that way so it gets us ready for the end of the year,” Lytle said.
Lytle, who starred as a Wooster High midfielder and graduated in 2007, went on to play collegiately at Valparaiso University, where he moved to defender. He was excited to come home to take the reins at his alma mater and is amped up about the caliber of talent this team possesses.
“I’ve always dreamed about coming back to Wooster and coaching to give back to a program that gave me so much,” Lytle said.