Seniors to key boys soccer team
With 12 returning players and nine seniors, experience should be a strength for the Westland High School boys soccer team, according to ninth-year coach Dan Heckler.
"We have 12 guys coming back and that's a lot of experience compared to usual," Heckler said. "Seniors make a strong team and we have a lot of seniors. That's a positive sign for us having a strong season."
The Cougars opened against Hamilton Township on Aug. 18 and visit Grove City Christian on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Westland begins OCC-Central Division play at home against Marysville on Aug. 28.
Last season, the Cougars finished 5-10-1 overall after losing to Hilliard Bradley 6-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. Westland had a first-round bye.
Leading the returning players should be senior goalkeeper Shawn Draper, who had 110 saves in his first season starting in goal last year. He was first-team all-league and third-team all-district.
"I'm hoping Shawn has an even better season this year," Heckler said. "He's older, smarter, he has more experience. He's worked hard and that's one reason why he's the team captain. I expect a lot out of him this season."
Also back are seniors Dylan Fernandez (forward), Jack Fischer (midfielder), Mustafa Farah (defender), Emmanuel Lopez (midfielder) and Brayan Montano (forward) and juniors Bachir Bah (midfielder), Jonah Cortes (defender), Kris Davies (midfielder), Eduardo Santiago (midfielder), Van Tha Tling (defender) and Van Thawng Uk (midfielder).
Other players are seniors Ibrahima Diallo (forward), Eric Quiroz (midfielder) and Carlos Perez (defender) and sophomores Jose Garcia (midfielder), Luke Klatt (defender) and Emmanuel Reyes (defender).
Westland lost its leading scorer from last season, forward Eduardo Perez (8 goals), to graduation.
"We don't like to talk about goals in terms of how many games we win," Heckler said. "We're looking to improve our game and making it more consistent. We play a good game when we're doing well. We're looking to making that more consistent."
Last season, Westland finished seventh (1-6) in the OCC-Central behind Upper Arlington (6-0-1), Dublin Coffman (5-1-1), Worthington Kilbourne (3-0-4), Hilliard Davidson (3-2-2), Hilliard Darby (2-3-2) and Thomas Worthington (2-3-2) and ahead of Central Crossing (0-7).
The Cougars' league win came against Central Crossing, 1-0. The teams play Oct. 9 at Westland.
As part of OCC realignment this summer, Marysville and Olentangy Liberty moved to the OCC-Central, replacing Darby and Kilbourne.
Heckler hopes his team can improve its play in the league, and he expects the addition of Liberty to make the league stronger. The Patriots played in the Division I state final last season, losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius 4-2.
"The OCC is definitely a strong conference all across the board, but there are a couple of strong divisions and I definitely think we're in one of the stronger ones," Heckler said. "Liberty is definitely championship quality stuff, but we're kind of used to that in this division."
Cooper, Herrara return to lead girls team
The girls soccer team has two key returning players in senior midfielder/forward Juliann Cooper and junior midfielder Keila Herrara.
Last season, Cooper was second-team all-league and Herrara, who scored 18 of the team's 20 goals, was honorable mention all-league.
The Cougars were 1-13 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Central.
Westland had a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament and lost to Dublin Jerome 10-0 in the second round. Jerome reached the state final, losing to Strongsville 1-0.
Westland's win came against Hamilton Township, 5-4.
Westland opened the season against West Jefferson on Aug. 18 and plays host to Whetstone on Saturday, Aug. 25.
The Cougars begin OCC-Central play Aug. 28 at Marysville.
Eighth-year coach Pat Ellis expects senior Melina Gaines to be the goalie.
Other seniors are Alina Antonyuk (midfielder/defender) and Karleigh Piper (midfielder).
Juniors Rachelle Marcum (midfielder) and Dani Miller (forward), sophomores Sarah Krepps (forward/midfielder) and Natalie Rock (defender) and freshman Camryn Moreno (midfielder/defender) also are looking to contribute.
"Our numbers are improving as far as the girls that are interested in coming out," Ellis said. "You can start to build a little more of a team that way."
Last season, the Cougars were eighth in the league behind Coffman (6-0-1), Davidson (5-0-2), Thomas (4-1-2), UA (3-2-2), Darby (2-3-2), Kilbourne (2-4-1) and Central Crossing (1-6).
"Given the way our schedule is, I could see us getting to .500," Ellis said. "In the OCC we want to finish as well as we can so that we can have nominations towards all-district, because we have the talent that I feel should be recognized at that level."
Football team to open against Crusaders
The football team opens Friday, Aug. 24, at home against the Columbus Crusaders.
Last season, the Cougars finished 1-9 in coach Steve White's first year. They defeated Linden-McKinley 23-8 in the opener.
White is hoping for another good start, but said his team needs to maintain that momentum throughout the season.
"It's very important to get off to a fast start, even every game," he said. "If we can get a first series score every game that's really going to help our confidence. That's one of the things we're going to concentrate on."
The Crusaders, who play an independent schedule and don't compete in the OHSAA, won their final five games last season to finish 5-5.
Ben Barlow, a former Crusaders player, is in his first season as coach. He was an assistant coach the past four seasons.
Senior Owen Heckman, who is one of several Crusaders players who are home-schooled, is expected to be the starting quarterback.
Key running backs are senior Tyler Sharp and juniors Jordan Brown and Spencer Smith.
The Crusaders often will use as many as four wide receivers.
"They look like they are a solid squad and we definitely have to have everything in place to have success against them," said White, who scouted the Crusaders when they scrimmaged against Dayton Christian on Aug. 11.